when I sat in the chair at the salon
to get my hair cut,
my mother sat in the chair with me
and looked at me in the mirror
And I smiled at her.
And as I sat in the pedicure chair
with water swirling around my feet,
she was not there
but her toes were
even though she could never bear
anyone touching her feet.
And I told the pedicurist
how all her grandchildren
have her toes-
And I smiled.
I don’t believe in ghosts
though sometimes I wish I did-
to see her face and maybe sit for a while together.
Yes, I would be willing to believe
just to hold her hand again
and laugh through my tears.
Grief leaves stains-
a little like sweet tea
on an old linen cloth-
its hardly noticeable.
A stone is made smooth
with the least bit of pressure,
a constant and maybe thoughtless rubbing
between thumb and forefinger.
As tarnish from a piece of old silver,
maybe your grandmother’s knife made bright,
Or the wind’s insistence against snowcapped mountains
Or water-made canyons
Of deep hollows, fern filled and green,
Hiding the shy deer and red fox den.
I keep that pressure steady-
Rubbing the memories deep into my skin.
Tattooing the years tears on the lines of my face
Until I see your eyes
Look into mine
From the bathroom mirror
Those rooms were never mine,
built especially for her,
they are now larger
and more empty
with her absence filling the space.
I understand the impulse
that would cause someone to board up rooms,
leaving whatever ghosts living there
to rest in peace
with dust and memories.
I can no longer stay in her rooms,
the memories are too thick
and they leave no space
I am writing to you
from this side of life,
though I know your answer will only be
or the autumn breeze
in the cedar boughs.
Longing for word
in faded ink,
written in your strong hand
or a picture postcard
from the other side-
‘Wish you were here.’
I await your reply
Going thru your desk, I find
the note you wrote
on the day I was born
and I know the longed for missive
for the word to come down
her train is leaving soon –
and held tightly
in her beautiful hands.
(parchment pale hands,
thin and strong,
that once held such powerful music.
And in all the keys,
she played our lives
so that we were formed
by the sound of her heart)
She waits for the bells to toll
and for the band to start –
she is easy in the going
for the gentle rocking of the rails.
… My mother caught her train yesterday morning and arrived in heaven as the angel band played a loving welcome. She was easy in the going and for that we are eternally grateful.
Waning crescent moon,
and lovely in her diminishment,
cradles in upturned arms
the shadow of her fullness.
The dark roundness
heavy against the setting bow,
fills the void
of what once was abundance
and will be again.
Her ebbing light,
soon to darkness and rest
in a starry landscape,
until her rebirth,
the silver sliver loveliness of the
waxing crescent moon.
*** This poem was written several years ago. Now taking on a different meaning for me.
Our Lenten season continues.
Daily rituals of sacrifice and penance are observed
as we struggle with the mysteries of life.
This life filled with –
well, with those things life is filled with –
things that we love and suffer-
faces of loved ones, song, sun and moon,
food and warmth, the aching of need
We hold fast to breath
and heartbeat, far past the time our legs
and body have become undone.
I repent of all the sins I have committed
Just as each child is guilty and must be forgiven,
I also forgive her
for all those common sins that mothers commit
against their children
out of habit
We both repent
and with ashes marked on our foreheads
continue on with her morning ablutions
and daily baptism of water
He insists on barking at the angels-
Their feathers rustling as they perch along the walls of the hall and her room-
Watching as the communion of saints beat a path to her door.
He is alert to the folding of wings as they settle
She told me that this life
Is hard to let go of.
Knowledge deep now,
As the blood and bone she created in me.
Wants to continue beating, breathing-
Though the spirit is chomping at the bit
To go home.
So they come and visit-
Those who have returned to hold her hand along the way.
I almost feel that I should be the good hostess
As these venerable women were,
And bake a pound cake,
Offer sweet tea and lemonade.
They pass the time, laughing,
Talking of hunting trips
And rabbits loose in the yard.
Friends and relations gathered for her coronation,
As the small dog barks
At the heavenly host.
Willow boned and hollow breasted,
I wander into the winter light
drifting on careful wings
lifted by uncertain urges
to sky and cloud.
How often will these days drift
bearing little artifice of reality
and none of the grace requested.
How still the breath when flying.
How still the heart when praying.
Is this the apocryphal tale
of water into wine
or the great flood
in which our souls will wash away
down the mighty stream
of some great river
washed to the shore with copper pennies
to pay the ferryman’s toll.
How still the breath when praying.
How still the heart when dying.
She waits, willow boned and heart still beating,
wandering into morning light
from the deep nights dreams.
The sound of wings urge her flight
to clouds and heavens door,
bearing little of her waking reality
and all of the grace requested.
How still the breath…
How still the heart…