My Mother’s Words
There is so little left
to say. My own words
never had the heft
your father’s did. Remember?
We ran out of boxes for his books
after he died. I think that when he lost
his gift to read those words, he took
it as a sign. My skin still holds his soft
exhale against my neck that day,
his last, though sometimes there’s no memory
he’s gone— I worry if he sees my teapots occupy
his emptied shelves he might do inventory,
want to buy back all we carted off. My words
were shadows beside his.
What gave me joy was when the dirt
I tilled made way for green. The kettle’s hiss.
Crochet’s knotted thread.
Don’t fret so much when I forget
the day, or what you said,
even your name, Pauletta,
though I gave that to you,
didn’t I? I know you’re mine—
that word is constant as the moon
though sometimes it’s less cheese than rind.
It’s not about what’s new and green,
the underbelly of leaves,
each with its own signature of touch—
this one rough as winter’s skin,
this one the rubber of scar.
It’s not the dandelions, impossibly
yellow as a child’s drawing
of a hundred suns, nor the bird
that darts now from the bushes,
the low hum of wings against
his small missile of body.
Still, there is something of spring
that holds a small piece of your death,
breaking as easily in my hand as bark
from a fallen limb.
Maybe it’s about what does not come
back alive. The rose bush brittle brown,
with thorns that snap like small bones,
the storm-torn ground beneath the pear still red
and open as a wound that refuses to heal.
It could be the white-winged moth
flitting alone from leaf to loosening bud.
The one persistent cardinal
calling for a mate.
Soon there’ll be a cacophony of color,
voices, everywhere life
creating more. But now
it’s April that shows us
and what has not,
one against the other.
Pauletta Hansel is author of five poetry collections, including The Lives We Live in Houses, What I Did There, and most recently Tangle, from Dos Madres Press. Her work has or will appear in Atlanta Review, Postcards Poems and Prose, Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia, Appalachian Heritage, Appalachian Journal, American Life in Poetry, and many others. She is co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative.
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