—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
I take the edge along with me
wherever I go.
Like a ruler;
like a lifeline in a world made of snow;
I take it for caution and what I almost know
I take it to remind me of where I left off
and where I began.
I take it as something not to step over,
or off of.
I need this edge to prevent me from the fall
that flaunts its vertigo.
I know my dimension.
Mother named it so.
She said, “Take this edge through life,
as a peripheral.”
She took it from her tiny balcony of warning
and stood there—edgeless, waving.
And I still have it with me:
Mother’s edge—still holding, guarding.
(first published in Tule Review, 2000)
MOTHER: A LANDSCAPE
It was the meaning
came slowly to me
through her mouth
her lips soft blue
her grief evident
as tears in the
sadness of eyes
She wept and wept
and threw herself
against the night
as something blind
as something far away
discovers the mirage
of its own existence.
Oh, she became
aware of this.
the meaning of moans
in her last wilderness
as she fastened
her gown of travel
to her cold departure
and turned her face
for one last look.
(first published in VERVE)
brooch: so coveted:
a profiled Ivory Lady
with a chain
of gold around her neck that held
the diamond Mother used
FOR MOTHER FRIGHTENED ALL THE TIME
: Mother on a pale horse
brave and urgent as a boy
already stronger and determined
grabs her hands into the mane
and grips her knees and rides.
It is very early in the morning.
The land still lies in long damp shadows . . .
sunlight sparkling on the translucent green . . .
the hem of her nightgown is wet
she has goose bumps
but her laugh is free.
She is transformed into a child.
She rides to the fences of the meadow.
The pale horse loves her.
I don’t want to intrude upon their happiness.
She is secure. This is her meadow.
This is her horse. This is her morning.
(first published in Maryland Poetry Review, 1989)
IF I COULD DANCE FOR MY MOTHER
I used to love to watch my mother dance—
but dance alone—and laugh to dance alone,
flirt with the mirror with a teasing glance
and one toward the silent telephone.
And even now
spill down—fill my emptiness—
My mother—young—and I, a quiet child
who envied her, and loved her, jealously.
She’d dance for me—her little flirty blues.
I used to love to watch my mother dance.
MOTHER IN FIGMENT OF TIME AND SELF
“Oh!” Mama said, nit-picky, her foolish eyes all weepy. Under her big hat her face was held-pose for mirror-look. “I live in a store window now.” she said. “People like to look at me.” And she laughed. But now she was about to speak her scoldy word, her cupid-bow lips all pouty, Mama with the peach-colored mouth. “I am going to work now.” Mama said to the children who were gone. And Mama walked out like a model, her long scarf hanging down, her hand at her loose top button. I said, “Goodbye, Mama.” but I was gone like the others. I was older than Mama who had her hand on the railing as her high heels went clacking down the stairs. She was standing still when Camera came, so full of praise and beauty. They married and sent me this photograph.
THE PROTECTIVE WING
I was sheltered in the
wing, grateful and cold,
carried wherever I wanted to go.
Sky filled me.
I weighed nothing.
The mother-bird was unaware of me.
I sang to her
then sleep against her breathing.
She was happy but did not know why.
A mother is someone who has granted life
to an under-appreciative whelp.
Surely he could never repay her
and she has no guarantee he would if he could.
Yet every day she cleans him and feeds him.
She shares timeless wisdom and protects him from the world,
and all he has to say is this;
"I could say 'thank you' all day,
repeat the words 'I love you' for a week,
still it would not be enough,
and besides I am far too busy
using the skills you have taught me
to become happy and successful
so I may prove to the world
how well my mother has raised me."
—Dillon Shaw, Davis
THE POET AS MOTHER
the child in my body is round
it sleeps in my flesh
I am older than pregnancy
but my child dreams of being born
I sit with my hands upon its heartbeat
it opens its eyes
and smiles through my fingers
(first published in Philadelphia Poets, 1988)
—Medusa (with thanks to Joyce Odam and Dillon Shaw for rounding out our two-part Mother's Day Edition, and to D.R. Wagner for the photos.