Mama

Sing me to sleep
Mama
The night is hard
press’d to give up
its joy
you went too soon
I want to hear you
tell stories
you used to tell

I knew you were happiest
Mama
when you were a little girl
traveling state to state
in a time when
girls didn’t give up dolls
so young
as now

For you I would have tea
Mama
so we could share
iced, with chips
laughs again over
silly thoughts
he never understood
but I always laughed

Laughs come at a premium now
Mama
like gasoline
and forgiveness
your unbounded joy
something I got for free
and tonight
I remember
and laugh

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you’ve been gone 20 years
but I felt you pass behind me
and touch my back
cold and reaching
while I was washing the dishes

if you are really there
you might help dry

in my mirror

I didn’t plan
to dwell on death
navigating days
weeks months
trying to appear poised
but you are there
in my mirror
and it
feels unfair
to mark me

my forehead
my one difference
a birthmark
that some find ugly
but I like it best
a mark of myself
atop your Sicilian eyes
your mouth

they played games
in school
tempting death
in mirrors
late night slumber parties
chanting and reciting
always
I
in a corner
reading a book

respecting death
as something far away
that could not
touch me yet
each day
searching my mirror
for answers-
for your smile
among the living

Harping on a theme (too soon)

Scene from 1983:

Me: I don’t think I’ll live to be 25.
Mom: Don’t say that.

1997
7 a.m.  on a Sunday morning :

Dad on phone: She’s gone.
Me: It’s too soon. Don’t say that.

It was you, it was you
gone too soon
so cliché
pardon me if I don’t
come up with
golden lines
at times like this

I would say you were
ripped from us
but it was more like
a fade-to-black
with screaming
your face melting
into the wallpaper

Don’t go yet
it was supposed to be me
hanging out with Peter and Paul
you, oh you
were supposed to earn
your old age in your rooms
in your house
beneath the pines

“Too long ago to write death fresh like this.”

 

up there

Every love a mother can give
each moment we live
your Sicilian eyes
in the old pictures
with their longing
make me a little crazy lately
but I will try and be the one
to turn the tides to peace

Am I that strong? The
warrior I said I would be–
at times
I am a mouse
lost in my own maze
the lab shut up for the night
and
no cheese
no little bell to ring
no point

but I
will press on–struggling
to find out why I trudge through
(harder than it has to be)
until I cry out I am here–
I have made it–
mother

Do you remember
you said I never would
accomplish much
I know
(you had your doubts)
but I hoped
I pulled
I strained, and
perhaps
I have made you smile
somewhere up there

Do you fear the fire

Walking through the woods
my mother spoke of fire–
of course I had noticed it
a lack of green, and the scent
of the foray of pitiless flames
in a matter of months
and the ashes beneath our feet

Was it a dream? Perhaps–
upon opening my eyes
seeing her feet, immaculate
walking amongst the flames
in a frantic dance for life–
and afterward, the renovation–
her attempt to cover it up
with a smile and a flower

Overjoyed to see something
colorful and blooming
my jaw went slack, while the flower fell
from where she had taped it
to the scorched vine, fooling me
with the comfort of red petals
amongst the endless black.
‘But black is your color.’

Black had been the color
of cool and calm, during a time
when I could not settle myself–
tailor-made for me, the crisp lines
of white cotton over black silk
were enough to blur the vision
of soot smudges
on her cheek and forehead

I had not been there for her.
I wanted to stay.

And, bending to grab at the rose
I moved too quickly
a thorn piercing my finger–
‘You have blood on your
shirt”, she said
‘you have work still to be done–
wake up.’

____
(redux)
for my mother, 1940-1997

The end

The call came at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It was time. She was gone. So I was not going to the hospital to see her. I was going there to see her body. She was already gone, some time earlier. Not long. She was 56 years old.

Knowing myself, though I was different then than I am now, and I was no braver with death, I am surprised that I went alone. The hospital was 30 minutes away. My daughter was six years old and I was six months pregnant. After 2 miscarriages, or perhaps more, we were ecstatic to have made it to six months.

My daughter was still asleep and my husband would stay home with her. He lost his mother almost exactly a year previously.

Continue reading “The end”

fears of the fathers

sailing through cherry blossom days
and crème brûlée nights
she wasn’t going to lay down her arms
for a mere brat of a boy
saving up her trinkets for later
giving him all her daydreams
and night sweats

he did not know the tango
but they moved through summer
amid a soundtrack of Ravel
and Aguilera
all second thoughts
stuffed under the mattress

back in the town onto which
they shook the clay from their shoes
all their dues, paid
if you took into account
their mothers’ latent wishes
and the fears of their fathers

Answer: never

Jeopardy question: When is it ‘too little, too late’?

In 1989 I met a family that a year later I would become a part of. I had come from a place and family from the mid-west U.S. and was about to enter a very American-European family on the east coast. I was insecure about fitting into a family. Put me in a room with 30-100 strangers and I was the life of the party. Put me in a living room with 15 folks that were about to welcome me as sister, daughter, etc, and I had utter stage fright.

I came from a family where I had not hugged anyone in years, except a side arm hug at the airport and a bear hug from my mother who had longed for that for years herself. I entered a house where every face was kissing me and every arm was hugging me. But I still felt outside. Why?

I didn’t know how to express affection that way. I wanted it, but I was afraid of it. I questioned their motives, I assumed they didn’t accept me. Didn’t like me.

Didn’t get me.

Continue reading “Answer: never”