It’s been five years now since my mom died. I’m still writing about her and that great mystery beyond life as we know it. These poems are new and unpublished, but “Mother” will appear in the 2014 St. Paul Almanac.
FIVE YEARS LATER
I thought, anybody can write a poem and then I thought oh good, this opens it up, except does a poem come from any body? Or does it descend with a drop of rain and sink into the sodden earth and run off into the raging river?
I thought, that last must be a poem of anger. A poem of love resides in the body, resting comfortably on memory foam. A poem of love knows the holy. It touches the face of God, whose countenance is portrayed in the clouds.
I thought, why is God always up? That must be an optimistic poem. One that looks to the sun, on the bright side. I would write a poem, but I am not anybody, I am somebody, and my body has not always been my friend. When my mother was monitoring it, which she saw as her solemn duty, I wanted to fly on wings of poems to defy her vision of me, which I did. She never got to say goodbye.
I thought of an awful poem I might have written of her in the hospital after the operation, how the doctor had insisted, his gloved hands raised in supplication. The poem would include blood, too much blood to close the incision, so she lay there in her body with her stomach open for days and I don’t even know if they ever closed her up and I can’t even think of it five years later.
I thought of the silly things we did. Dancing to Harry Belafonte in the dining room. Smearing livid lipsticks from Avon. Taking the streetcar downtown to the Golden Rule to try on hats. Big brimmed hats, felt hats, straw hats, hats with veils and ridiculous feathers, bows and bands, hats that we tied under our chins, laughing until tears ran down our cheeks until I thought we’d bust a gut.
TO SAVE A LIFE
There is no way to save a life.
Preserve the taste of it in juice and pulp
in a bell jar with a lid and a ring,
like hazed mornings on school days
when each seed spiced something new.
Strain against the fencing.
Break out like seedlings that double
with the ambition of a field of weeds.
Grow something to be held within.
Something smooth and opaque that the sun
interprets as gemstone. Something red
as sunrise in the lush valley or glossy
lips in an old photograph.
Pick a time to be robust.
Anticipate a life to be savored
and saved to be
AND, IN THE END
“And, in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Being alive is so uncertain.
There is no way to be sure.
Not about today, not about tomorrow,
not about much of anything.
We know nothing more about anyone
else than we know about ourselves.
We think, we feel, we go on
to whatever it is we believe we are living.
The living part happens until the end,
which will happen to us all.
So, within the yardstick of time that is our measure,
within what might be called our soul, our spirit,
there is something for which there is
no other name, so we call it love.
Love is what moves us from darkness
to constellations. Love is what flows
from the flower, the sweet and the pungent.
All rhythm, love, a feather breeze, love,
an August eve, love, dream water, love,
blue music, love, like food.
And, from this side of being alive,
the love we give is the love
we are always a part of.
That tree, that particular
blade of grass,
that breathtaking beauty,
in grateful abundance.
She is waiting by the front door.
Her wings whir, invisible as the August breeze.
She hovers, almost motionless there,
held in place by air. The oaks are singing
tangled songs through serrated leaves,
asphalt appears liquid under the harsh
beat of the sun. The air is metallic.
I am just behind the screen,
standing as still as I can. I want
to take her in my cupped hands
and keep her with me. I want to feed her
tidbits of sugar and wafer, the holy
communion of our lives, our bodies
inside and outside of our souls,
hopelessly connected, two full moons,
circling each other in endless flight. .