Monday, June 25, 2012

On the Death of my Mother

The things more real to me than you
are, in no particular order:
washing the blood out of my underwear
with cold water,
the dead weight of a sleeping child
in the crook of one sore arm,
the flatness of my feet.
This is the stuff of life.
These are the things that fit under my skin,
where my world lives in layers
fed by red blood cells ruled
by a persevering heart.
Heritage is the shell of an egg.
It was like that with your mother, too:
She passed on, whole, her history
without trying—surprised, perhaps,
that it still lived inside her after all
those years. And her memory of you
was of warm roundness
emerging, dry and perfect, like a polished stone
into her hands. But to you
history began
with breaking free, the slippery emergence
of a bruised skull from shards.
Do I miss you?—Do I miss anything
outside of me? If I wanted
or let my body feel the want of
anything behind it, or beyond,
my sparked desire
would set on fire our chain of bodies
one by one, through time, till even Eve
imploded with awareness of her loss.
The pelvic fire of birth,
the way children like growing flames
inhale the matches of your breasts, your beauty, hope—
Isn’t each a burning mercy?
Without such minor horrors (now,
of living; now, of giving life)
would we not have to fear again our past?
You do not live inside of me;
I live inside of you.
This is the curse and privilege of the recently born.
Like the earth’s hot heart, I am a churning shapelessness
trapped in generations of cooling,
immovable rock—and you,
you are Eve’s daughter forever
sucking brazenly, with selfish hands
and shut-eyed bliss the dust that bore you,
the dust that settles on your skin
at summer’s bonfires,
too light to notice and brush off, but real—
as real as hair and hands and bones.