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Mad Money


When I find my mother's jewelry box—blonde leather, impossibly
fifties teenage—desire fills my chest like dirty

shredded Kleenex—desire for my mother's sixteen-year-old self.

Beside the place for pearls: a drawer labeled Mad Money.
Inside the drawer, a blue soap crumbled to dust

and three nickels I set in my mouth, wanting silver bitterness.

Money she saved so she could run away?
From my father?—

The first nostalgics were men at war: mercenaries
in the French army longing for their villages.

Originally a medical condition—
In the eighteenth century: severe homesickness, a disease.

Nostalgia, from German heimweh, Greek nostos "homecoming"
+ algos "pain, grief."

My nostalgia is never a lovely wishing but instead
soldiers marching through yellow fields, dizzy with nausea.

When I open her jewelry box, I want to lie
in my mother's twin bed, on clean white sheets, to let go

of my body, to become the girl she was, mother-not-mother—

Under my tongue, her coins are cool and slick,
and I'm sick for a home I never lived in.

I slip on my mother's pink coat from high school,
color of a Dairy-Queen dipped cone,

color of a flushed cheek after a slap—


Nicole Cooley

Girl after Girl after Girl
LSU Press


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