[When I was 23, I had my first taste]

When I was 23, I had my first taste

of amaro, an Italian liqueur


that smelled just like my mother's make up.

Rosemary and sage, alcoholic heat


and fragrant wood burned through my nose. Its name

buzzed between my tongue and teeth, Erno Laszlo,


and the memory of my mother's minute frenzy

each morning came back to me:


smacking cream onto her face in the soft

light of the bathroom mirror, stretching


her mouth and eyes wide to pull her cheeks taut,

fingers sweeping over her nose


as juniper and lemon balm filled the air

and drifted to where I, like a ghost,


studied her from the tub. At night, she

washed her face with sea mud soap, an oily


black bar she'd hold under a steaming faucet

until she'd worked up a thick gray foam


to lather her brow, down her temples

and across her cheeks to the edge


of her bird-bone jaw, over and around

the airtight grimace of her lips,


her face a storm cloud, puffy and bare, drifting

above her body to bed. A dark concentration


passed over her face like a screen

for privately undoing, for unbecoming


someone to watch, as if to say this is how

you show yourself to someone you love.