If you get the wrong mother, hush.
Never speak of it.
(Maybe she didn’t want you, either.)
When you see your classmate with a quiet, lip-sticked Mother
(who is not dancing with the policemen and perhaps never has)
do not want that muted version.
If, at age eight, you play Monopoly at Cynthia’s house and
enjoy brownies, milk, or actual conversation with her Mother
(who framed Cynthia’s artclass hydrangea and hung it in the living room,
shocking you with the power of maternal display)
want what you have instead and be grateful.
When you hear the spectacular anthology of things your mother did
while you were young and insistently ill–your illness precipitating hers
(do not blame yourself, but do not forget that you were the root,
the first pull on her sanity, the initiate seed. That was you.)
accept her warranted beatification without question.
When she now calls at 3:00 AM because her feet are cold and she needs socks
or at noon when her dentures are lost, or at midnight to talk about her sick cat
(you woke her once upon a time, and please do not forget
all of those library trips, which were at least three miles round trip)
listen to her politely. Be kind and good.
(She cannot, after all, be blamed. Tragedy is its own jagged fault.)
If you cannot buy enthusiastic flowers or calligraphed cards
with words of praise and pleasantry on Mother’s Day
(it would be easy to–for one day–feign a right celebration)
do not write the honest words
of hardwood, worthy truth:
She did (every day) the best she could.
(Though you know not how that is not Most Purely Beautiful.)
Why not acknowledge that she did (and does) her muddled best
with only the sloppy constant tool of inadequacy and pain?
And chanced to create children who withstand and see and acknowledge and survive
Life. Abundant tragedy. Galore.
(Isn’t it cruel that the world demands a day of silent Hallmark honor
And yellow roses of such warrior offspring?)
The better reward may be
that these resile often-hollow brittled children invite her
to sit on their sofas; bring her cold drinks; answer their phones
rebelliously delighting in the sound of her mothering voice.
They bring long-wrought absolution in
Hopeful cups of over-iced tea; salvation and forgiveness.
Acquitting even the weary gray-bed weeks when, thinking to hide her pain,
she shifted it instead unknowingly to their young clean backs.
Society demands plasticine homage.
But she will gratefully sip
even the most lukewarm thimbled water
in mute and reverent celebration of her best.