This is for your mother, Kathleen. Even after I stopped loving you, I couldn’t move her from my heart. This poem was written when my relationship with words was rawer, but the sentiment is still there. May she sleep in peace on this crisp Mother’s Day. The world has been a colder place without her.
Elegy for Your Mother
You were catatonic, wouldn’t speak
until I made you collapse
into waterfalls. I didn’t realize
you knew how to cry.
Your father tried, but was useless.
Don’t blame him. His heart was mangled
like it’d been in the passenger seat.
Your aunt and I made misery meals
that feed the woeful, tantalizing broken
souls who refuse to eat out of respect
for the dead.
I called the funeral parlor and talked
to a man whose oily voice greased
the handset. The forced sympathy
of funeral directors rang insincere
in weary ears as it echoed:
“We’re sorry for your loss.”
You were lovely during the funeral,
wearing the last suit she ever bought you,
magnificent midnight black. You’d forgotten
how to cry all over again. I squeezed
your hand, knowing you’ve never liked human
contact, but you held on, wary to let me leave.
There was a bonfire that night, as though we
were Vikings sending her soul off to sea.
Your friends made you climb high to the roof
to play guitars, to mourn that proper way.
When your father joined, the world got
quiet. He played Ain’t No Sunshine to the moon.