Poem for My Mom

The process of sorting and packing uncovers many surprises. I found this poem (I hardly ever write poetry) I wrote in 1996 when my mom was in the hospital about a month from death. Our relationship was difficult — she was difficult and very messed up, much more than I knew when I wrote this poem. I spent as much time as I could with her in the hospital. Otherwise I was driving or slogging through the snowy and icy streets of Billings, MT, looking for a nursing home where she could live after she was discharged. I loved my mom — but, as with many loves, it was not unalloyed with sadness and even hatred.

Helen

Winter light fades,
Short days shorten, then are gone
The last beam of a dogged sun
Bends ’round the pines
And drops.
You press my hand against your lips
And drift into sleep.
The afternoon slips away.
Tulips on the windowsill and get-well cards can’t stop
Anything.

16 thoughts on “Poem for My Mom

    • Thank you! That’s also a very interesting observation — I learned a lot about my mother after she was gone. She was a pretty awful person and she didn’t like me at all, but she was still my mom and in my heart I have all the memories of our life together before her life disappointed her so much she could not recover. I learned, also, that it takes less energy to forgive someone than it does to resent them. I also learned that even though our parents are close to us, we might not know them very well.

  1. Your poem captured the moments I’ve spent in hospital rooms with loved ones — some precious to me, some not so much. The last two lines are haunting with their contrast of loveliness and bleakness.

    • I realized that all of those things — spring flowers, cards — were our attempts to encourage her because spring was coming (it was early March). It was really the difference between life and death. That afternoon I saw how our efforts — noble and well-meant though they were — were hopeless.

  2. my deepest sympathy for your loss. Your poem is such a beautiful sweet and touching poem that i have to read it more than one time.

    • thank you — it’s been weird cleaning out my stuff. I found poems I wrote for her when I was a little girl (they were awful). I guess I was always writing her poetry!

  3. Of all the complicated relationships, our relationships with parent is the most complex, the most ambivalent, angry, hurtful. No one who is not part of the relationship can ever judge it because what others see is often not even the tip of a mighty ice berg.

  4. I could take myself to my mother’s three weeks in hospital before she died.
    It’s a dreadful time waiting. I found your poem very moving. Thank you for sharing it. 🙂

    • I’m happy I found it — I worked on it a bit after I posted it. I think I wrote it when I left the hospital that day and folded it and put it in a suitcase. Then I got home, made a scrapbook of cards and stuff and just slipped that folded paper inside. I had not seen it since.

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