Mother’s Touch

OLP Hand #6

What I Learned From My Mother

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,

the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

Reprinted from Sleeping Preacher, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992, by permission of the publisher. First printed in West Branch, Vol. 30, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Julia Kasdorf via Poetry Foundation

Source: Sleeping Preacher(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992)

6 thoughts on “Mother’s Touch

  1. Thought I’d share a poem I re-read every mother’s day:

    TEETHING SILVER

    There’s a job waiting in heaven
    for a little lady that loved the world,
    and from what I know, the world loved her.

    She began her apprenticeship
    as a guardian angel almost a century ago.

    Since her birth, almost everything we know
    in the world today is new,
    except how people treat each other.

    She has seen the worst
    that we can do to one another,
    and through it all,
    her touch would simply say,
    I believe in you.

    She gave us all the gift of giving
    and taught us all how to give it away.

    She was forever trying to pass things on.
    for she had a passion for the beautiful and gentle.

    “the heart of my child
    was forever packing away
    small portions of herself
    emptying her neat shelves
    into the safe closet of my lifetime

    the teething silver that caps
    a crystal vase
    a white dolphin
    grandmother’s lace

    these were things I never deserved
    for my hands are too thin and callused
    for the porcelain fingers
    for the delicate embroidered plates
    for the intricate silver lockets
    and fine boneware of her life.

    these were the things of memories
    that grace the evening years,
    they belonged to the last light in her eyes”

    Her environment was a sharing of how
    she viewed the world as it should be,
    could be, would be if only.
    Because of her,
    I am proud to receive
    and thankful to give.

Write it up, write it down, it will make us feel better.

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