Sep 16, 2008

Mother’s Day

Written by Dorianne Laux

Read by Andrew Hudgins

I passed through the small hills
of my mother’s hips one cold morning
and never looked back, until now, cutting
her hard toenails the yellow of blanched corn,
sitting her with her on the bed’s edge,
combing out the tuft of hair at the crown
of her head where it ratted up as she slept,
her thumbs locked into her fists, a gesture
as old as she is, her bald knees fallen together
beneath a blue nightgown. The stroke
took whole pages of words, random years
torn from the calendar, the names of roses
leaning out over her driveway, Cadenza,
Great Western, American Beauty. She can’t
think, can’t drink her morning tea, do her
crossword puzzle in ink. She’s afraid
of everything, the sound of the front door
opening, light falling through the blinds–
she pulls her legs up so the bright bars
won’t touch her feet. I help her
with the buttons on her sweater. She looks
hard at me and says the word sleeve.
Exactly, I tell her and her face relaxes
for the first time in weeks. I lay down
next to her on the flowered sheets and tell her
a story about the day she was born, head
first into a hard world, The Great Depression,
shanties, Hoovervilles, railroads and unions.
I tell her about Amelia Earhart and she asks
Air? and points to the ceiling, says Heart?
and points to her chest. Yes, I say. I sing
Cole Porter songs, Brother, Can You Spare
a Dime. When I recite lines from Gone
with the Wind she sits up and says Potatoes!
and I say, Right again. I read her Sandburg,
some Frost, and she closes her eyes. I say yes,
yes, and tuck her in. It’s summer. She’s tired.
No one knows where she’s been.