for Rachel Eliza

Your friend has entered the tribe
of those who’ve buried their mothers,
and she is different — more of herself
than ever, but a new layer, the affect
of one unable to shake the sounds
of leaving, to unsee profound rising
preceding her own, waiting. What day
is it, does it matter? Where am I,
the keys? Inducted into a society
of hurried truces and anointing
that becomes a steady hum
in the music of all things.

The full, gray sky held its water
as she rained and rained, a rain
that will never dissipate, her legs
forgetting for a spell why they were made,
her husband’s arms remembering
what they’re for. Shining, gorgeous grief —
death’s anchor a terrible salvation to a family
adrift. The sob and tremble of gone,
gone coursing through clasped hands.

The duty of firstborn daughters,
how it lengthens the spine and hollows
the cheeks as she holds the widower’s hand.
Her crowded face in the mirror,
the morning walk with the “grand-dog”
ambushed with epiphany (oh, the babies
she won’t meet!) At any hour, snippets
of speech, sensation and memory surge —
stranding former selves as starfish and conchs
strewn on some remote beach. The thought
of calling, of being called stopped
in its tracks                             No — the ground opened
and we gave her back,
shut down the interstate and
stood without falling among
all of those stones.

When mothers are lowered, daughters
break out of boxes, unbossed by
the minutia that comes with breathing.
You saw it happen, see it in your friend’s
furrowed brow, the revised way she leans
in a doorway, across a kitchen counter.

Her mother has gone there, dragging her
into a new here and her gait has changed.
This missing flares. Gone is the banter
of carefree homegirls; a deeper cadence reigns —
that grown alto, mama heavy
on her tongue, loud and loving
in her mind, lucid dreams.
Heiress to her mother’s wellspring and might,
she finally gets what hmph really means.

When mothers are planted,
daughters begin a furious blooming.


"I don't know if / I really considered / going but that / it was in the world / like I was"