For those of us without mothers, for the mothers who no longer have children, loss presses against us: Mother’s Day. It opens our hearts to absence. I go to a friend’s garden and carry home armfuls of lilacs and remember the lilac shrub just beyond my childhood back porch where my mother and I gathered scent, but while I hammer the stems so they’ll draw more water, the sucked-out place inside me quivers.
The year my mother died, I wrote a story about another mother and daughter, ‘The Lost Boy,” which won my first CBC Literary Award. It was about my auntie’s childhood in the internment camps, and her fraught relationship with her mother, but it was also about my mother and how much in love with her I was after she died, and how this love threw me back into my childhood when I loved her simply and uncritically, when she swirled over my life as gorgeously as a van Gogh sky.
Here is a poem I wrote to my mama during NaPoMo:
Poem to Something Inanimate
Jane Eaton Hamilton
Even though she was my mother
and I begged her to get up
she did not climb from the casket
Let’s get the fuck outa here, I whispered
They don’t need to know.
Let’s hit the rails. Blow this pop-stand.
Georgia, I said, Tennessee, Colorado, California
Or hell—l’ve got the dough you left me
Let’s blow it on Paris
Like she hadn’t squeaked across the floor in nursing shoes
rubbed life into new kittens
helped me hammer holes into canning jars
Like she hadn’t pulled foals into soft midnight light
like she hadn’t kissed me up and down my face
till I squirmed