Sunday morning write with friend. Prompt: If you were to check a crowd for your mother, how would you recognize her? How would she recognize you? From that writing, extract a poem.
Checking a Crowd for My Mother
She wore her hair the same way all her life, in a sausage roll at her neck. Even when styles changed and short hair became de rigueur, she would affix the rolled net at the back of her head and struggle to tuck up the short wisps that straggled along her neck. I would know her from the back even before she turned her head and smiled, for that smile, that encompassing, welcoming, genuinely-pleased-to-see-you grin of hers would be another giveaway. Or perhaps, from a distance, and she were sitting, I would recognize her hands, the way she rested them on her knees, fingers tucked, anchoring them with her thumbs. I see my own hands emulating hers every time I occupy a chair. If there was laughter, I would pick hers out from the cacophony, the distinctive lilt of it, and the gentility. And her voice – whoever forgets their mother’s voice? Low and even, hardly ever raised, even in anger, I hear that voice in my head every day, the music of it, the remembered love.
Were she to be looking for me, it would not be the hairstyle, for mine has changed and changed and changed again over the years. But she would know my face, my tip-tilted eyes, the same shade of light blue as hers, my Longstreet nose so different from her Guertin one, my high cheekbones she often said must be from my father’s Native American heritage. She would perhaps recognize my posture (stand up straight, hold your shoulders back – don’t hunch!) or my lack of fashion sense. Only when I wore her hand-me-downs did I look like a fashion plate for she had many of her pre-marriage clothes made by a dressmaker. Constructed of sturdy stuff, those clothes lasted through my own high school years. She might know me from my walk, a long-strided gait I adopted when I walked home from school, anxious to leave those claustrophobic rooms for the outdoors. She would certainly recognize my own laugh – a loud, high-pitched bray so unlike her own gentle chuckle. And if she neither heard nor saw me I still believe she’d find me. Between us there still exists the fine silver thread that joins people who love one another. She would tug. I would come.
She has been gone for thirty years.
We dressed her in a pretty dress
and laid her to rest.
No more mischievous blue eyes
dancing with secrets,
no more gentle laughter
or spontaneous hugs,
no more healing hands
cool on feverish foreheads,
or work-a-day fingers dusty with flour
or smelling of wood polish,
though now and then I think I see her
in the sideways glance of my youngest granddaughter,
in the mischievous grin of my grandson,
hear her laughter echoed in my daughter’s,
or see her hands in my own lap.
Perhaps she is not resting at all.
Might be she comes to me
singing, in the body of the catbird,
or in the leaves whose rustling sounds like whispers,
or in the cool magic of moonlight.
She might be exhaling
the dusty scent of phlox
or answering the hoot owl in the neighbor’s barn.
We laid her to rest in her pretty dress.
But maybe she’s not resting there at all.
Perhaps she’s here with me now, remembering.