Matroyshka Dolls

for my mother

So many memories I can’t access but know.
I still own the I Can Read books you read to me–
flyleaf scrawled with my name in child’s careful cursive,
saved to read a thousand times to my kids–
but not the viscera of your voice reading them.

It is a small tragedy. Cosmic irony.

I have passed my voice through books
in endless silly accents against the truth
my children will forget my voice too.

This perhaps is the great loneliness
of motherhood: to be the only one to remember
the dream of raising a child raising you
into invisible servitude, constant, busy solitude.
How hard you try to hide the struggle,
remember where you buried the bone
of yourself, avoid the fall into empty holes.

As a mother forgets her own mouth
on her mother’s breast, so do her children
forget the lullabies she sang, thousands of meals,
imaginative games, lessons on magical rocks,
nearly every reassuring caress, except the ones
bookmarked by chronic, irreparable loss.

Doll. House. Family. Father.

Mother, I don’t remember
every bedtime, but my heart recalls them all
as one grand, archetypal Tuck In, complete
with prayer. The reverence of your voice,
its cadence washing over, eroding worry,
rhyming with every helpless mother’s prayer.
I know that ancient language in my cells.

Everything else is fog. We forget
our deepest happiness like we forget air.

I don’t remember being an egg in your body.
Small, quiet moon tucked inside the tiny nest
of your fetal ovary. Together we floated,
little astronauts, two Russian dolls
stacked inside your mother’s body.
I can’t remember, but I know.

We’ve been together from the beginning.

2021

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