Losing your mother,
she said, is more terrifying than arithmetic.
When you're middle-aged and bad
at numbers, all you think of is
the subtraction of what you love,
the addition of grief that multiplies
like all the goodbyes you must say
in the places she filled.
Well-meaning people tell you
it's five stages you go through and then
you get over it
but you know, when you're lost it's best
to stay where you are,
and never try to be whole again.
Some days you count jars
of unbranded peanut butter on her shelves;
the dime-store romances devoured
like unwrapped candies; Pantone chips
for walls of the piano room imagined
at her last Vida Seniors apartment; the bars
of two-for-one scented soaps
you gag on still; dangly rose-shaped clip-on
earrings you can't wear
because you got pierced at thirteen
and costume jewelry is so not your thing.
You go around her house, totting up
all her items put aside for Good-Will,
closing yellow silk drapes, reminding yourself
there is no sum of words for the broken
-hearted, nothing that can equal
what you alone can keep in the light.
2013 © Maureen E. Doallas
This poem was inspired by a quote in a late 2012 Guernica magazine interview with writer Sandra Cisneros, who said, "I think one of the great primordial fears we have once we become conscious of our aloneness as children is the fear of losing our mother. We have that from the moment we realize we can lose her just in the supermarket. As a child, it was more terrifying than arithmetic. When I lost my father, I though I learned about grief and transition. However, nobody tells you what's it's like to lose your mother. They don't tell you that you're going to feel like an orphan at whatever age you are as an adult. . . ."