Earlier this week, I had a string of day where I woke up every morning inexplicably mad. Not just annoyed at being awake too early, or frustrated at the 4780 sleep disturbances the night before, but irate. At everything. At the kids, at my husband, at the dog, the house, the car, the fucking clouds. I hated it all. I stomped around, yelled at anyone who couldn’t read my mind and get out of my way in time, and ate leftover Halloween candy until my teeth were sore. Finally I vented to some friends online, listing every tiny thing that had made me want to scream that day, and then realized after a page and a half that Oh. Right. This is the week, 10 years ago, that my mom died.
And the rage was replaced by resignation. It creeps up on me every year. Obviously I know it is coming, and I try to brace myself, but the depth of my fear and sorrow always surprises me. Even when I am sure that ten years is enough time to mourn, my body disagrees. My muscles remember, and are clenched, ready to sprint away, but instead I am working on being okay with here, with this. With ten years.
And even though I have obviously failed at posting daily (Why do I try to do this in November, when every year I relive this experience?) I still intend to include a poem I love each time I post. I am loving pulling out all of my poetry books, searching online for poems I had missed before, poems that in the intervening years have started making more sense. Someone asked the other day if I will post any of my own poetry, and I thought of this poem, and the way all of the poems I wrote (back when I was still writing poetry, when my brain inserted line breaks in ordinary conversation) feel forced. I am immersing myself back into the world of poetry, but I’m not sure any of it will soak in.
Poetry Failure – Mark Holiday
For example, I wrote my first poem in 1976 about being in the Vermont house
after my mother’s death; she died the year before;
she loved that house. My father said he kept having moments
of thinking she must have just stepped outside for a minute
to weed the garden or to walk just a little way
along Prospect Street, for a few minutes only and now
almost now she’d be coming back, we’d hear the screen door,
Bev would be back and saying something casual about—
about the cats, Daphne and Chloe, or about Mrs. Yamokofsky next door
or about the pear tree, “or a colored stone she found.”
That was the phrase that ended my poem in 1976:
“or a colored stone she found.” The phrase rang slightly false
but I wanted it—the “ound” and “one” sounds sounded profound
and in 1976 “stone” was still a word guaranteed poetic.
But did my mother ever pick up colorful stones?
Wasn’t that more something I did fifteen years earlier?
In the poem I was trying to turn my ironic mother into
an ideal figure certified sweet like a child.
But what could I make her say? Something very sly and wry?
The poetry would be in her voice, the way of her voice being
hers—voice of my mother—whether the words were about
the cats or Mrs. Yamokofsky or potatoes to peel for mashing.
Not your mother. My mother. Poetry of her
saying in her Bev way “those potatoes” or “Mrs. Yamokovsky”
or “Daphne’s gone down by the Black River
but if we feed Chloe I’m sure she’ll be back.”
And my father and Kimbo and me just going “Yeah” or “In a minute”
because this was all just life.