Mothers remembered

I don’t know what got me onto this…oh, I’m lying. Teaching a poem by e.e. cummings about his mother, then following it up with one I wrote shortly after my mother died. No particular occasion for this, I just felt like it.

if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have
one.  It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be(deep like a rose
tall like a rose)

standing near my

(swaying over her
silent)
with eyes which are really petals and see

nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
hands
which whisper
This is my beloved my

			         (suddenly in sunlight

he will bow,

& the whole garden will bow)

It took me forever to be able to read that aloud without breaking down. It's one of the most beautiful evocations of filial and marital love I've ever read.I recalled that after my mother died in February 1992, I tried to metaphorize
her death, not as a garden, but as part of a high-wire act. It's not cummings,
but I can live with it.

APPARITION OF THE ASCENT, FEBRUARY 26, 1992:
MY MOTHER METAMORPHOSES TO BECOME A TRAPEZE ARTIST

In spite of the rain and the stench of the mud,
in spite of the howling of beasts in the dark
in this sideshow where flesh dissolves from the bone,
my mother responds to the call for her moment:
ascends the swaying trapeze ladder past the noise
and rancid darkness, and emerges at last, alone,
in the violet spotlight, quivering on the ledge,

clutching the bar, staring out at the vastness,
ignoring me, my neck craned upward, seeking her eyes
that only contemplate the leap she now must make:
then hears my voice, calling out through the dark
that this is her moment, the air and the violet light,
and plunge into the darkness, take the light with her,
feel for the hands that will reach out to keep her
from the fall back to earth where she has left me:

and hearing me, launches herself outward, upward,
the light upon her, rising high, beyond the darkness:
then, at the last second, releasing her grip, floats free
--she who feared the free fall, and doubted the waiting hands--
and is caught by my father, aglow in his own light
who sweeps her to a distant platform where they stand together:
and the air and the mud are cleared by the wind
and the violets she carries, set now before her face:
her bridal bouquet, held out to my father,
that sweetens the scent of earth, that perfumes the air

that lifts them both anew, above me, afloat
in violet-petalled air and a rain that washes clean.

March 1992
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