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
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
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.
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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.
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.