My Mother Never Died Before
It’s been three weeks
since my mother died and I am starting
to forget, not her, to forget
each crazy mini-moment since,
how the EMT got on the phone—
it’s what we all want,
our own bed, our own pajamas—
how the next day
Kevin from the funeral home
the way they do in the Midwest,
she’ll be dressed
in a new set of pah-JAY-mas—
he is from Ohio,
although a different part
than my mother.
Just being from Ohio
felt like a miracle to us
as we stood in the parlor of Grommer’s Sons,
which incidentally did
Presidents Taft, Roosevelt, Roosevelt, JFK—
then I stopped listening
because we walked into a room full of coffins—
thoughtfully laid out like new cars,
angled to imagine an exciting journey in comfort and safety—
some open to white quilted interiors,
some closed to accentuate a glossy finish.
I kept saying, Uh! Ugh! Uck!! as we passed through
which was probably rude.
But Kevin never blinked—
he is a professional—
and when my brother and I
squabbled, you could tell
Kevin had a sister somewhere—
maybe in Ohio—
he would squabble with, too.
Walking towards the urn display
my father spied a tasteful wooden box
She’d love that one! he said.
Even Kevin laughed.
It made looking at the urns easy, I was surprised
how simple, I’d imagined a Grecian vase
with curvatures and animals in blue
cavorting, not these plain wooden containers
bigger than a toaster
smaller than a breadbox.
We picked one and wandered out
making small talk about the renovations.
I want to remember
the scraps of things,
what people say, offerings,
a patchwork quilt to comfort us—
moments of incredulity, this is
my mother has died, the event
I have been dreading and preparing for,
imagining the possibility,
possibly since I was born.
Here is how it felt to get the news:
like the boat I had been sailing
thudded into a dock.
Like I stepped onto the pier and held
the stillness of land
after a long time afloat—
my sea-legs stopped rocking.
Maybe because the cord
that had been gently, persistently
tugging me along,
pulling me over the ocean,
that yanked me into the world
has been cut.
My Mother Never Died Before & Other Poems, January 2021
Nominated by The Poetry Box for the Pushcart Prize:
Best of the Small Press Awards, for poetry published in 2021