Letter to a Dead Mother
Thinking of you as I pick up flecks of oats from the kitchen floor,
put them back in the container. You know, the five-second rule.
The floor shakes as the washing machine clicks to Spin,
and I consider how many loads of laundry, how many times
you got down on your knees to mop a floor. When you left,
you took nothing. We were your couldn’t children,
and you seemed fine with that, especially toward the end,
swallowing your come see me’s like brambles, like bees.
Kept your dying angels, your breaking-wave headlines
to yourself. If you could’ve had a last meal, if you’d made it past
the hallway to the kitchen that morning you took your last bath,
I bet you would’ve chosen leftovers: a soggy cup
of salad greens, the barley soup you’d combined with the lentils
from a few days before. Wherever you are, I hope there’s plenty
of legal pads, though maybe you’re writing your 15-page letters
with clouds, writing them onto the sky. And I hope they have books,
long ones by Dostoevsky, a good saga, six generations,
that it’s never quiet where you are,
that there’s always someone to share that joke about having 105 offspring
and not one of them comes to visit! When a comet shows up
without warning, I think of texting you I saw it
above the Columbia Tower! Yelled down to the kids, but it was just me
and this chunk of debris. Tonight, in your honor, it’s chicken soup
with dumplings, the way your mother taught me—
egg, flour, a little salt, just enough water so the dough is sticky, not too dry.
Plop them into boiling water until they float, until they float
like an unanchored vessel on a lake with no shore.