Elegy for My Mother’s Mind


When I steady your step on the stairs, you ask not once but twice
where we’re going—to the car, to the store, Mom, remember?

You laugh and say you thought we’d be walking and we are,
right into the part of your brain where you’ll lose me, lose

the child who picked all 43 tulips you waited a solid Chicago winter
to watch bloom. Lose the girl who pedaled her Schwinn

up and back the U-shaped driveway while you fried bacon
behind the evergreens in an electric pan so the house wouldn’t smell.

We’re walking into your head where it’s just beginning to snow,
and no matter how quickly I shovel, the path will go blank.

But this night, grackles above us blacken the tree
and you hold on to me as you get into the car. Together, we go

to the store where you try on every clearance-marked blouse and buy
nothing. You’re forgetting sadness, too. That pool

where you used to swim with an armload of bricks,
where no slow tug of a rope could pull you from the bottom.

You’re forgetting about anyone but you, when before dawn
on the piano you pound Great Balls of Fire and The Old Rugged Cross

and whistle in searing vibrato. You buy Dollar Store Kleenex
to give as gifts. You pour beans into wine bottles. You lift my chin and say,

I’m so glad you were born—then your pupils widen and tunnel back to a time
before I was here, before my brothers or sister, before you lost

your father, a time of buses and rain, of radio static, and for a minute
you’re far from me, so I take your hand and it trembles with all you know.