Tuesday, June 8, 2010

for mama

this is about you, mother
about your curly hair
and the way you can't sing
and the way you tucked me in
at night, every night for years
how i would cry when you left
make you leave kisses on napkins
little notes to remember you by
for the long hours between 5 and 9 p.m.

when i was a child i used to dream
you had died, a terrible nightmare
a recurring fright that blurs now
but i remember wearing your green spring jacket
and standing over a casket at the front
of a long, wide room filled with strangers
waking up with my breath caught in my throat
tiptoeing down the hall to see you
crawling in to be warm next to you

it's about calling you my friend
and still missing you when we're apart
(but i'm too old for kisses on napkins
and i'm too old for almost everything
but not too old to cry when i saw you last
it had been almost three weeks,
but hugging you felt like it had been years)

most women dread turning into their mothers
but my worry is the opposite, that i won't be like you
that i will never be as wonderful as you are
that i will never learn how to care for my family
as skillfully and lovingly as you did
that i will never learn how to balance work
and real life, how to live in both worlds perfectly
how to commit to loving five other people more than i love myself

but more than any of these things,
there is a quiet worry that's entered my mind
like a fish hook, barbed and lodged.
that one day it will be longer than three hours
or three weeks, or three of anything
that i will go without seeing you, hearing your voice.
this day, though far away in a future
i don't care to think about
is inevitable, and i will never be prepared for it to come.

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