My mother always said: as you age
your face either “hollows” or “sags.”
Gravity is the mastermind we’re warring,
but also Earth’s whiskey-drenched breath.
My therapist talks a lot about “grounding,”
about being present, because we can live
in these hollow, sagging heads, missing
The little things: a dandelion’s wispy white hair, it’s strands twirling off
in wind; water’s slow boil, like
soldiers of oxygen marching one by one to an eruption;
that chip in your coffee mug reading “Mothers know Best”
dropped when Dad called with her diagnosis. I kicked
the mug like a puck
across the floor, studying irony.
Years later, my mother has forgotten to know,
doesn’t recall she’s a mom. “Best Mom” means
ghost in my clam chowder and who
One afternoon, I visit her at “The Nest.”
“What color is this?” I ask her, holding up
a red paper heart. She stares at it,
grabs it, and begins rocking
with more vigor. For her
maybe gravity is another ilk
of enemy, for she always wants
to go home. But what home?
I think she’s trying to rock
her way home, home, perhaps,
to her mother, a hollower–skin taut
to her teeth when they lowered her
into the eternal hollow. My mother
is a sagger, but her brain
is hollow, well, not quite hollow–
more like the cavity in a tree, home
to some squirmy animal, but what?
I have trouble staying grounded, home
in my imagination, in the billion
possibilities and impossibilities,
memories I fear are are evaporating,
like the sun vanishing puddles–memories of rain.
That image of her on the deck that spring, weeks deep
in chemo, eyes shut tight against the wind–
bird feeders swinging, the neighbor’s tablecloth dancing
Like a Twirling Dervish, landing in the gnarles
of her Japanese Maple–there it went, in strands and clumps,
as if a giant magnet were lifting it up, up, away.
(Later we found the hair woven into a bird’s nest.) She yelled
Something at me through the screen door. What was it?
What had she said?
The night I stood on a stool and watched her make the
one thing she could make: Spaghetti. “Not too close, honey.”
She cautioned when I leaned into the steam. “Hot!” She said,
flapping her arms, or did she flap mine?
Memories of my mother, arrived from lake’s bottom, thousands
of once colorful, interesting shapes, transformed by life’s great tide
into smooth gray ovals. Rock hunting on Lake Michigan: these
wouldn’t make it into Mom’s pocket.
Maybe it’s not like the sun. It’s not like the sea, not for Mom.
Perhaps she belongs to the cliched cloud, each one staking space
in the sky, colonizing my mother’s brain, until a fascist nation
twists in its flag. She’s forgotten how to eat,
talk, walk, open her eyes.
But today, she rocks,
I am there: a stranger’s face
beginning to sag
and a red paper heart, blurred
as she rocks herself in and out
of the cloud. Soon she’ll be the sun,
burning like the other billion, enormous things.
Will I forget
To look up?