“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.

“On the Edge” by Dorianne Laux

After your mother dies, you will learn to live
on the edge of life, to brace yourself
like she did, one hand on the dashboard,
the other gripping your purse while you drive
through the stop sign, shoulders tense,
eyes clamped shut, waiting for the collision
that doesn’t come. You will learn
to stay up all night knowing she’s gone,
watching the morning open
like an origami swan, the sky
a widening path, a question
you can’t answer. In prison, women
make tattoos from cigarette ash
and shampoo. It’s what they have.
Imagine the fish, gray scales
and black whiskers, growing slowly
up her back, its lips kissing her neck.
Imagine the letters of her daughter’s name
a black chain around her wrist.
What is the distance between this moment
and the last? The last visit and the next?
I want my mother back. I want
to hunt her down like the perfect gift,
the one you search for from store to store
until your feet ache, delirious with her scent.
This is the baggage of your life, a sign
of your faith, this staying awake
past exhaustion, this needle in your throat.

~ Dorianne Laux, via Superstition Review

“I am fifty four years old, the age my mother was when she died. …

“I am fifty four years old, the age my mother was when she died. This is what I remember: We were lying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us. I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder. It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside. Yet inside, Mother’s tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth. She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously.

“I am leaving you all my journals,” she said, facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. “But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone.”

I gave her my word. And then she told me where they were. I didn’t know my mother kept journals.

A week later she died. That night, there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals.

On the next full moon I found myself alone in the family home. I kept expecting Mother to appear. Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals. They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful clothbound books; some floral, some paisley, others in solid colors. The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves. I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It, too, was empty, as was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth – shelf after shelf after shelf, all my mother’s journals were blank.”

– Terry Tempest Williams
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

“B” (If I Should Have a Daughter) by Sarah Kay

*

If I should have a daughter, instead of mom, she’s going to call me Point B,

because that way she knows that no matter what happens,
at least she can always find her way to me.

And I am going to paint the Solar Systems on the backs of her hands,
so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say ‘Oh, I know that like the back of my hand’

And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you,
hard,
in the face,
wait for you to get back up, just so it can kick you in the stomach
but getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.

There is hurt, fear that cannot be fixed by band aids or poetry
so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming
I’ll make sure she knows she does not have to wear the cape all by herself
because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers,
your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal.

Believe me, I’ve tried

And baby, I’ll tell her, don’t keep your nose up in the air like that
I know that trick, I’ve done it a million times
You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail
back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire
to see if you can save him.

Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him
But I know she will anyway, so instead, I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate
and rainboots nearby.

Because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix.
Ok, there’s a few heartbreaks that chocolate can’t fix,
but that’s what the rainboots are for because rain will
wash away everything if you let it.

I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass bottomed boat
To look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind
Because that’s the way my mom taught me.

That there’ll be days like this
that there’s be days like this my mama said
When you open your hands to catch, and wind up with only blisters and bruises.
When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly

And the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape
When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment
and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you

because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop
kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it is sent away.

You will put the win in winsome … lose some
You will put the star in starting over and over.

And no matter how many landmines erupt in a minute
be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And yes, on a scale from one to overtrusting, I am pretty damn naive.

But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar.
It can crumble so easily.
But don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.
Baby, I’ll tell her, remember your mama is a worrier
and your papa is a warrior.

And you’re the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.
Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things and
always apologize when you’ve done something wrong

but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining,
your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing.

And when they finally hand you a heartache,
when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners
of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that
they
really ought to meet your mother.

B” (If I Should Have a Daughter) by Sarah Kay, B