Searching For My Mother

by Mary K O’Melveny

In the first months of life without her,
I had no dreams, no visions,
no goose-pimpled “recognition”
moments or messages from beyond.
No birds crossed my path,
wings raised in salute.
I heard no mid-night sounds
calling out my name or hers.
I felt a void of the void –
her disappearance was complete.

In her last photographs,
she looked a bit wistful,
as if wishing for her “better days” –
times when all seemed possible,
not a just scripted “finis”
scrolling slowly across the screen.
She had been disappearing bit by bit,
like little flickering fireflies,
tentative at first, then brighter,
but soon lost from sight.

Even as we mourned each minor loss,
there were still some solid moments,
recognitions of family roots and bonds,
brief hopeful smiles for the day ahead.
But there was anger too.
Some days she wrapped herself in it
as if it could stave off
the chilled breath of time.
Often we were unprepared,
left shuddering in the storms.

When I finally dreamed of her,
I knew she was dead
but I still worried that she was real.
Needed things. Wanted comfort.
Was disappointed in all of us.
Our failures sharp,
as if we had bumped into razor wire
along a darkening road.
I woke up in a sweat-soaked bed
thinking about faded chances.

Many months later, sorting
through dusty office files,
a profusion of old letters tumbled out.
Her once firm hand in blue pen on lavender paper:
a dainty confection of warm pleasantries
brought her back into sharp focus:
the garden club at lunch, discussing violets;
sweeping snow from wintry sidewalks;
dog barking at reluctant squirrels;
a critique of a neighbor’s homemade Gravlax.

I could hear her soft voice
delivering these tender messages,
solid as the clink of ice
in her daily glass of Bourbon and Ginger.
In the end, all we really seek
is a true compass
in a bewildering universe.
Like blinking markers in the fog,
pulsing directional lights
point my way back to her.


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