Clown Suits

Posted by in Motherhood Project, Poetry, Writing

My mother tells me of clown suits
and lipstick on her cheeks
all day dressed as a fool

I say mother, though it has always been mom

sadness comes
I want to cry
then I do
I do not remember this:

birthday parties
when she went through everything
to make me happy
an entire afternoon

what can I say?

she tells me stories
of being a mom
and i write them off
again and again
selfish
self-martyring memory

I think of the memoir
and feel shame

she was wonderful once
why cant i know?

I say once, it should be always

I look at my daughter
and realize
though not at first

its some unknown hour
and i have left the meat to defrost
forgotten
I give up
fall asleep
hope she’ll bring me something
then she comes
smiling
a plate of food
hand-mixed tea
I see just now, in writing
she used that same meat
cooked it fresh
left the leftovers on the stove
I hesitated when she offered them earlier
she had begun to heat them anyway

then sleep
quiet
mercy

my mom
she calls me sweetheart
or baby
I dont know
And I wake up
see the half-eaten plate
my daughter wanders in
I clear the bed of books
papers, clothes, old poems
she lies between me and my son
And I stare at her
filled with compassion
twitching and fighting
always bad dreams

(what have I done?)

touch her face
rub her back
realize my mom
loves me
always has
regret

i want to remember the clown suit
i want to remember the gentle caress in my sleep
i am my mom now
and im not filled with love because
of some growth away from
or some inherent quality
i love my daughter
because my mom loved me
what can i know?

forgive me.

For my Mom