Only a few hours after my mother died on October 14, 2009, I got up during the night and began writing this poem. I added to it on October 16, but then didn’t really touch it until last week. Then, I decided to type it up on the computer, maybe do some editing as I went along, see how I felt about it. (My first version was handwritten in a notebook, with lots of phrases crossed out, etc. I needed to see it all typed out to find out if I liked it.) I made a few edits — made some lines longer, added or changed a word or two, added at least one line that seems pretty strong. Looking at the edited version, all clean and printed, I decided I do like it. I haven’t yet found a title for it, but I figured I’d share it here for FreeVerse anyway. 🙂
My mother taught me
to love, in spite of all the wire
and bombs she tied around herself.
I learned a furious kind of devotion,
bound to the woman who brought me
to the world, yet kept her heart apart
from all who lived there.
When I was young, I didn’t know the distance
stretching endless between my mother
and everyone else was a sea she’d built
to make her life a lonely island –
cold and gray, but mostly safe.
She could not give herself away.
My mother wore anger as other women
wear bright colors. Nearly every day,
she painted her self-portrait with exquisite irritation,
ready to make of each hour
another brush stroke in her picture.
That was the mother my childhood remembers.
But the closing chapters also matter.
She quieted, she softened; she lost her
sparring partner – my father.
She gave her soul to waiting,
often patient, though sometimes restless,
until one midnight, finally, following
the path of her last breath,
Written Oct. 14 and 16, 2009 / April 29, 2010