Nov 14
poem challenge: Urgency

Mama

When I was 6 years old,
Mama and Pa took me to the lake
just four miles away from 
our home.

We’d drive up a tiny hillside
with the windows down,
the air sweet,
and we’d park near the golden pin oak
on the very edge 
of town.

Mama on my right, Pa on my left,
hand in hand,
we’d hike up a narrow dirt path
as if only meant for wild rabbits and deer,
zinnias and rosemary abloom,
fleeting explosions of color 
dancing by.

At the end of the path, through 
the cluster of horsetails and ferns
there was a lake –
a lake of glass.

It was where all the herons and wild swans lived,
where fireworks of pink salmon danced to the song of the wind
like a million ballet slippers,
all beneath the surface of the delicate glass.

Mama picked me wild roses
and Pa would collect rocks for me,
each pebble smooth in my palms like sunken teardrops
and the apple seeds we promised to plant
in May.

I can still feel Mama’s soft laughter,
warm and timeless like the golden poppy crown she
made for me,
but an unbreakable melody singing within.

It was the first song of the nightingales
and the grey-cheeked thrush,
it was the unrelenting face of strength and 
love and endurance 
standing through the chaos 
of life.

It was the song of Mother Nature.

On our way down
Pa would carry me on his back,
and I would fall asleep on his shoulders.

I can still feel Pa’s calloused hands against mine,
perhaps his way of telling me
that he loved me.

When I was 14 years old
Pa left
because
he found another girl
on the other side of town.

Mama would take me to the lake
just four miles away from 
our house
and she’d park near the browning pin oak
on the very edge of town.

The lake had broken into 
crystalline shards,
sinking 
in the land of tears,
drowning the pebbles Pa once collected 
for me.

Mama didn’t laugh as much anymore
and the nightingales and grey-cheeked thrush didn’t sing as often
and the pink salmon's dance died
from the pirouettes once ablaze with color,
all beneath the surface of the broken glass.

But Mama’s eyes still had the beauty and
hope and promise
as she made me my last flower crown.

When I was 19 years old
Mama became sick.

We didn’t go to the lake that year
and the browning oak tree on the very edge of town
began to wilt.

“Ma, you gonna make it,” I told her,
but she didn’t look at me,
because she didn’t want me to see her
crying.

When I was 22 years old
Mama sang her final song.

It was the last song of the dying swan.

I took myself to the lake that day
just four miles away from
the house
I used to live in,
and I parked near the dying pin oak
on the very edge of town.

The herons didn’t come back that year
even after Winter took her last breath,
and there were no more fireworks beneath the glistening surface
but only a deep,
muted grey.

Memories of the wild roses that 
used to grow along the banks of the lake were now 
fainter.

Mama died.

I crouched down and planted 
the apple seeds I promised Pa and 
Mama
that I would plant
in May.