To Cry

for my mother on her birthday, March 2, 2014

When I was born huge through a difficult wound,
We both cried, Mother. True, I can only assume,
But it was you who taught me how to cry in love,
And having fallen in love with my own wet babes
One by one before I ever saw their god-faces,
I know you fell in love with me the way
I fell in love with you within your womb.
I must have cried to leave the heaven of your body
For this side, where there is always leaving.

As soon as we learn the child’s cry and pinky grip,
Memorize the length of milky limbs and even breathing,
The child grows impossible, perfect wings.
We celebrate the sky’s claim of our deepest being,
Wonder how our heart can wander earth
In so many bodies. For years, leaping our perch,
They return. But soon enough the child grows
Sky eyes, the strength of two decades, and hungry
For living, full of longing, perfectly plumed, flies.

Mother, I don’t remember crying when I left.
How can this be? I left you the way my daughter
Left me. Without a tear. I was not hurt. I believe
This means we have done the work of mothers well.
The child has learned to love himself, herself,
Saves money, buys a ticket to somewhere else.
I remember you crying the way my daughter will
Remember me, wetting her neck on the edge
Of her new life, she too excited to grieve.

Mother, now I return to you on the eve
Of your seventieth year, and it has been a week
Of restless sleep. I turn in the bed of my fifth decade
While you turn in yours one thousand miles away.
The snow tries to cover us both, promise spring.
All night for nights, hard years follow us like lost children
Tugging our shirts. We want to hold each one
On the dining room chair in the dark, let them cry it out—
The lonely fear, the empty purse, the sorry hearse.

We have stopped hoping tears will heal
Unreachable wounds. Some people say they should,
But such people were never loved by mothers like ours.
We know better. Let us bravely cry together, Mother,
Facing every bitter winter and hard-won May.
Let us cry that we are here in each other’s arms
Another day—in love with our children,
Our mothers, each other—we who have given,
And been blessedly given, so many birthdays.

Leave a Reply