Old Letter from Mom
August 4, 1969
When I read the letter in Mom’s
florid script, cursive words leaning
toward a future none of us could see,
I glimpsed who she was before the cancer.
Not a trace of self-pity, each phrase focused
on the needs of child after child—
Joanne’s chickenpox, Little Al’s abscessed tooth,
practical advice for the older kids.
Each line was like a little prayer folded
in the hymnal of her heart. Barely a nod
to her own pending surgery. Not the mom
I remembered from a few years later—
cloistered away, her face hidden
from the light of her youngest children’s eyes.
A shadow missing
on the floor where we played.
After she was gone
I wanted the world to become a desert.
Nothing was more obscene that first spring
than tulips in her garden that bloomed anyway.