I was stumped by the first line. Your kindness… Who do I know is kind? Very kind. So kind as to inspire poetry? And not sappy poetry. I do not like sappy poetry. Then, I stumbled on the part where the narrator mentions dressing and a boy. And not salad dressing. But, I persevered. And, at the risk of breaking my own anti-sappy rule, I had to Thank God, out loud, that my mom survived a car wreck. Saturday. My mom. OK. So here’s the poem. It seems to have taken the form of a prose poem. And, sorry, anti-sap groupies, but I have to add… I love you, Mom!
The Mother (inspired by The Trees, by Mark Haddon)
Your kindness to a young mother, just washed in from Louisiana, paddled in
on a hurricane wave with a baby on her hip, water following, chasing
up her attic steps. You gave a hundred. One hundred dollars.
Always so much, too much. Where is she now?
That girl with the husband back in low country, building the house.
I wrap gently used baby shoes in pink felt, pass them on to a couple with a fifth baby.
Your skill at sewing, baking, cooking, cleaning, removing set-in stains.
You never wore pearls. I have a silver bracelet I’ve never taken off. Seventeen years
in the same sterling bangle and I have never sewn a dress, taken in a seam,
baked a soufflé, have not made peace with Tide, still have to ask the butcher
what meat to use for a pot roast.
We lost so many hours fighting over how fast I could get dressed.
Never faster than when a boy was involved, just past midnight.
So slow when the big yellow bus was plodding down the street, idling at the corner.
What was lost has now been found. I now know there is nothing slower
than a kindergartner with a metal lemon snake breathing down his neck.
Look at you. You’re the only woman on the little town board. Big board. Little town.
Dale Evans whipping five burly cowboys into shape.
than life. You frighten the men. This makes me proud. I put on a hideous mask,
walk up and down my suburban streets. Scaring men has become my life’s passion.
Outside the spring air is far, far away. A hint of green in the brown, brown breeze
of this snowless winter. On the first day the snow finally fell, you hopped in your car.
I scraped the ice and snow from the back window and off you drove, headed north.
Alone on the loneliest stretch of Adirondack Route 9. Car wreck? Didn’t stop you.
I will thank God on every star for your life. Will drive three times over the same patch
of snarling black ice to prove I am your daughter.