by Karla Huston
My mother whistles under her breath,
all day, all the time. Not the sweet
song birds make but a toothy melody,
a skipped record, her lips pursed to a point.
She does this leaning over the sink
to peel potatoes, spooning coffee
into the basket, clearing the table.
She whistles in the car when she’s not
sighing or sorting through tissues and bottles
full of pills. She does it while watching TV,
paging through magazines,
maybe even while she sleeps.
The tune is always the same, al dente
half song, a few notes rising and falling.
I wonder how my father can stand it.
Maybe he’s just tuned her out,
after all those years of chucking nickels
into the jukebox of her mouth.
My own daughter tells me I do
the same thing, and I admit it, catch
myself sometimes--lips puckered, teeth
set, the air adjusting its wings, hoping the birds
are waiting, their ears cocked just so.
~ first published in North Coast Review