Pulled my anchor from this harbor Years ago. Yet the current pulls me back, Some irritant speck, Yet to yield a pearl, In the soul, Some rough edged Needless need chafes away Until confession is made And a pilgrimage to graves Must be paid—
There is no why to this– This steel wrought laundry list To be run down and checked through
A visit, a meal eaten At the landmark restaurant, Where new owners chiseled hieroglyphics over a history of years when the landmark lived across A narrow brick paved street And my family lived upstairs, Erasing my mother’s sacrifice Of bloody fetal tissue, My fraternal twin, On the bathroom floor there While I hung on to be born. But such bloody sacrifice Doesn’t sell cheeseburgers, Greek salads, and over easy eggs, A fairytale of family ownership- Sells well and makes for spots On reality television shows.
A drive by the childhood home, Sentimentality at its highest, Revisit the torture chamber It became— A wooden yardstick and when it broke, A metal one I had to buy to be taken Across my back by a drunken mother Until the skin broke open to bleed. . Why the drive by? Who the hell knows? When all I’d like to see Is it all disappear—
Then the statue of Christ In Hopkins Hospital lobby, a must see. Where I stood as a teen Confessing the darkest Thing upon my soul— A part of me wishing My mother had died In that surgery of fifteen hours The other part thanking Jesus she had lived.
Then the graves, To place some flowers, Talk a bit to the air, Turn my soul inside out To find it dusty and dirty again. We can think our souls clean Until turning them inside out— That is where we find the grime Of all the living done.
I visit my brothers, The man who was my real father, Then on to the man I thought was, And then my mother, The saint she was, The monster she became. At her grave, my soul aches the most, Tweezing thorns left from her old rose bushes and my own, Turning itself inside out, Leaving all the grime and dirt behind, Or so it feels.
Then on to visit with what is left of the living. And though, I love the living, There is little, so little– To charm me into staying. But the currents, the tides Of some blood element, Like an ancient memory, Bring me back From time to time.
My daughter, at twenty-one, stands to my right.
The gentleman to my left turns to light my candle.
I do not know him, in that moment he is a friend.
I turn to my daughter, and with the small flame of my candle,
Light the candle she holds.
I lift my eyes to look upon her face and I know.
I feel it within me. A tiny spark jumps back
As I think of my own mother and wonder.
Did she ever look at me and feel that light, that flame inside?
Feel that spark of her soul live inside me?
It matters not what I have left undone:
No trip to Paris, No months spent living in Europe,
No books published, Nothing I wish for is important.
Nothing I long for matters to be lived, matters to be accomplished.
I have accomplished all that truly matters
And I can be at peace with any death
My daughter lives.
Time broke, And you were there, Black and white upon a screen, Seeming to tumble In time to the thump, thump From a machine.
Time split in half, And you were there, Barely a teen, Trying on a mountain of jeweled dresses Frowning and sighing. Finally smiling After reluctantly putting on a dress I asked, “Just try it, please?”
Time shattered, And there you were, Clattering down the hall, Your tiny toddler feet In my size nine heels.
Time wrecked, And there you were, An adolescent sleeping, Lips parted, A fist clutching a beloved stuffed bunny, So grown, yet so tiny still.
Time crumbled, And you were there In your toddler car seat, Sobbing, fat toddler tears For we had no food To give the homeless man on the corner. So, we drove through McDonald’s and bought a meal for him. Your tears stopped. You smiled as I handed him the meal. But the incongruity of your toddler voice admonished, “Next Sunday, after church, we need to buy a healthy meal And bring it to him. McDonald’s isn’t healthy to eat all the time.”
Time exploded, And there you were, Sitting in a swing, hands reaching for the sky; Crying in my arms, heart breaking for the first time; Laughing on Saturday morning, maple syrup running down your chin; Praying the Lord’s prayer in church, brow furrowed in toddler earnestness.
Time coalesced, Healing its broken, Shattered, Split, Wrecked, Crumbled, Exploded Self.
Time mended, Leaving us broken In its wake To find ourselves— Mother, aged And daughter, grown To know each other Again.
The caesarean scar, the only trace,
A testament to what once was,
It holds a degree of lingering numbness
After these twenty years:
Nerves that cannot reconnect
To a self without motherhood.
Yes, a touch of numbness
As the child with her mother’s face
Turns away, rejecting the truth teller,
Rejecting the baptism of love, of name, of tears.
Let the child walk away.
Perhaps in losing her way,
She will find the path back,
A way to recognize being found
In the reflection of her own face.
Splinters these things:
A Cherrywood vanity
Of fine detail,
Queen Anne legs
And dovetailed drawers,
A square ring left in the surface of the finish,
Where perfume dripped down the sides
Of a stoppered crystal bottle;
A dull walnut jewelry box
With red velvet lined drawers,
An attached mirror
Makes it too large,
Ungainly, for today.
These things, leavings,
Leftovers of a life lived,
For remembrance, for reverence,
Symbols of the intangible
As spring greenery
Is glimpsed and seen
Through a sunlit dusty screen
On a late afternoon,
Containing a muted gold softness
One can never touch.
Lackluster as they are,
They are her, her leavings,
The leftovers of the grinding times
She spent between
Rocks and hard places.
You will have her splinters
And my dusty ashes:
A picture or two, photo albums,
Old fashioned things to look through,
No links to clouds but to history, yours;
Some pencil scratching and ink splatters,
Words hurled, tattooed, etched, brushed
Upon page after page,
Notebook after notebook,
Drive after drive;
Yet you will never know or guess
How many were destroyed,
Burned, ripped, broken,
All trashed over my years.
And if you should read my leftovers?
Press your lips together,
Drawing them thin?
Sigh and raise an eyebrow?
Roll your eyes then burn it all?
Or simply, send it all to the trash
In green plastic bags?
Find one old photo,
one written line
Worth the keeping,
For remembrance sake?
You will find something
Among my dust and ash leavings
Of the grinding times I spent
Between rocks and hard places
And view it
As spring greenery is seen
Though a sunlit pollen dusty screen,
Void of vibrancy,
But containing a muted gold softness
One can feel yet never touch
Then know my damning sin,
Like Jonson’s, “was too much hope of thee”
Then find your heart softened and free.
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