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What mother wants to remember

the death of her child?

One happened in August

when the sun was fierce and

the air stood still.

Grass burned and

lakes dried out, and he

no longer wanted to live.

Another, in February

after a short illness;

an ice storm locked doors,

froze flowers;

bent, broken, they

lay on the ground,

mourners footprints

covered by ice,

the earth unmoving..

Birthdays, Christmas, 4th of July,

other holidays.

It seems every month is a cause

for grief.

And I ask myself,

Is this why I’m here—

to guide and love and cherish,

to watch them die

before they have

a chance to live,

to let them go

before my own life


(c) Mary Harrison, October 30, 2012


Lightning split, it
clings to the roof
heart leaves
crisp and curling
once shaded ground
now a desert’s
fluttering wing
dried-up throat
watching the ruins.

(c) Mary Harrison, October 30, 1012

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


If you see an old woman
trudging alone
through the mall, don’t hide
in Dillards
behind the shelves of razors,
moccasins, aftershave.
She’s been searching for you
grave-filled days
ghosted with blue-jeans,
soft cotton sweats–faded
charcoal and blue hanging
on racks,
aroma of strong coffee like her
dead son loved
from the food court
through crowds of shoppers,
the coffee’s bitter taste,
her son’s eyes,
his smile in other faces.
Grief takes her home
where she pours liquid
Tide into the washing machine,
brews strong coffee,
waters her son’s philodendron,
wraps herself in thermal
against the cold
slipping through the cracks.

(c)Mary Harrison, 1993