Stephanie Dobler Cerra

Stephanie Dobler Cerra is a general writer at Accenture, supporting Google. She has a master’s degree in literature from Indiana University, specializing in Victorian Studies. Her poem, “Photograph of a Minamata Disease Victim,” appeared in The Pennsylvania Review (1986).

Poem

ORACLE

Dad out of state for work, mom got spooky
Shuffling her Tarot cards, gazing at the layouts
Pouring glass after glass from the big Gallo jug.

Crossing the unlighted living room I’d see her
Hunched over the Ouija board, planchette roaming
Mystifying Oracle, mother unfathomable.

At the dinner table she ignored us, lost somewhere
And trying to stay lost in her constant gloaming
Slapping our words away like biting insects.

Mystifying Oracle, we could have used you
Please explain our mother to us and where she went
Is she coming back? YES, NO, GOOD BYE?

We didn’t know how to ask her, or the Oracle, or anyone.
The family’s first rule for children: Don’t ask for anything.
What did we know of what our mother wanted?

She was a year away from writing poetry again.
I wonder if the planchette spelled that out for her
Or if it just left her, as we were left, in the dark.

That wasn’t right, but I can almost understand—
Now that poetry’s taken me by the wrist to the cleft
In the muse’s cave where heady vapors fume.

Now I wish we could join in this dimness
Our fingers delicately spread, my mother and I,
Scrying for what living rock can yield: Smoke. Water. Honey.

Copyright © 2019 by Stephanie Dobler Cerra. This poem originally appeared in Speak Poetry Vol. 2. Used with permission of the author.