for Mother

Mother insists on cooking the traditional meal.
She stuffs the turkey and puts it in the oven,
peels potatoes at the kitchen sink.
A warm mist fills the room,
softens her stiff white apron
and freshens the blooms.

I help with the chopping and the paring,
notice there’s something about her
hallowed eyes,
the quick shallow breathing,
squeaks and sighs when she speaks,
dry skin,
hair that’s spreading thin.

When it’s time to leave, I’m startled
to find in my easy embrace
an old used fragile doll
who could easily come apart. If I hug her too tight
I’m afraid she might fall, along with my heart
and we’d, neither, be able to rise.

But it’s not about cooking or eating,
clearing the table or putting the kitchen to rest;
it’s not talking about the weather
or following what’s familiar.

It’s bone and blood
and leavings.

Even the soft maple growing old.

(c) Mary Harrison, 1994