Monday, April 26, 2010

A Mother's Day (Poem)

A Mother's Day


Bones-pained,  she cushions herself
in a fifties-old high-backed chintz chair
rescued from some other parlor
earlier emptied of over visitations.

Before her a sleek slash of gleaming black
stainless steel, its adjustable catafalque hip-high,
enwraps in white satin the third of nine
she bore as the good wife she augured to be.

He made it to 59 (barely),
she long past that depression generation so used
to tall-telling days when bread and stamps cost pennies
and she walked a mile, maybe two, to school.

From where she receives hands and tears
up on her seat of caned memories
— some hers, some not —
this is Mother's Day.


We stand and sit and re-rise, all mothers
in this tight-aired room this 90-degree day,
matriarch and daughters
still five in number, still keening

The difference calculated in a hymn of names
for a mother, a father, a son for six months,
an infant — female, delivered still —
also a husband, also, after, a significant other

And now before her riot-red eyes,
his working-man's hands tied up
in rosary beads, this son
for whom her puzzled loss cannot stand
in metered rhythms of good-bye.

Crumbles of hankies pile up
discarded witness to the usual way
we work our unanswerable whys:

Him, not her.

She saved and time-consumed
(as if her heart could take it)

He taken up with cancer
quietly giving us the slip.


No clock attends the hours she sits
remarking to every other guest as any woman might
how she couldn't imagine spending Mother's Day
in a Florida funeral home

A video tribute raising tunes he liked,
pictures tracing through a brain-feed
the places he'd come and left, people who'd done the same,
life's reel turned back and looping.


We imprint what the mind can reduce to hold:
the baby
the boy
the young adult
the middle-aged man

Married no children


Her mother's heart
sadly, not without affection, recapitulates
the stories of others' stories others tell

Filling that cramped space of hush
rushed in between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m.,
picked up again after 8:00

Last chances over

All the sisters who are mothers
spelling that room
rising to kneel,
finally understanding.

© 2009 - 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I have written and re-written this poem since pulling it out a few days ago. I will leave it be now.

In 2009, Mother's Day fell on May 10. That morning in Venice, Florida, before we left for the funeral home, where we would spend the entire day receiving visitors who came to say goodbye to my brother Patrick, I gave Mom a gift. She remarked then, and time and again thereafter, that what she had to do this day was not how she imagined her Mother's Day might be. How do you find joy on the day your son lies in a cramped space of hush before you? And yet, amid all that sadness, she did. We all did. We had his stories, and ours that linked to his, and they raised laughter. And we shared our love for him with those who love him. It was not a day like any other. And no Mother's Day ever after will be the same. Not for her. And not for the mother who I am. ~ MED

At High Calling Blogs, go here to find the post for this week's Mother's Day project, or here to drop in a comment box a link to your own poem or prose piece. 


sarah said...

Blessings to your mother. I am so sorry for her loss. And yours also.

S. Etole said...

a painful hush ... my own mother passed away 2 days before Mother's Day 7 years ago ... a difficult time to say g'bye to anyone

Jennifer @ said...

I offer a quiet "thank you" for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you participated in this community writing project. You let us inside a Mother's Day that deepened its meaning forever. I'm grateful shared this with us, Maureen, and I look forward to highlighting your family's story on Wednesday.

* said...

This poem is beautiful beyond words.

What an odyssey it is, to be a mother. I thought I knew what it was all about, and sheesh, I'm only 8 years in, what do I really know? Enough that it is much more than having my heart walk outside my body for the rest of my life, wondering, worrying for these, my 4 children.

Blessings to you and for family. This poem is an heirloom, a treasure.

PS: I have a poetry contest going on at my blog this week, you may want to check it out!

Kathleen Overby said...

"Crumbles of hankies pile up
discarded witness to the usual way
we work our unanswerable whys"

The "keening" group of sisters, mothers. We don't hear this word often. It is a trick when children die before parents. Many complex thoughts woven in. Thx for sharing. I love how you make us feel the emotion with out being merely sentimental.

Monica Sharman said...

This part especially:

"she bore as the good wife she augured to be."

Thank you for giving us this, Maureen.

ELK said...

your words like a soft blanket today.. blessings

Nancy Duci Denofio said...

You bring the reader deep into the story, with such emotion, so much power, and the situation is "too" real that we as the reader have tears in our eyes believing it happened to us. I sincerely love this poem for the power it sends to others, although the sadness is still. I simply love this work. Nancy Duci Denofio

Anonymous said...

such a captivating story well narrated with a poem, do you have more of this sort for mothers day? well done and keep up with the writing spirit.Mothers day poems to her.