Today is the 18th anniversary of my mother's death. It was a day that changed my world in almost every way imaginable. I apologize for the somber tone of today's post, but wanted to pay tribute with this poem I wrote a few years ago.
The Winter of '91
The chill of the winter blast cut deep
with its icy razor, through the skin into the bone,
cut deep but blood froze on its way from the throat,
and the fingers of the brilliant sun
tossed salt onto the icy patch, salt upon the back
cut deep by the thrash of the cane whip.
In my 7th grade English class, I sat
still as the frozen day outside, limited speech,
eyes fixed on the sky, blue terrain over white,
I sat while the kids rehearsed diagrams and lines;
and they came. Called my name for the somber ride,
came up three floors to the unit hall, came
through the doors to the bed where she slept –
slept, but beginning the trip – packed and ready,
while we stood in the room unable to move –
in that room like all the rooms we’d known before.
Monitors kept time, breathing life, dripping slow,
keeping minutes like days. Could she stay
just a little longer?
No, no, she’s ready now.
I had walked away for a momentary break
but the clock stopped short before my return.
The words dropped from their lips, I paused
my reaction in disbelief. It cannot be.
She was the fortress of the lion, a Capricorn star.
The brightest constellation clipped its string from the sky.
Her brilliance was stolen by that demon sun,
The way it reared its head higher over white terrain.
A brilliance my eyes shunned, and that silenced the tongue.
Caught within the tunnel that allowed only half the light,
Like months of Arctic night, turning days to years.
I remember the funeral, and then pouring tea
for the comfort of friends, comforting them! Stood straight
in the room where she was, not a week ago –
her essence pervading the walls, her touch on the cups.
And all that I’d known, all who showed pity shifted
in tag-team parallels with those who stayed back from hell.
Then words stopped completely.
Years have passed now – how I’ve grown!
My sister and I became women too quickly, we were
women of 12 and 17, yet I still dreamed
of that winter white brilliance, transcending
the bitter incision and salt-sting on my back.
How the skin pulled tightly over the sores and blood,
frozen from its way up to the tongue.
Now my blood flows swiftly and warmed by the sun,
I take in the light, swallow its rays – swallow
and keep it to counter other sharp winter days.