"Everyday I Show" 100cm X 70cm watercolor 2016 Dima Rebus

"Everyday I Show"
100cm X 70cm
watercolor
2016
Dima Rebus

CHELSEA BAYOUTH

Changeling

My mother tells me
           when I was eight
                     it was as if
                                someone switched out
                                           her daughter overnight

The one she knew
          shrieking, stain-mouthed
                    fearless champ
                               her girl

for some
           watchful silent
                      student

Was it strangers
          in the baby trade
                     passing bundles the shape
                                of girls below the curtain line ?
A hazy visit to
          a spacecraft ?

Or a trapdoor in my body
           where while I slept
                      one girl exited as
                                 another took her place
                                            and woke
                                                      ate cereal
                                                                  learned the family jokes ?

When she asks if
           something ever happened
                   I search for memories
                             that aren’t there 

Look at photo albums
          and male family friends
                     with leery eyes

Set face down
           all the pictures
                      of my father

but still
           no reason unveils
                       no ah-ha
                                 no figure to point to

to explain those fits
                      in the shape
                                    of her daughter

Theories I’ve gathered:

A fever too high or
           a toe too many
                         in a ring of wild mushrooms

Past life trauma
           or perhaps in another culture
                      I would be a shaman

But maybe, maybe
           her daughter is out there

loud, plucky thing
          in a family of watchers,
                     wild, candy-dyed

in the shape of something
           they thought they knew ?

Where the mother
          looks at her
                    with marble eyes
                               wondering

whose daughter are you?

not mine,
         not mine

 

I am thrilled to have several poems and short stories published with The Rattling Wall/PEN Center USA, BROAD!, Literary Orphans, Dryland Lit, and The Legendary and was selected as a summer 2016 Interviewee for Poetry LA’s hyphenated poet series. I am most recently working on a collection of poems that explore my family’s Arab heritage and have a suite of illustrations forthcoming with Lunch Ticket. More about my writing and art can be viewed on my website, www.chelseabayouth.com.