“Mother’s Day” by Dorianne Laux

I passed through the narrow hills
of my mother’s hips one cold morning
and never looked back, until now, clipping
her tough toenails, sitting on the bed’s edge
combing out the tuft of hair at the crown
where it ratted up while she slept, her thumbs
locked into her fists, a gesture as old
as she is, her blanched knees fallen together
beneath a blue nightgown. The stroke

took whole pages of words, random years
torn from the calendar, the names of roses
leaning over her driveway: Cadenza,
Great Western, American Beauty. She can’t
think, can’t drink her morning tea, do her
crossword puzzle in ink. She’s afraid
of everything, the sound of the front door
opening, light falling through the blinds—
pulls her legs up so the bright bars
won’t touch her feet. I help her
with the buttons on her sweater. She looks
hard at me and says the word sleeve.
Exactly, I tell her and her face relaxes
for the first time in days. I lie down

next to her on the flowered sheets and tell her
a story about the day she was born, head
first into a hard world: the Great Depression,
shanties, Hoovervilles, railroads and unions.
I tell her about Amelia Earhart and she asks

Air? and points to the ceiling. Asks Heart?
and points to her chest. Yes, I say. I sing
Cole Porter songs. Brother, Can You Spare
a Dime? When I recite lines from Gone
with the Wind she sits up and says Potatoes!
and I say, Right again. I read her Sandburg,
some Frost, and she closes her eyes. I say yes,
yes, and tuck her in. It’s summer. She’s tired.
No one knows where she’s been.

Dorianne Laux, “Mother’s Day” from The Book of Men. (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2011) Copyright © 2011 by Dorianne Laux.

***

“Night and Day” written by Cole Porter and performed above by Ella Fitzgerald.

 

“The Tears” by Christy Anna Jones

You died on a Monday evening.
The Weather Channel says it was raining and windy
but I don’t remember that.
What I do remember is
the phone call in the wee hours of the morning.

The three-hour drive to the airport.
The Delta employees being too kind too helpful,
(there must be a secret code on one’s ticket for
“Her mom is dying.”)
The long wait for the rental car, the longer wait for luggage.

The traffic at rush hour, the helicopter, the rubberneckers.
The plea to god to let me arrive in time.
The dad on the porch crying.
The clock frozen at 6:21.
The dead body in your bed.

The stillness of the room, the energy gone.
(Where does it go?)
The lock of hair I snipped from your head.
The mini-van.
The whispered good-bye.

The dog standing in the driveway.
The howling.
The tears.
The tears.
The tears.

“The Tears” by Christy Anna Jones, via Melancholy Hyperbole.

***

“Are You Alright” by Lucinda Williams

“When I Am Asked” by Lisel Mueller

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.

It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

Lisel Mueller, “When I am Asked” from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.

“My Mother’s Hands” by Kristina Hayes

How you have spun whole worlds for
me between your fingers, cupped palms.
How you fed me, clothed me, taught me
the shape of trees and bodies and how
to brush my hair without hurting myself,
how I breathe only because you allowed
me to grow in your womb. Thank you for
the bed in your belly, mom. I am sorry for
the pale white scar on your abdomen,
for how I refused to let go, so they forced
you to let go of me first. I am sorry, too,
that I am not going to school to be a doctor
or a lawyer or some kind of engineer, but
your support is like the sun. Crucial. So
this is for your hands, those star-shaped
things that extend outward from your wrists,
that held me, that carried me, that love me.
You said I left scars on your hands, the
good kind that remind you of how things
were. When you open them and hold them
up to the light, I can see the faint outline
of a smaller heart in your palms. You smile,
close your fists. Tell me to never love
anyone without seeing their hands first.

“In Memoriam” by Leo Dangel

In the early afternoon my mother
was doing the dishes. I climbed
onto the kitchen table, I suppose
to play, and fell asleep there.
I was drowsy and awake, though,
as she lifted me up, carried me
on her arms into the living room,
and placed me on the davenport,
but I pretended to be asleep
the whole time, enjoying the luxury—
was too big for such a privilege
and just old enough to form
my only memory of her carrying me.
She’s still moving me to a softer place.

“In Memoriam” by Leo Dangel, from Saving Singletrees. © WSC Press, 2013.