the day she died

Before I entered her room,
I had been kindly warned
to prepare for the worst.
I wasn’t sure what that meant
or how to heed such words,
so I stumbled to my father first
and took him in my arms.

In the event, it didn’t matter—
my mother’s eyes were closed
with so much medication
coursing through her veins
to dull the enveloping pains
that sleep was the only thing
her failing body could manage.

Once or twice that long day
her heavy lids slowly rose
yet quickly lowered again
her mind cognizant of nothing
her once eager voice silenced
her pale flesh sinking steadily
into the coldly wrinkled sheets.

For hours we spoke beside her
as if somehow she could hear,
and I prayed in my heart that
she might speak to me once more,
but all I heard as darkness fell
was her harshly rasping breath
and the lengthening pauses between.

Although I had indeed been warned
to prepare for the worst that day,
I know now with painful certainty
that the worst was not that moment
seeing her cancered body dying there,
but rather thinking of all the days,
the years that had quietly passed

while we had been apart.

My mum, Dora Mae Stewart, with my father George near Monterey, California (May 2006)

am I home?

broken bones so rootfully bore
down, sifting through coldest soil
seeking, longing for any sign of life

mother? are you here?

how long must a soul dangle
above this perilous precipice
before a hand reaches down

mother? am I home?

when the sky melted again
into azure grey I keening cried
not a why or a when or who, but

can i come home now?

It’s Christmas time, Mum

It is Christmas time again
and I cannot help
but think of you, Mum
and how intensely feeling
you always were
not only at this time of year
but all the year through.

There was no time—
there was no day
not a single one
when you did not make
all our lives more beautiful
with the honest most innocent
love that you always shared.

I wish I could do the same
for my family now,
for my beautiful wife
and our lovely children,
but my efforts pale
compared to the joy
you managed to evoke.

There was just something
in you, something
so pure and kind,
a gentle feeling heart
that is so hard to find
these days when so many
are only concerned with the me.

It was simply magical
what you did for us, Mum.
I am 56 years old now
and I still ache at the memory
of you smiling kindly,
cradling us, humming to us,
making Christmas sparkle.

I miss you still, Mum.
And I know
that I always will.

For Dora Mae Ellington

Fifty-six years ago you gave birth to me.

So much of my past has fallen silent.
Pale images float unheeded through my memories,
faces places amassing anonymously,
from one moment to the next, indistinguishable
leaving me—what?—less than I am perhaps.

But I remember your smile, so full,
your heart so rich and reaching out,
ever offering warmth and comfort
to friends and family and indeed
to anyone you might chance upon.

For that was precisely who you were—
a woman of such love and kindness,
always mindful of the needs of others,
always seeking to help and hold
and bring peace to those around you.

Did you know, father still reaches for you,
touches your photo every night before bed,
his heart ever dwelling with you.
We all miss you. How could we not?
You, who meant so much to us all.

I do not care for birthdays anymore,
at least, not my own, not really.
But if this day matters at all,
as it does to my beautiful wife, my children,
it matters because of you, Mother.

Thank you for all you did for me,
for all of us.

We will never forget you.

cottonwoods in june

only once did my mother tell me
in a shadow of voice far from now
of the angry dirt farm that was
her crumbling childhood home

she recalled her favorite doll
the only one they could afford
two sticks she had bound together
a bit of cloth wrapped around

the cotton fields where she labored
becoming a woman of patience
who knew the pain of infant flesh
torn by an infinite sea of thorns

i am old now and weighing time
and while i speak to her now and then
i cannot say if she hears me
or if her own voice can reach me still

in june the cottonwoods shed
shredding the sky with pale tufts
of a childhood that had never
known the chance to laugh at clouds

Dora Mae Stewart in 1942

my mother’s heart

her name was Dora Mae Stewart
descendent of a great Scottish clan
of red and blue and heathery hues
and hearts that broke far too easily

abandoned was she in tender youth
while dreaming of dolls dressed
in the finest lace and prettily faced
as she herself might achingly long to be

in California she found a new home
and a man from across the ocean wide
to embrace her heart, and to hearth
her smiling with the warmest dawns

in pain she bore me, her second bairn
heavier than the first and needier still
and yet never did she turn her back
on this grasping child crying for more

her hands combed such fervent care
through the hair I laid upon her lap
as her voice adorned our home with
ribbons of laughter and honest smiles

my tiny hands into dough she urged
textures to discover and giddy tastes
and to pattern love into pastries and
paintings of horses and grassy hills

patiently she nurtured my willful mind
finding hope in each expansive idea
i all too often invoked without a care
for the whys or hows of our tomorrows

all she could ever wish for and ever did
was that we could know a life complete
a fertile world of such rich tapestries
a time of immense beauty bravely illumined

and for that
and for her heart
i shall be forever grateful

Salt Lake City 17 Sep 2012

laughter

his tiny fingers enfold your heart
so effortlessly, being sung trembling
into being by your spirit undaunted
daring to soar blue and green and fine

i smile so at the truthful serenity
of this profoundly tendered warmth
how innocently giggling he wiggles
in your playful nurturing embrace

clever skin seals gracefully you two
imbuing bounty into every touch
every tickle every honest blissful laugh
promising eternity in one knowing kiss

Salt Lake City 05 Aug 2012

Dear Mother,

i am far away from you again, you see
oceans and lands once more between us
but then, you are even further from me
although still you endure as the years pass
and i see your face in tightly preserved
images that i myself captured of dearest you
in daily pursuits and domestic celebrations
glancing at father, smiling at your sons
cradling my kitten who purred so sweetly
in your whole immaculate embrace

time has done nothing to dull my memory
of these blessed moments of joyful sharing
and precious familial affirmation of what you
always needing, perceived yourself capable of,
what you did strive for seeking to expunge
the dark stamp of shame your own mother
had cruelly impressed on your tender heart,
while you a home composed of simple purity
wherein your darling boys could safely play
and your beloved husband laughter know

i could not offer you the content and cheer
you so richly deserved, my darling mother
opening instead to you a home that had
begun to decay even before love could grow
a dark void in which your gentle voice
echoed horribly on cold constraining walls
never to be heard and adored as it should,
i exposed you to the selfishness of she
who was so very hard and calculating and
incapable of appreciating how you yield

if only we could have one more day together
you and i, that i might seek to enfold you
in nothing so formal or refined, but this:
that you know how much i loved you,
how mildly insistent your guiding touch
the kindling of my heart did brightly light
endowing me with a spirit of hearth
and home that i to this day do nurture
in nourishing compassionate the hopes
and aspirations of those who seek to learn

yet there is something greater, a wonder
more beautiful, more luminous even
than anything i have ever shared with you
in all the years that you watched me grow—
i love at last! and in loving this her
have i discovered finally what life can be
what hope is, and how meaningful yet
this heart that generously you gifted me
this heart that even now sheds warm tears
as i wish you could only have known her

dear mother, known this woman I love

how i wish you could have embraced her

embraced my sweetly spoken beloved

before that day when you had to leave us

Çeşme, Turkey 12 July 2012

My mother, Dora, and my daughter, Asena

Anne (Mother)

ismim adamdır, hayır bu doğru değil
adım oğul, senin oğlun, insanoğlu
aslında, iki yüz bin yılın küçük bir
parçasıyım ben bu soğuk geçici cihanda
kırk sekiz yaşıma vardım demin ve
anladım ki yaşlandım artık inan bana
zayıfladım da hem bedensel olarak
hem de zihinsel, ağıtsal geliyor bu
kalbimde bile kalmadı eski gücüm

neyse tükendi yaşamım, canım anne
söyle bana, hayatta olsaydın hâlâ sen
hakkımda ne düşünürdün günün ışığında
gurur duyurdun mu sen uzun boylu
çatlak suratı çok öğrenmemiş oğlunla
yoksa yüzünü çevirir miydin tabana
üzgünüm anne acı acı üzgünüm ben
bu aptal adama verdiğin hayatımı
boşuna verdin saf bembeyaz ruhundan

bu sabah bir göz attım gökyüzüne ve
fark ettim ki gökyüzün rengi aynıydı
doğduğum günkü öfke dolu rengi ile
hiç değişmemiş şu sonsuz gök küresi
müziğimi çalarken C notu da aynı
babam sana söylediği şarkının notu gibi
dünya değişmiyor bir türlü anneciğim
anlayamıyorum, anlamazlığım da aynı
biliyor musun aynı evde oturuyorum
aynı tanıdığın biriyle bile, evet tam o
gördüğün perdeler daha asılı duruyor
pencerede aynı model aynı renk
herşey aynıdır, hatırlıyor musun bunları
gerçekten bu renkten nefret ediyorum

fakat kinimi kanımı boş yere harcıyorum
nafile sürdürüyorum bu anlamsız varlığımı
anlamsız diyorum ben ama bu hayatın
asıl anlamı anlamsızlıktır biliyor muydun
bu gerçeği oğrendin mi ayrılmadan önce
galiba bilmiyordun canım annem şükürler
Allah’a şükür, aileni bile tanımadan gittin
öbür inanamadığın dünyaya ve sevdiğin
oğlun burada kaldı çirkin hatasıyla dolu
suçlarla kusurlarla dolu bırakıldı daha
niye, soruyorum ki, neden yaşıyorum
ben bu ipsiz sapsız cihanda aptalca
yakalanmış ahlaksız adam bu tuzakta

yaşlandım artık anneciğim, zayıfladım
bedensel olarak zihinsel de, buradayım
geleyim mi anne geleyim istersen
çağır beni önceki gibi güzel sevgiyle
dolu sesinle çağır ve geleyim hemen
inan bana anne, nihayet geliyorum inan

Salt Lake City 09 May 2012