Jessica Barksdale

Alice Takes Her Mother to a Funeral


Who brought the confetti? Neon, aqua, gold, silver
glitter—falling everywhere. The gun makes more sense,
of course. At a funeral parlor, carnage
is easily cleaned up. Your mother looks suspicious,
clinging to her bag, lumps of ammunition
in the pockets. You can imagine her shooting
the cuckoo clock, the bats and butterflies in the corners,
everything but what she really wants to kill: you.

The preacher drones on, and you want to adore him
but can’t, all that moon and sun bullshit. Your mother
gives you the side-eye and scoots down the pew.
You moved her to an igloo, and man, does she want to rip
you a new everything, itching to whack that supernova
right out of your hand. Dearly beloved,
the preacher says, and you wonder who will die next,
likely not your mother, who is holding all the hawks.

We come here today, to kill me, you think, seeing your mother
slip her hand into the universe. What will she pull out?
A Gatling gun, nuclear warhead, dirty bomb?
She hates you and her igloo. She hates her new indigenous
friends and the sea lions they visit. She hates the cuisine,
and you don’t even know what that is. No wonder she wants
you dead, you who are still living, even while at a funeral.
You who have no business telling anyone how to live.

You grab a handful of confetti, sharp and pointed,
and throw it up and over you and your mother, watching
the light stream through the yellow, silver, blue. Let us pray,
the preacher says. Let us, you think, as you reach out
to your mother as the colors fall, as the sun blings
up the room, as the gun goes off.






Jessica Barksdale’s novel, The Play’s the Thing, and poetry collection, Grim Honey, are forthcoming in April 2021. A recently retired English professor, she continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.