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This poem is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

Imagined Sons 1-12 Carrie Etter

'It seems courage is lack of alternatives.' Deborah Digges, 'The New World'

Imagined Sons 1: First Son

My son leans from the tower; his red pompadour, stiff with Aqua Net, resists the quick wind. When he sings, the notes hasten to the forest three miles south before they descend. I clamber onto my restless horse; she starts before I am secure. I cling to her mane, my cheek against her neck the entire way. The notes are red. I pluck them like poppies.

Imagined Sons 2: The Birthmother, The Adoptive Mother & Their Surfer Boy

Never falling, he rides the wave. I've been here for years. Long ago, a tall woman in a cream-coloured suit sat near me on the sand. I asked her to watch my towel and nectarines while I hurried to the bathroom; on my return, I saw juice on her chin. Weeks later, I confided, 'That's my son,' pointing as he glided toward us on a six-foot wave. 'He's mine,' she retorted. She pulled out my pointing arm as easily as if it were a mannequin's and cast it into the water. She ran into the ocean and swam toward him. Knocking his surfboard aside, she slid under his feet and floated to the surface: hair the dark red of a nectarine pit, lips fixed in a victorious smirk. All the while my pointing arm drifts slowly, surely toward him - and toward her.

Imagined Sons 3: At the Fifties Café

Vigorously whispering faeces, pubic, doggy style, three teenage boys loiter in the booth adjacent to mine. The burgundy-haired meets my gaze and glances away, his grin gleaming with sensed offence. I try to shun my indifference, try to smile conspiratorially, but already the boys are dwindling into earlier ages, their clothes blooming around them. At infancy, their juvenescence halts. 'What are you doing here?' a nurse asks, her thick white soles squeaking on the dirty linoleum. 'I haven't - I haven't finished my fries.' I point to the red plastic tray, the coin of ketchup. 'Ha! Birthmothers are never finished,' she snaps, clutching the handles of my wheelchair and whirling it one-hundred-eighty, the smell of formula receding.

Imagined Sons 4: Introducing Myself As His (The First Supermarket Dream)

His palm strikes my cheek, and I shudder and sting. His eyes tear and close, his mouth sucks in his lips. The okra and the lemons are watching, the stockboy and the trio of cheer-leaders consider plots. Reflexively I reach toward him, but what reflex is this, so long unused? 'My mother is at home,' he stammers as he shrinks back. 'I'm sorry.'

'I'm sorry,' I whisper to the yams. 'Yes, your mother is at home.'


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