Monday, May 04, 2009

For All Our Mothers

There are poems and there are poems, and this month's Love hug (and then some) goes to poet Sharon Olds good as capturing the infinitesimal infinity that opens between the beats of a hummingbird's wings: for the definitive poem.

To say I am moved by "To See My Mother" is a gross understatement. Reading it, I experienced all at once a prescient understanding, comfort, compassion, gratitude, admiration and awe to the point of tears. I felt invited into the tabernacle for a rare glimpse of something otherwise too sacred for the common eye.

I know first hand the life passage that is the death of a parent, having witnessed my father's two years ago. But I think (and anticipate) that the death of a mother is the greatest life passage of all--a second and final birth of sorts. Olds' poem confirms this, and in doing so, prepares me well--as if channeling it in advance--for the moment of my own mother's passing. It prepares me to be unprepared and instead to offer myself up to the inevitable cataclysm: to give it my heart to crush and to grace.

To See My Mother

It was like witnessing the earth being formed,
to see my mother die, like seeing
the dry lands be separated
from the oceans, and all the mists bear up
on one side, and all the solids
be borne down, on the other, until
the body was all there, all bronze and
petrified redwood opal, and the soul all
gone. If she hadn't looked so exalted, so
beast-exalted and refreshed and suddenly
hopeful, more than hopeful—beyond
hope, relieved—if she had not been suffering so
much, since I had met her, I do not
know how I would have stood it, without
fighting someone, though no one was there
to fight, death was not there except
as her, my task was to hold her tiny
crown in one cupped hand, and her near
birdbone shoulder. Lakes, clouds,
nests. Winds, stems, tongues.
Embryo, zygote, blastocele, atom,
my mother's dying was like an end
of life on earth, some end of water
and moisture salt and sweet, and vapor,
till only that still, ocher moon
shone, in the room, mouth open, no song.

~Sharon Olds


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