1028: Yet, the Loveliness

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1028: Yet, the Loveliness


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

While my mother lay in the hospital on her last waking night on earth, I ran a slide carousel of images in my mind’s eye of my favorite moments with her. Click: laughing and dancing to Chaka Khan in the living room. Click: watching her pushing pins into a wall-size map of streets where she dispatched telephone line workers — Bring a Kid to Work Day. Click: her squatting down to console my brother during some crying jag. Click: crushing me and my stepfather at games of Scrabble, but looking on coyly, like “little ol’ me.” She was a tender person who loved life and all things family.

But, of course, she had her complexities and made decisions that caused harm. I will not catalog them here, as I have written quite a bit in my early books about her challenges with addiction.

That night in the hospital, when the morphine wore off, she thrashed her body and her eyes pleadingly looked around for an answer as to what was happening to her. My worry and sadness at watching her die yielded to something more powerful; a consequential understanding and grand love of all that she was, all of her; her incredible strength, her resilience of suffering years of domestic abuse, her fierce dedication, and yes, her less than graceful moments. She was making the journey and we were witnesses. It was startling then, when after everyone left, just me and her, I leaned over to say, I love you, mom, she broke through the fog of dying and gazed at me, and said, I love you, then fell into a soft sleep. I felt her whole spirit releasing, and felt even more the gift of calm and reconciliation.

Today’s poem reminds me of the power of granting forgiveness, of liberating each other from the confines of guilt, and of surrendering ourselves to each other’s humanity. That is its own ceremony of renewal and supplication.

Yet, the Loveliness
by Michelle Bitting

Once, Dorianne told me
of the moment her mother finally
admitted, apologized even,
for the spotty passage
of her childhood years, how often
they proved a woods rife with wolves
and teeth and trickery enough
to make a girl want to gaze into
the maw of an open oven
and mistake that boundless dark
for a candle. The loveliness I wanted
would have cost my mother
nothing—a thimble of breath, a wisp
of floss the sparrow plucks
from the gutter and threads
into her egg chamber behind
my front porch lamp—or,
the last thumb of indigo milk
tugged from breast before
my mother crunched those lovelies
beyond the borders of her garments,
their nickel hooks and eyes,
her secret queendom—
a language of the body
she was not taught to teach
or promote. Oh fragile basket
we swing through thickets
of time, combing the thorns
for brighter berries
we can crush against our chests
like medals or gauze,
staunching the grief, our yearn
for honesty—for a true line
on the tongue—
how sweet the taste of even one.

"Yet, the Loveliness" by Michelle Bitting. Used by permission of the poet.