Motherless Child


My mom passed away in 2006, after a protracted, painful case of cancer.   She lived a rich, full life, but I miss her every day, as if I woke up one day without a bone in my hand.   While I miss her, I don’t think of her often, or of her not being around.  I think this is a defense mechanism I’ve developed, and it doesn’t make me stronger or better.  I’m writing about it to bring it to the light, in hopes I might discard it.
Something happened a few days ago.  We had a snow day, and it was restful.  I was coming off a busy weekend, and that Monday at home was a welcome denouement.  I made chicken broth all day, the kids played in the snow, and Lindsay and I got to watch an actual movie that didn’t involve a singing princess or talking animals. I was wearing a sweater, drinking coffee, looking out at the snow, and I thought: “today would be a good day to call mom so she can talk to the kids”, and it took a few heartbeats to realize the awfulness I had dumbly stirred up.
I didn’t call her.  She will never talk to the kids, in fact, she has never met 2 of my kids, which is unfortunate-she’d treasure them.  If she were around and had her act together, she’d be an excellent grandmother.  When I was growing up, she found any excuse to cook or sew for us.  We always had ladies and their kids staying with us, often to escape domestic violence.  These acquaintances became extended family members, fully integrated to the rhythms of our lives.  Most of the people that I refer to as “my cousin”,  to this day,  are not blood relatives,  but are my family simply because my mother loved them,  and the love of my mother,  in addition to our intertwined histories,  are a powerful bond, more powerful than distance,  time,  and silence.  We remain tethered.
I started writing this poem in Iraq, after I was notified my mom was dying.  I’ve re-written it a few times, and it is my favorite piece from my short-lived spoken word career. I posted it on my abandoned Tumblr, which turned 4 years old yesterday
My Mother’s floral-print heart
and hatred of neglect
forced her to wage peace,
as a denim-vest wearing Sister Of Mercy,
ensuring we always had an extra plate of Hamburger Helper
and an empty couch,
or chair, or blanket on
the floor for battered women and
their children,
runaways,
and good kids gone bad.
These transients became Aunts,
Uncles,
Brothers,
Sisters, or
Cousins.
Scraping and scrimping
what was left of our foodstamps
and clipping coupons to make
a cauldron of oatmeal
with powdered milk,
or sunny-side-up eggs from the coop
with fried spam,
we fed the Bangladesh
of our neighborhood.
Urchins orphaned by crack cocaine,
we washed their clothes by hand
while their teenaged parents
stole Betamaxes.
Baking Loaf upon loaf
because we could not afford
the thin squares in bags
that most people called bread
I took to school a 3 inch hunk,
smeared with the guts of a passion fruit
from a wild vine ,
that the kids whose families had cars and shoes
laughed at.
They loved their Nintendo,
but would never know the joy
of having pigs in your yard
or tending the garden
where the beans
that would be next week’s chili dinner grew.
Even at our most destitute,
we still had much to give,
conjuring 100 Dollars
to get Josh’s guitar from the pawnbroker,
the black Stratocaster knock-off
that his mother, no stranger to
the abortion clinic
had put there to apportion
a day’s supply of Crystal Meth.
I did my share to help,
stealing haunted clothes from the Salvation Army
and on my way out
grabbing a Boogie Down Productions tape
so I was fresh for 1990, YOU SUCKAAAAAAS!, but it was 1998.
My Mother was a Libra,
her entire person bearing the icon
of Blind Lady Justice’s scales,
she has lived a life of
giving and love
and when she acquiesces to the Cancer
that ate her brain
and sucked her teeth out
with the help of the Chemotherapy
that has sucked her hair out,
she resumed giving until gone,
consumed by the grace and mercy
that drives each little decision,
retired from Active-Duty
to Heaven where
she can be the Child instead of
the Warrior parent,
financier,
tailor,
teacher
and anchor to
The broken children,
Strays that worshipped the fractured portrait of masculinity that was
Tupac Shakur
and whose parents
resented the burden
of their existence.
The purpose of this post is not to elicit pity, or dredge up sorrow.  I fully believe that my mother went to heaven.  Her death was peaceful and beautiful, and she was released forever from the pain and meanness the World visits upon us.  Now, hopefully,  I can be released of longing, and loss, and selfish feelings of injustice and deprivation I’ve allowed to encroach upon my mind when I think of my mother.
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One thought on “Motherless Child

  1. I enjoyed this, “it hurt so good”. I've found that unfortunately the hole left behind never diminishes let alone goes away . This being said, I think of your mom very often. I always will until I get to be reunited with her. She was my best friend and though not by blood she is and always will be my sister. I love you David. My nephew.

    Like

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