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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Ambush

 
It was the orange juice aisle that did it.
I stood there staring at cartons
I knew I wouldn’t buy because you
are gone. My son, I stumble on you
everywhere you are not. Which is everywhere.
The only way to learn how to meet
your absence is by meeting it.
In the car. At the table. In the yard.
On the phone. At the school.
And there in the orange juice aisle
where I stared at the cartons on the shelf
then walked on, the cart still empty.

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The Gift


 
It still had its leaves on it,
the pomegranate she handed me.
And holding that smooth red sphere
in my palm, I felt not only
the jeweled weight of each bright seed,
but also the weight of the many nights
the fruit had hung on the tree,
felt how the nights had slowed the growth
so the fruit could develop more sugar.
Not all things get to ripen.
 
Oh, this small gift of sweetness.
How it opened in me such red tenderness—
the memory of a boy learning how
to open and eat a pomegranate,
scarlet juice trickling down his chin.
And now. I hold it in awe,
this beautiful thick-skinned globe,
hold it less like a fruit,
hold it more like a love
I was just beginning to know.
 

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Reconciling




And there on the statement,
between the hardware store expense
and the do-it-yourself car wash,
was the charge
for Henderson and Sons Funeral Home.
How to reconcile this tide of loss?
Nowhere in my books
is a column for devastation.
No account for anguish,
for the loss of a slender young man
who loved ice cream
and cherries and helped me
roast pumpkins for pie.
There’s no way this number
on the statement can equate
to the boy who threw rocks in the river,
who snuggled with me
on the couch before school,
who built cars out of cardboard
and shish kebob sticks.
I can’t make it equal the seventeen years
we swam and hiked and baked
and sang—nor the years
he wept and raged and ached,
those years I learned how to pray.
In these unmoored days,
when I am more driftwood than boat,
I float through the churning wreckage of hope
and beg myself, stay open.
I lack the callous math
for such reconciliations.
I sob into the columns,
and the heart takes the lead—
it knows nothing of counting, of sums.
It knows only to love, to love.

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Physics of Grief




Before I could feel grief’s full weight,
love came to meet it, and though love did not
take away the grief, not even a picogram,
it dispersed the grief into its smallest bits,
as if to increase the surface area interface
so now every single atom of grief
is surrounded, is cushioned by love.

My friend offers me words in Igbo.
Udo diri, he says. There is peace, somehow.
How, when my bright beamish boy is dead?
Yet here in the unlikely physics of grief,
love holds so tenderly each smallest bit,
and somehow, my boy, can you feel it? peace.

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Years from now,
I want to remember
the way tears
became white doves
and flew away,
the way stepping stones
appeared to help me
cross an impossible
river, the way
a crumpled letter arrived
from the dead
to proclaim
I am surrounded with joy.
Oh woman who lives
in my skin years from now,
don’t try to pretend
it didn’t happen.
It did. A rainbow
blossomed above
your shoulder.
Your head opened up
to receive golden light.
Life wrapped its strong hands
around your heart.
And when you asked
your son, Are you close,
you felt against your ribs
a knocking
from the inside.

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For two hours, I am the woman
who works at the orphanage, the woman
who falls in love with a man from India
who is not who he says he is.
He and I make love for hours beneath a mirror,
twining our limbs in a sea of silk,
and he shows me the pleasure
of losing the stories I’ve told myself
about what is possible with love.
When, after many pages, we arrive at happily ever after,
I find myself on the couch in my kitchen,
notice my own thick legs curled beneath me,
my own raw heart in my tired chest
doing its faithful work. I’m surprised
to return to my own story:
the woman who is grieving—the woman
in the empty room who listens
for the voice that isn’t there, who listens
for the footsteps that do not come.
I am the woman whose son took his life;
rewrite: I am the woman still learning how to love him.
For the last two hours, I had forgotten her,
had forgotten this woman whose story I know as my own.
I had forgotten the ache she carries,
the constant throb. Though it cuts, though it wounds,
I am so grateful to return to her life,
to her story—the story of how she gave her everything
to someone she loved, how she knows he loved her, too.
Though their story isn’t one she had wanted to live,
it’s the story she would never give up, not a second of it.
He is still teaching her, even now, even now.
Such a gift to be this woman being rewritten by love,
love with its infinite ink. Even now,
she meets the next blank page of her life.
Love holds the pen.

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As Francis lay dying
in his humble hut,
he wrote a praise poem
that honored Sister Death.
And when death came
to dance with him,
he did not shun her
nor shame her nor
push her away.
He embraced her
the way he embraced
the sun, the wind,
the water, the air.
He claimed her as family,
as dance partner, guide.
Oh Francis, here
in the hut of my heart
is a wooden box of ashes
about the size of a baby.
I can cradle it, carry it,
sway with it slow
the way I once did
with the boy in the box, now dust,
the boy the coroner
swaddled in white.
I did not want this dance.
I stumble. I trip.
I am awkward, ungainly.
Sister Death is certain, serene.
I would have barred
the doors if I could have, Francis,
but now she walks with me,
sleeps with me, makes
dinner and cleans with me.
There is no locking her out.
She brings me the costliest gifts:
Trust in life. Immeasurable love.
Perfume of the great mystery.
I tell her I’d trade them all back
for my son. She whispers,
Oh, sister. Dance with me.

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When in Rome




What a loss it would be
to not have born so I
would have missed a
Thursday night like this
in which my son and I
walk the dark streets
in Georgia and watch
the lightning transform
the sky into pink flares
and smell some sweet
unnamable flower and
talk about Dodge Chargers
and knees and roaches—
I swear it has all been
worth it, every second
of fifty-one years, for this
hour in which there
are no bells, no shoulds,
no other tugs except
to take the next step
down the centerline
while in the distance,
raps another clap
of thunder.

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If I could do it all again,
I would—every blooming bit of it.
Every bout of pink eye,
every snotty nose, every
late night waking, every
single reading of Good Night Moon,
every fairy house, every
drive to every ballet class,
every singalong to the entire
soundtrack of Hamilton,
every wobble and stumble
and blunder and lapse
to arrive at this very moment
when we lie on her bed
in the dark and talk about
this miracle, this astonishing
life, and watch dumb videos
and curl into each other.
In every moment, a seed.
It surprises me now,
how beautiful the field.

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Recalibrating




I would like to go inside your pillow, hear
your breath and know you are okay, catch
the tears you cry when no one else is looking.
Today, you told me you don’t want to be held,
but I still want to hold you—want to meet you
with gentleness, support. How many years
have I been the one to comfort you, the one
you would run to, the one who could make
things feel better with a kiss and a shhh
and slow rocking of our bodies.
A pillow wouldn’t take it personally
if you didn’t use it. A pillow wouldn’t wonder
what it did wrong or wrestle with letting you go.
I try to invite that softness into myself,
try to transform my woundedness into feathery
acceptance. There is some unlikely magic in this—
a downy inner quiet that doesn’t try to fix anything,
that is content with being soft. And nothing changes,
and everything changes, oh terrible surrender,
oh beautiful tenderness that appears inside this loss.

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