Mother Knows Best: Wonder as Wander
For a long time I believed that no one in my family would know I was a poet if I didn't tell them. After maybe my second book, my mother saw a poem of mine in a magazine. She called me about it, and I said something like what would really work for me would be to keep family and poetry separate, if I could, and I asked her to not read my poems.
I don't know if she did or not, but I was hugely grateful that she didn't talk about them with me. I don't think I ever sent out a poem which I wouldn't be willing for her—on some other planet, in some other life, in some dialogue about the truth—to read. And in some way—pretty self-serving but I hope not merely so—I felt that my poems were for her, too, as her own mother's daughter.
Wonder as Wander
At dusk, on those evenings she does not go out, my mother potters around her house. Her daily helpers are gone, there is no one there, no one to tell what to do, she wanders, sometimes she talks to herself, fondly scolding, sometimes she suddenly throws out her arms and screams—high notes lying here and there on the carpets like bodies touched by a downed wire, she journeys, she quests, she marco-polos through the gilded gleamy loot-rooms, who is she. I feel, now, that I do not know her, and for all my staring, I have not seen her —like the song she sang, when we were small, I wonder as I wander, out under the sky, how Jesus, the Savior, was born for, to die, for poor lonely people, like you, and like I —on the slow evenings alone, when she delays and delays her supper, walking the familiar halls past the mirrors and night windows, I wonder if my mother is tasting a life beyond this life—not heaven, her late beloved is absent, her father absent, and her staff is absent, maybe this is earth alone, as she had not experienced it, as if she is one of the poor lonely people, as if she is born to die. I hold fast to the thought of her, wandering in her house, a luna moth in a chambered cage. Fifty years ago, I'd squat in her garden, with her Red Queens, and try to sense the flyways of the fairies as they kept the pollen flowing on its local paths, and our breaths on their course of puffs—they kept our eyes wide with seeing what we could see, and not seeing what we could not see