My Mother, Approaching the Bridge: NaPoWriMo 2015, Day 28

Over the Mad River, maybe,
or the Miami, whichever
was between our house
and my volunteer job
at a nature center.

A certain bend of
green-brown water,
a certain terror

she couldn’t explain
and I couldn’t understand.
A pause, several deep breaths.
It’s possible, too, that she
talked herself through it:
Come on, Rosemary.

It’s possible, but I can’t ask her
about this or any other moment,
about this or anything else.
There are no more bridges
for us to cross



Over the Falls

Like a breath inside
a pill bottle
that my father tossed
off a bridge into
the Niagara River and
then into the falls.
They got married
not far from there;
she wore a pillbox hat
when it was time
to go away. I wasn’t
there then, in 1965,
but I was there
in 2010, when my
father said goodbye
to her small hands,
her one pointed ear,
everything that
could be burned,
and was, and sent it
over the falls
“in a barrel,” he
said. I was startled.
I was glad to be there.
Later, we had pizza,
or beef on weck, or
we walked over for
the nightly fireworks,
or maybe that was
the night he said
he was too tired.
So much happened
later, and since.
But a part of me is
still on that bridge,
watching the water
converge, make the
shape of a heart
at the spot where
she went away —
the last place
I ever saw her,
my mother.

For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 12. Prompt: a poem for/about something that cannot be seen.


Plural Grief

So, will it snow today or not?
Will I wake up again in the middle of the night?
Will I be sure that I have lost my mother’s amethyst ring?
Will I roam around, fruitlessly, trying to find it?
Will I realize that I still have it (though not my mother)?
Is the day coming when I don’t wake up filled with dread?
Is another day coming after that?
Is it going to be OK, everything that I’m worried about?
Would it help if I could call my mother?
When I could call her, why did I so often not?
When she called me, why did I so often pick fights?
Why did I so often take the bait?
How did I think I’d feel now?
Does it ever really satisfy, being right?
Am I ever really sure that I am right?
How do other people manage their lives?
What do they do with their big griefs and small griefs?
Is it possible for grief to be plural?
If I lose my front teeth, can I afford to buy new ones?
How long would it last, the grief for my teeth?
I check every few minutes but still don’t see snow.


For NaPoWriMo, Day 14.


Goodbye to Goodbye (For NaPoWriMo, Day 6)

And this is the thanks I get for saying goodbye
to so many things: I am calcified, or made of
some type of sinew or jerky. Tougher.
Toughened. I’m not sure which is better:
to always be on the verge of tears, apt to
overshare with anyone who gives even a hint
of asking, or to shut that all away somewhere
in a private heart. I will not say I am wrong.
I will not say that mourning was better,
or that it is worse to live. (And living is
forgetting—you think it won’t be, but
it is. The good thing is that this becomes
less terrifying.) But I do miss some of its
crazy permissions, the feeling that if I was
up and moving, that was enough, more
than enough, and anything else was extra.
Now, there is less margin. Now, I am
expected to do normal things—and I can
do them. And I do them. And I enjoy them.
That’s the most surprising thing.



NaPoWriMo, Day 6 prompt: Write a valediction, which is a poem of farewell.


NaPoWriMo, Day 26: An Elegy

An Old Grief


I dance around the shape of loss,
these empty cups, these brittle bones;
sadness seeps into places I can’t name.

What is it when grief becomes
a slide across the sun, a scrim
so thick, the light diffuses,

footsteps down some other
hallway? What is the sound
when it’s all been said, when

there’s no more time for saying,
and life carries you like a little boat,
purposeful and aimless as a leaf?