How I knew it was coming—
that banana-fish smell
when the garbage didn’t go out
or her rumpled bed
(though this wasn’t a sure sign

sometimes she was just tired for a day)

More often though
it would go the other way
and I’d stiffen when I came home from school—
the whole house suddenly cleaned
or a new set of shelves
built in the kitchen
                        The worst though

was when my mother would start to paint
and I could gauge how bad it was
by how much she painted in a day
Canvases of roiling colors
down the hallway—blue-yellow-purple
above the bathroom sink

When she was most prolific
they were nailed into the cupboards
red and thick and she would say
she was working on a new sequence
called tattoo or ritual or saddest of all

heart  That’s when I knew the crash wasn’t far away
When she would get into bed and only get out of it
sometimes at night  When I would
make my mother ham sandwiches or warm up soup
and leave them by her bed on a tray
When I could hear the tv
on at four o’clock in the morning

but I knew she couldn’t hear a thing because
she’d gone somewhere that rushed and pounded
where her skin rusted
            And all I could do was wait

Ariana Nadia Nash, “Why I’ve Never Bought a Set of Paints”, in Our Blood Is Singing