makin’ tea for John

my baby likes to eat
but on Friday nights, when he’s beat
he likes it light
so I try to do it up right

I play CDs while I wait
dancin’ as I make up a cold plate
done, I’m like “girl, look at you –
that looks like a plate your Mama would do!”

& that makes me smile
(& I cry for a little while)
but I stop, cuz dude’ll soon be here
need to think of other things to serve to my dear

pre-heat the oven, I get out the dishes
still smilin’ & musin’ on old wishes
pizza, crab claws, fish goujons
yeah, me & bae’ll get our eat on

another summer Friday night
(& in my mind I see Mommy, framed by sunlight)
I wait for John, dance to Stanley Clarke
with a heart that – for now – has banished the dark

copyright © 2017 KPM

lost

still grieving,
worried about her overdraft
she feels unsettled,
in need of a life raft

she’s drinkin’ too much
hours she spends, sleepin’
awakening to discover
in her dreams she’s been weepin’

tormented daily
by Satan’s inquisitor
all alone she longs
for someone to visit her

it’s been a week
since her mobile rang
& everyday she jumps
at the mail slot’s clang

copyright © 2017 KPM

as the storm approaches

everywhere I look
as far as my eyes can see
everywhere I look
there’s another memory

when the sun is hiding
when skies are fat with storm clouds gray
I remember all those summers
the tunes that we would play

something simple I’ll be doing
hoovering or mopping the floor
when – unexpectedly – I hear
your laughter at my door

I remember washing the car
while you drank beer on the deck
asleep, I often dream
of the taste of salt on your neck

I don’t know why I love you
I’m oft unsure if you love me
so far apart we are
love is futility

sometimes I wish I didn’t love you
I wish the past would set me free
but you’re the keeper of all my secrets
so I need you to love me

copyright © 2017 KPM

hard to define

sky watcher
star gazer
deep dark eyes
burn your soul like a laser

honorary auntie
best girlfriend
haunting words
nightly penned

(& when people stare
you can tell she doesn’t care)

sister, lover
working girl
promises
yet to unfurl

gardener
flower-cutter
dancin’ in the rain
nutter

(& when people stare
you can tell she doesn’t care)

entertained
entranced by skin
unsure what is –
& what ain’t – a sin

alone
with music in her head
she prays for all
the beloved dead

(& when people cry
you know she knows she’s gonna die)

copyright © 2017 KPM

96 days

When someone you love dies – especially when your mother dies – you lose yourself. And time stops. And if you’re an immigrant, when you’re the child – who for whatever reason left their family, their homeland, their siblings & friends – the moment of your mother’s death stops at the last moment you saw her, when you she hugged you until your arms went numb, the last time she covered you with her favourite blanket, the last sandwich she made for you, the last time she kissed your cheek after telling you how much she loved you.

When someone you love dies – especially when it’s your mom – you are faced with “firsts”. The first time she has a birthday: my mom passed away three weeks before her 82nd birthday, and the birthday card I bought for her remains on the desk in my home office…if I bin it, it will be admitting something I am still struggling to deal with. Somehow, I managed to get thorough the first birthday of my Mom following her death. I made it through Mother’s Day, too.

A summer baby, I was facing a particularly painful “first”: my first birthday without my mother. And as I live abroad, it means Mommy sent my card and present through the mail. Aware that this birthday would be hard for me, all my birthday cards and presents from my family and friends arrived early this year except for the card from my brother, which arrived on the day. And with each clang of the mail slot, my heart leapt, thinking, “That’ll be from Mommy” before my brain caught up. So in the run-up to my birthday, I was wired – which understandably had my BF and many of my friends worried.

But something amazing happened that day. The morning of my birthday I woke up and I felt light – like a happy balloon floating across the sky. That morning, I awakened to sunshine. All the rooms in my wee flat were awash in sunshine. And I thought, “Mommy.” I knew that was Mommy, giving me a sunny day for my birthday. So I hurriedly showered and dressed and went out into my garden.

And I could feel her. My sisters had told me they’d felt Mommy’s presence since her passing, but I had not; I only saw her in my dreams, so I had been fervently praying to God to let me feel her, too. On my birthday, standing in my garden, I felt her all around me – in the sun on my face, the wind on my bare arms and legs, the flowers gave off my mother’s scent. I felt her inside of me, in my chest and my stomach and my heart, and for the first time since her death, I felt calm. Peaceful. Even happy.

This year my birthday was on a Friday – Saturday and Sunday were hot and sunny days as well. My Mom – perhaps working through or with God – seeing that her child was unhappy, gave me the gift of a beautiful weekend for my birthday. Sunshine as warm as her arms around me.

And it was a good birthday. I sang and danced and pigged out on the special meal my BF had made for me. I remembered my mother without tears, reminded that as her firstborn, the day she had me was one of the proudest moments of her life. I realised that Mommy’s love will never leave me – it and she will always be with me.

That feeling has remained with me, even as I ache for my brother and sisters, who are facing a “first” without me: the first family 4th of July barbecue and attendant celebrations without Mommy present. The 4th is the biggest of the summer celebrations in the US. I can feel their pain, because – even though I live in Scotland – I still celebrate the 4th with my partner.

But not this year. This year, I will get no letter from Mommy with the usual photos of the barbecue – my sister will not share photos of Mommy enjoying the barbecue surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Facebook.

Still, Mommy is with me. So although I’m not celebrating the 4th, I am remembering and celebrating the love she dispensed to her children and everyone who was fortunate enough to know her.

 

a poem for Jourdy

“she’s mine” you smiled
with gritted teeth
“I got her” you said
all steel underneath

you saw my heart was breaking
you got that the rain was too loud
you musta known I couldn’t take it
that sympathetic, well-meaning crowd

“I got this”
pulling my arm as you insisted
that everyone leave me alone
to my surprise, no one resisted

so tight you held onto me
with one youthful, tattooed arm
in that moment I was grateful
I knew you’d keep me safe from harm

so long have you loved me
when did that begin?
why do you love me so?
when we’re not blood – we’ve different skin

yet on the day of the funeral,
a horrid, slow-motion blur
you stood at my side
a warrior you were

many have said they love me
but they ignored me when I cried
so many people claimed to love me
but it turned out they lied

many have said they love me
in my 59 years
on the worst day of my life you said it
as you wiped my tears

unconditional is your love
on that day, you showed your care
I’ll always love you, Jourdy
cause on that day, you were there

copyright © 2017 KPM

Sunday worship

the roof is high
endless miles of miraculous blue
I gaze on it reverence
inspired by the view

so high is that ceiling
spare white clouds like wispy souls
for such a space I’m thankful
I know God’s at the controls

the floor is well-laid
older than countless years
its borne the weight of thousands
eons of shocks & tears

done in a hopeful shade of green
that must have taken hours
my heart dances in awed silence
while bees sing amongst the flowers

I’m a gardener, I’m a shepherd
paying no heed to the clock
sending praise to God above
as I tend my floral flock

& when at last the church bells ring
the words “Hi Mommy” leave my lips
it’s then I smell her in the air
she lightly clasps my fingertips

once again I’m reassured
the Lord has heard my anguished cries
my Mom is forever with me
her love is infiniteit never dies

copyright © 2017 KPM

happy birthday, Dr Stonefinger

you’ve missed another birthday
‘n this is a big one
you’d be turnin’ 60
we’d a had such fun

I’ve learned how to cook
so in the oven I would bake
your very own special
extra chocolate birthday cake

just to tease you
61 candles would be on top
‘n the rest of the day
we’d party non-stop

following the
passionate love we’d make
we’d shower together after
then head out to the lake

for a change
you’d defer
you’d let me drive
I’d be your chauffeur

you’d be in charge of music
‘n you would navigate
you’d play air guitar
as we flew down the interstate

but it’s just another daydream
we’ll have no picnic at the beach
you dwell in heaven now
forever out of reach

happy birthday, beautiful boy
my most precious first love
one of the many angels
watching over me from above

happy birthday, Dr Stonefinger
be at peace, whatever you do
no matter where I go
I carry the love I had for you

copyright © 2017 KPM

the Sylvia Plath syndrome

I get it:
you heard voices in your head
I hear the voices, too
whether awake or lyin’ in bed

did those voices sing to you?
did they sometimes shriek?
my voices are never shy
these bitches are never meek

my voices are relentless
they come from afar
words meant for both of us
inside a shared bell jar

the language of love
with all its contradictions
our youthful past filled
with false predilections

believe me, I get it:
the voices in the head
perhaps I should be worried,
cause they don’t fill me with dread

copyright © 2017 KPM

speeding

“know how fast you were goin’?”
the officer said
while the music pounded
in her head

bemused, the officer moaned,
“you were way past 55
flirting, she smiled – she winked:
“ ’s a good day to be alive”

“cause when you’re my age
you don’t care one little bit
when you’re over 55
you cease to give a shit”

the officer stepped back
rapidly he blinked his eyes
his young & hairless face
wore a look of surprise

he was open-mouthed
stammerin’ & shufflin’ his feet
dude was like,
“you can’t drive that fast on this street”

to which she laughed, saying,
“ whatcha want: you want me to cry?
son, everyone gets older
you & me, we’re gonna die

I get you’re safety-conscious
that makes sense – it’s also sweet
but my blood is boilin’
in this summer heat

you look at me & see
another person growin’ old
but beneath this settin’ sun
sits a woman whose heart is bold

from trouble
I have never shied
I’m a woman joyous
I’ve laughed as I’ve cried

I have triumphed
I have lost
been true to myself
no matter the cost

life is fleetin’, son
hell, it’s downright scary
& surely you can’t blame me:
I’m entranced by Bryan Ferry!

so accept my smile
along with my prayer for you
do what you think
you gotta do

cause when you’re my age
you don’t care one little bit
 once you reach my age
you just don’t give a shit”

the officer was charmed
reduced to a young man meek
bowing, he tipped his hat
then shyly patted her cheek

he got into his car
nothing did he have to say
he never saw the kiss she blew
before they both drove away

copyright © 2017 KPM