Collateral Kindness #poetry #earthweal

It was the dreaded news:
nobody knew if you were coming back
yet, in my heart
I knew you weren’t.

My mother. Whose hand
would I hold now?
Whose arms would comfort me
in times of sorrow?

Who would be my champion
and sing my praise
in the face
of the entire, uncaring world?

Out of the blackness of that cold
October night
came the answer:
‘I have you. You are not alone.’

As if the background of the whole universe
was speaking words of comfort to me
some would call it God:
as convenient a name as any.

I hope this voice, this
celestial embrace
held her too,
holds her now.

When I returned to the terror
of a newly-empty home
my five-year-old cousin offered me a banana
in a gesture of collateral kindness.

It’s taken me a whole lifetime
to remember how I felt that night:
‘the love of the universe is with me
as I go through my day.’

May it be with you too.

Β© 2021Β All Rights Reserved.

Written for earthweal

Sherry has given us the following challenge this week, in her post entitled ‘Collateral Beauty:’

As you walk through the hours this week, be alert for those moments of collateral beauty. It can be a moment experienced in nature, or a shining example of human resonance, as in the poems above. It can be as small as morning dew on a spider web in the garden, or as large as a mountain turning purple at twilight. Take note of that unexpected indrawn breath, eyes widened in wonder, heart opened and warmed by what is being witnessed. Then write your poem. Take our breath away. I am especially looking forward to your responses to this challenge.

I didn’t quite follow the letter of the challenge, as I went back in time, but I hope I answered it in spirit. It’s 31 years to the day since my mum died. I wasn’t going to write about it this year, because I still find it hard, but as Sherry herself observed:

Some people prefer not to know; they feel more comfortable staying inside their bubble. But we poets are observers of life and recorders of history – and herstory. It is our job to know, to bear witness, to sing out warnings, songs of grief, love and gratitude for all that still is so plentiful, still ours, for this short span of time.Β 

I wonder if that strange feeling of calm, of a universal embrace, comes over those who die sudden or violent deaths: who don’t have time to come to terms with the idea of dying. I hope so.

It’s taken a long time to reconnect with that sense of universal love, but I think at the baseline of our existence and non-existence, it is all there is.

60 thoughts on “Collateral Kindness #poetry #earthweal

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  1. What a gift to remember and feel the ‘love of the universe’ at such a terrible time. And how brave too to write about such a loss – even after many years pain still reignites at certain times.

  2. What a beautiful and moving tribute to your mother, Ingrid. That moment of oneness with the universe you have described so well – the celestial embrace. You reminded me of a somewhat similar moment on a mountaintop that i havent thought of for a while. This is a very beautiful poem. I love it.

  3. Sending you hugs along with tea and cookies on this day, Ingrid.The offering of the banana by your little cousin is so special. I’m glad you had that moment, the embrace of the universe–whatever it was and however you want to label it.
    And that you for sharing it with us.

    It’s funny, but not knowing the prompt, it seems that I’ve written a few recently to it.

  4. Wow Ingrid, your words are so deep and moving. I knew right away this was about your mum and It truly transcends words to a space of knowing and truth. I am blown away by your continuous courage to write from your heart and to open to universal wisdom. I’m not sure what is more touching your poem or your words. I could see this piece in your novel somehow. I too hope that all beings everywhere have that embrace when they pass on. We can only hope. Here’s to you and your mum today as you hold each other’s essence close. Love to you my friend.πŸ’–

  5. Wow, Ingrid, this is so beautiful and so powerful. I love the range – from the celestial embrace to that banana – how those small things stay with us. I understand you not wanting to write about your mum,and I understand you writing. It’s a massive thing. Sending love and light and strength. x

  6. Ingrid, I am so moved by your poem. Oh, how I wish I could sit with you and enjoy a tea and a chat. So many things I wish I could say to you, in person. Since distance does not afford us that, I will just sit with your words and send you love across the miles.πŸ’—

  7. I can feel the blackness of that night you write of. It reminds me of a similar night in my own life. How wonderful that you received such a clear universal message then. This a poem that can uplift the hearts of many I think.

  8. The pain never goes away. It is not easy to write but perhaps it was time for you to embrace that pain and share it. That offering by your cousin must have meant so much at that time that you remember it with clarity. Sending warm hugs, Ingrid.

  9. There is nothing more terrifying to a child than abandonment and losing one’s mother is a celestial event; to receive that affirmation — “you are not alone” — is a lifelong comfort. (I wonder if it came much later, remembered in a poem.) In AA it is the most comforting thing to say to the solitary suffering drunk — you are not alone any more — which somehow pairs with “you are going to be all right.” I find that comfort deeply now when I walk under my little suburban canopy, mothered by trees and stars. Your collateral community takes comfort in your words –

  10. Loss on that magnitude is a hard thing to comfort, yet love finds a way, even if it’s something as simple as a banana, or an embrace, offering continuity and wholeness to staunch the wound. Beautifully and movingly written.

  11. A very moving poem and one I can relate to which I have not thought about until I read your poem. I was 6 It was night I can even remember the room I was standing in suddenly realising that my mother may not be coming back. She was having a very serious heart operation.I remember my grandmother comforting me telling me that everything would be alright. And then I remember feeling better because I believed everything my Grandma ever said

    Fortunately my mother survived and returned home after a few months I cannot imagine how you survived this terrible ordeal but you did. God told you …you were not alone…and you are not. Thank you for telling us your story
    You were a brave little girl.

  12. Your poem is tender, sweet and brought back memories of my experience when my mother left. My condolences and wishes for peace.

  13. I do believe the universe aligns at times and gives us the strength that is needed. The message you were given were words to live by. A precious gift.

    β€˜I have you. You are not alone.’

  14. a moving and loving tribute to your mother and your universal epiphany, bless your little cousin! A wondrous thing to do on the anniversary, we never forget … I have one coming up soon but it’s a very different experience when she’d lead a very full life and was so ready to go.

    A sacred space is important, decorate it with things that resonate deeply πŸ™‚

  15. It’s been little over a month since my mother passed suddenly – one week she went from vibrant to dead. She sat on the edge of her bed and weakly said “Well, I guess I’ll have to die”. I’ve gone through many of the same emotions you did so long ago. We are NEVER ready for our mother’s to go. I was blessed with a long time (she was 91). I still find myself wanting to pick up that phone and speak with her… Hugs. A gorgeous poem.

    1. Hi Margaret,

      I found your comment, which my system flagged as spam for some reason. This must have been such a shock to you, being so sudden. Sending hugs to you, and thank you for your kind comment!

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