By Jane Collins-Philippe
She goes to the fridge to let my brother in at the door
and puts the butter in the oven along with her hat and
the napkins normally meant for the table.
When she forgets where she’s going or the name of the dog
she laughs bravely despite her fear; as though
it’s all just part of a practical joke that’s bound
any moment to be disclosed and ended.
Those days forewarned the worst yet to come:
mother wandering her mind
in every corner hidden,
relentlessly seeking to recover the parts of herself that
once were there, but have gone.
Weeping now fills these rooms
left chilled and bare by the departure of her laughter
and the humming of old Broadway tunes that she so loved
but no longer remembers loving, or
the reasons for her smiles that
used to decorate her glowing face like flowers.
I’ve become a stranger to be feared;
the child she cannot remember having.
Loving arms are but barbed wire from
which she struggles to be freed.
Family photographs so deeply cherished;
abundant with stories to be shared,
grow as alien and faded as she feels
looking in a mirror or a shadowed glass;
not knowing the person who is staring back.
What demons broke this heart and mind and
drove her towards such desperate loathing;
such contempt of herself and her beloveds?
And whose fingers are these that tear from us the pieces
of her so long gone missing?
Why has it all grown into nothingness;
this dreadful barren space where once her life had been
housed and lived and loved with joys
and sorrows shared like so many others?
Are we the keepers then, of Mother’s recollections?
Of her being and having been,
of her loves, her passions and disgrace
that they will not be lost as though they never were, but will
persevere as does the spirit deep within her
that we know must still prevail?