COPYRIGHT Poem-a-Day Collection by Knopf. Compilation copyright 2009 by Knopf. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
To See My Mother
By Sharon Olds
It was like witnessing the earth being formed, to see my mother die, like seeing the dry lands be separated from the oceans, and all the mists bear up on one side, and all the solids be borne down, on the other, until the body was all there, all bronze and petrified redwood opal, and the soul all gone. If she hadn't looked so exalted, so beast-exalted and refreshed and suddenly hopeful, more than hopeful—beyond hope, relieved—if she had not been suffering so much, since I had met her, I do not know how I would have stood it, without fighting someone, though no one was there to fight, death was not there except as her, my task was to hold her tiny crown in one cupped hand, and her near birdbone shoulder. Lakes, clouds, nests. Winds, stems, tongues. Embryo, zygote, blastocele, atom, my mother's dying was like an end of life on earth, some end of water and moisture salt and sweet, and vapor, till only that still, ocher moon shone, in the room, mouth open, no song.
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