memorial for a brilliant woman

Friday, June 22, 2007

I can't find my "Pink Cadillac" poem about my mother's car, but here's another one about her - well, kind of- as a reply to my comment on C. Dale's blog. I wrote this in 1998, when my aunt sent me a picture a trip to San Francisco I never knew my mother had taken.

Picture of Mama on the Cable Car

Caught in a real smile, she was sure
she'd never see San Francisco
and there she was: tweed jacket,
hair done, ever-present red nails,
climbing off a cable car.

It took her fifty-three years,
everything up till then a gamble,
never winning very much, bearable
losses, a kind of streak that wasn't

If she'd been an insider, known
there wasn't much game left,
would she have gone back home to Vegas?

Cell by cell by cell, she was dying even then
in increments, but this isn't about that.

It's about snap-shot shoe-drop seconds
when what you always wanted to happen,
happens- right then and is so apparent,
so evident, the camera, for once
full of film, charged up and at hand
takes a picture, takes a REAL picture,
the kind of photograph strangers pick up
to examine because they want,
not knowing why, they want to hold it.

Moments that are too much of themselves,
we let them pass by, our imagination flustered,
like art we can't conceive buried in stone blocks.
Single-minded, we are half-blind,
when other possibilities smack us in the face,
we recoil in shock, then cower in the familiar.

You can't plan for this, no "shoulds" or "ifs",
choices come and go so fast
it’s almost out of our hands, almost.

When you smiled today at lunch,
I thought of Mama, knowing
the memory was worth a picture.
My camera was there in my bag
charged up and full of film.
I didn’t get it out, too afraid
of what it might see.

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