It’s a good thing I passed by a playground before I found the cemetery I was on the hunt for. Because “Happy Mother’s Day, I see dead people” is twisted, even for a twisty elf like me.
But I do see dead people this Mother’s Day—my mother who died the week before Mother’s Day three years ago, my mother-in-law who died just this past November. The poems featured in this post see dead people too, or at least people from the past, as they once were.
So if you’re not grieving a lost mother this Mother’s Day . . . well, lucky, lucky you. Give your mum an extra smooch.
I left Meghan O’Rourke’s “My Mother” on a checkerboard table near the playground equipment:
I can’t read this without . . . you know . . . more-than sniffling . . . especially since the last car ride I took with my mother was to see the cherry blossoms.
Come down from your weeping cherry,
Mother, and look at how we have scattered
your ashes only in our minds, unable
to let you leave the house—
I couldn’t find the full text on line, but link here to a beautiful essay O’Rourke wrote about her mother’s clothes after her mother died.
O’Rourke also wrote an ode to her aunts, which I left on a park bench at the same playground:
I myself had only one aunt who I never knew, but I had older sisters who were as intoxicating to me as O’Rourke aunts were to her. I called them “Cool Girls” because they were. And still are.
Here’s a link with the poem. O’Rourke is a master of endings. See how she brings the car full of smoking-hot aunts to a halt:
Stop now, before the green
comes to cover your long brown bodies.
It’s a disturbing dream of a baby in mortal danger—
Then she drops it and it explodes
like a watermelon, eyes spitting.
But the poem turns just a hair and suddenly the mother’s fierce protectiveness of her baby threatens the life of another creature, some other mother’s offspring—
On a newfangled jungle gym I taped Eavan Boland’s “Is It Still the Same.”
This one gives me chills, in the best kind of way, the surprise of the young mother writing turning out to be an older mother writing—
I wrote like that once.
But this is different:
This time, when she looks up, I will be there.
Finally, I taped Marie Ponsot’s “Between” to the pole of a swingset:
Ponsot dedicates the poem to her daughter whom she observes, pregnant (at least it seems to me) and walking in the door:
The woman, once girl once child, now is deft in her ease,
is door to the forum, is cutter of keys.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Especially the motherless (sad trombone sound).
Now here’s something a little more cheerful. This Friday Chicago writer Bridget Gamble will email her weekly newsletter, this one a collection of mother-wisdom, just in time for the holiday. Link here to subscribe.