The last time we visited our mothers was in April. The long, Saskatchewan winter stalled out for the week we were there. Flocks of geese v’d through the clear-blue living skies, clouds as scant as the patches of snow on the prairie fields below. A natural world invisible to my mom, who sadly, last year at the age of ninety, become permanently blind.
She is Learning to Abandon the World: for Mom
She is learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon her.
Already she has given up the moon,
the stars, her mind wrapped
in a quilt of memory,
as the world has taken
her eyesight, her strength.
She has given up on conversation,
preferring silence and her speechless bed.
Every night she gives up anxiety
to chocolate and Celexa.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of oatmeal and springtime.
Outside in clear prairie air,
“Phoebe. Phoebe.” plaintively calls the bird.
“Singing its name,” mom smiles,
Outside in the sun, she’s her old
self, her indifference abandoned, warmed
by the rapture of birdsong.
Update: Langer, Emily. “Linda Pastan, poet of concentrated beauty, dies at 90.” Washington Post, February 1, 2023.
Pastan, Linda. A Dog Runs Through It: Poems. New York: W. N. Norton & Company Inc, 2018. Regular readers know that Linda Pastan constantly inspires me. My poem is modelled after “I am Learning to Abandon the World: for M,” from this, her latest book of poetry, which I have dog-eared. You can read “I am Learning to Abandon the World: for M,” here. But why not support poetry and buy one of her dozen books?
Linda was born in 1932, four years after mom, and raised in New York, although she has lived most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Linda won the Mademoiselle poetry prize—quite the accomplishment as Sylvia Plath was the runner-up. Linda gave up writing poetry to raise her family, beginning to pen verse again in the 1970s. She’s received scores of awards and was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991 to 1995.
Happy Mothers’ Day to her, to all poets, to all readers of poetry, to everyone…