Poetry: "Lost to Pain" by John Kucera




Long ago, when I was wordless and alone, what I did know of the face I held to the mirror of my mother, how space became a feature, a form, an artifice between us.


Even now as I remember the face lost to pain, then madness, then painlessness to fire


I see the ghost I made and unmade like a bed. I hear her in the kitchen, sleepless, when I wake at night and words are far away.


And when they come, if not the words then voices, glances, cries. I call them hers. The ones she’s lost to pain, then madness. I call


and because dawn burns for those it mourns and in returning turns away, I enter a gallery of animate objects


where everything is dead and moving. The doll with its string. The mechanical arm. The beaded curtain.

They are artifacts of what is here and not quite here, not quite adventure or farewell,

words bereft of animals to speak them.

The primordial mass cultured with light.


The slightest seizure more terrible than stillness. I call and I enter the space with two lone heads—the first with its bright complexion: the other bluish gray—and although bound together by their hair, they do not face each other and when they move, the bright one says yes. The dark one says no and the theater is cold as x-rays are and absurd French movies, the kind my mother hated like madness and pain.


Like all who live and do not live, who unearth a self so abstract the person disappears, these abject gestures toward a deeper recognition are stilted, callous, masked as shamans who, as beasts, are never original but ancestral beyond words.

I talk to my mother still.


And what she says lives in the ways the talking heads and shamans never do. I loved her. And thus the phantom space between us


where words crossed in tiny boats with pieces of spirits who stepped ashore. In the gallery of animate objects, I hear the ocean in the breathing


machine, the mother’s inconsolable refusals

in the blue gray of can’t and no. I hear the horrors of her late age in the jaw,


in raw shock and provocation, the ah they open and in the phantom speech she gave, before she knew I loved her, when I was wordless and alone.






John Kucera has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona, where he teachesWriting online.


(photo from Wikipedia Commons, royalty free)