Alligators, Dry Well; Now That I Have a Son; What Happened Was; This Wake


I had this recurring dream as a child
in which my mother was eaten by an alligator.
the set up was always the same; 
us, parked in our car in the lot at the arboretum.
the alligator always came from below
from under the floorboard 
and my mother was always quiet
as if being destroyed and eaten in front of her daughter
was just something that happened to have befell her 
like the common cold
or a patch of dry skin.
it was always sunny,
one of those average Texas days
where the steering wheel never quite cools down 
by the time you’ve reached your destination.

it wasn’t the kind of dream in which I couldn’t move or scream
or was forced into a slow-motion run.
I remember the screaming. 
it’s much like the screaming in the footage of police encounters I see
when they go viral
taken by shaking cell phones or half concealed body cams.
the screaming, 
it’s always the same.
and I realize the alligator wasn’t ever appearing from underneath the floorboard
it was always surrounding us all
mutating from one generation to the next, 
a parasite hopping from one host to another.

I feel it inside me 
I watch it shapeshift in my friends and on the nightly news reports
and I wonder if my mother were still alive
if she’d confront it too, instead of sitting still in silence like in my dream
or would we both just wring our sweaty hands in careful speculation
of the alligator’s point of view
as the force with all the teeth
and all the power
and all the bite?
that poor alligator
forced to choose between who to kill first
and how to do it.
doesn’t anyone ever consider how it feels for him?
Dry well

I’ve heard that motherhood is like
little bits of your heart, being scattered across the ocean
like a part of your soul, forever outside of you.
I’ve been told it’s sacrifice
It’s unconditional love
It’s joy.
I’ve read that what makes a mother
is the time plus the effort plus the worry.
no one has talked to me about the motherhood I know
that is more like a persistently runny faucet.
can’t catch all the drops; sometimes you forget it’s still trickling
and somewhere in the kitchen there’s a wrench.
but when the drip is the loudest
when it’s come to a crescendo
you can’t remember what a wrench looks like
so you stand there, counting the plink plink plinks
catching your breath
wondering when to move again
and what damage this is doing to the house
and you think of all the times 
you knew exactly the shape of the tool needed to make it stop
and it’s precise location
but by the time the well had run dry
you’d already forgotten how running water sounds.
Now that I have a son

you never hear them say
Now that I have a son. 

Now that I have a son
I understand boys should be respected.
I will teach my daughters to be better
than our generation.

Now that I have a son
I regret how I treated the men in my life.
I guess they really were people, too, after all.

Now that I have a son
I can see how society has failed them
and how much power we women have.
we have to do better
we have to do the work, now that I have a son.

but still you have to admit life would be easier
if I only had daughters.
but women can’t be trusted.
I know this now that I have a son.
What Happened Was 

I had a journal
on the nightstand next to the bed 
It was filled with the good kind of dreams, 
the shower thoughts 
the 2am I-gotta-write-these-downs
They used to be urgent, necessary.

each labor in producing life 
stole from the labor of my thoughts
and each year that passed 
reduced shower uptake ad infinitum
“mothers are superheroes” they say

I guess they forgot to gift the cape
when I brought the baby home
and what happened was the thoughts still came
but the urgency had already been spent
and the necessity was the mothering
that they told me was so important
what happened was I stopped sleeping at all
this wake

This wake is compiled of chatty passersby and sullen relatives
a collection of limbs and aggravated patterns
restricted by white-washed walls of expectations and mourning.
They built this casket from ancient forests and toxic chemicals
and didn't expect it would burn so quickly
Give me ashes so I can understand it between my fingers 
and in the creases of my sweaty palms.
His eyes: glazed, robotic, dark
won't blink, won't stare, are caught
trapped inside their sockets like bottled water.
This scene is just another compilation of seconds, minutes and hours
regurgitated onto his watch that the mortician forgot to remove
(or left on his wrist for a sense of familiarity)
This loss has been made absolute through the score,
lines and expressions 
The guitars- the keys- the strings-
Stevie Ray Vaughn's gruff serenade: an ode from one dead man to another.
Our Father, who art in a state of dispute, 
attempts to paint some bigger picture plan
through collages of old photographs and stained handwritten notes.
This story, only understood if told backward, or in another language I don’t speak
or maybe a few puzzle book hand gestures, no longer needs him.
And the family landline reverberates long after the service's been cut
and the bouquets've turned brown.
Am I supposed to listen through the static for a voice on the other end,
a person to re-imagine this home minus one?
This wake is more like sleep than anything I've seen so far.
And I wonder, hand to chest, finger to lips,
staring at a shell: this is the way we honor the dead?

Molly Wadzeck Kraus is a freelance writer and mom of three. Born and raised in Waco, Texas, she moved to the Finger Lakes region of New York, where she worked in animal rescue and welfare for many years. She writes about feminism, mental health, parenting, pop culture, and politics. She is usually late because she stopped to pet a dog.