you are in the diode archives winter 2010



Grief Suite

Everything, even the weather, conspires to speak for the mother: the dense morning fog, chill air cold night, afternoon heat staring down the greenery, newly minted, newly traded for her death. Everything speaks for the mother even though the daughter asks what scrap of beingness could have created this.

Was there a reason she died in front of the sons just as the daughter was coming to see her? Did she love the daughter at all? Can love be traded, bartered by the daughter who kept the mother’s secret of senility seven years and kept all the mother’s secrets since birth?

Every blossom becomes the mother, every dead branch, green leaf.


Never can the daughter feel she gives the mother comfort. The mother says she wants a peaceful life, a walk in the park, another husband child house yard. Please don’t bother, she says busy doing laundry.

In a dream the daughter sees her arms are older than the mother’s. The sunspots proliferate.

The shock of the mother worse and worse.


                  (not the body but the space around it . . .)

The approximate location of the daughter’s grief is not the body but the space around it, the smothering humidity, the day breaking into time repetition, memory and the blunted colors of. Not people causes bodies streaming past. 
Hospitals and doctor visits and the giving up of it. The daughter takes the mother to healers, New Age Santa Fe redemptives gluttonous for, Hasidic rabbi wreaking miracles turning away unable, the Dalai Lama’s personal physician saying, o.k. but let go.
The mother’s purple blouse and pants are wadded in a ball beneath the gurney. The mother squirms, kicks her legs as she always has. The daughter says no heroic measures. She remembers how the mother says dying is like sleep. The daughter cries and phones the younger son, tells him to tell the older son too. The male nurse says your mother will not die. She is fine. The mother’s white skin, white hair like silk, her luminous body sick and shaking, arms tied down in restraints, her heart beats green on the black screen above her head, blood pressure in red, oxygen in blue. They say she is doing well.

The mother forgets her life completely. But even in the midst of her absence, even in the gap of her forgetting she says to the daughter, I’m still myself. It’s true. Her hands are the same. Hair, mouth, same. Teeth are replaced. Still, the smile is. Same.
Gasp of pain between birth and death, whatever’s remembered is never real says a voice in the dream.


God does not come to the mother, the mother’s mother comes in the scented present and the mother thinks the daughter is the mother and the daughter like a prince hopes to wake the dream, something else to be good enough for.


Many of those seated at the funeral believe the mother has integrated herself at death into the thoughts moods looks of a woman of 40. The daughter starts believing them, believing this was the reason the mother left as she did.

At the funeral, the son who has not seen the mother for years speaks his words. The air turns thin. The daughter cannot breathe. He says the mother was good, kind. He brings up a vague incident from childhood, something about school or house. The daughter misses the gist of it. She sits stiff, presses her back into the pew, remembers the mother stripping naked on her front porch, remembers how she grabbed the green and white striped afghan from the couch, tried to cover the mother. The mother fought and screamed take it off me, take it off me! The daughter watched the mother walk into lilacs, the green and white stripes of the afghan trailing behind. Later that day, dressed again, the mother said, I’m only sixteen, but I have a job, I have friends. I can’t come here again. Your children are wild, they’re bad for me, you need to free me or else I may never want children of my own.

The son’s words, sanded to a fine finish, float above the mother. In the back of the chapel, God sits wearing a black suit, white shirt. He keeps track of the clashing with a stone tablet and chisel. For the daughter it will always be the smell of ammonia and urine, the stench of dying taking its time.


The mother’s scrapbooks piled high beside the laundry, a smile, a pose, photographs of men she did not marry, each with the smooth sheen of a lost idea. All the gone things are treasured most, picked at and needed. The daughter’s hereness is distracting, disconcerting. The mother shoos her away like a bird, like a fly, like the reason she could not focus on her real life. The rain is mild but profuse then wild. Everything conspires to speak for the mother.


Even the restaurant the daughter frequents is a delirium: Thai green curry with Japanese eggplant, red potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, zucchini, pineapple rice, a glass of chardonnay. The steaming teas, small aluminum pots balanced in the waiters’ hands. The blue room fills like rapturous destiny, unseen but felt in the crest of it, an ache in the chest. Colored doilies stretched across the ceiling, bib lettuces, green papaya, jicama tossed with ginger-lime vinaigrette. The breath of the restaurant will not leave her alone. The insistent forks and knives, the umbrage of her purple blouse, the umbrage of violet. Each tile on the wall, each chili hanging from the ceiling speaks the last hours without the daughter, not waiting the absence of light inside the dying body to speak its end. The daughter waits for a sign, waits for illumination, waits to be carried past. But what she sees for a moment as rapturous turns out to be nothing but a yellow menu left sitting on a chair.


Six days after the funeral, the daughter screams sees a blue jay trapped in her room. The same shock over and over. The husk of the mother trapped, flapping her hands, unable to speak. The bird pounds its body again and again, pounds soundless against the window ledge sky-filled with blue.


Three weeks after the mother’s death, the mother’s birthday comes as it always has, always will. It is a gray day, spring, but the sky reflects winter, only worse. New blossoms on the trees are threatened like children when the mother turns her back. The wind blows through, the blossoms fall. The mother keeps dicing the onions for supper, the sound of the father shouting, the sweet smell of onions frying. Dinner at six. Quiet. Chewing. The liver’s rubbery iridescence, onions drenched in oil from sitting in the pan, lukewarm peas, overcooked, gray like the day, but still a hint of green. The daughter chews the peas. Now she is buying a birthday gift the mother will never wear:  a silk blouse painted with lilacs. The mother hangs the blouse in the back of the closet. The price tags stay on. The wind blows hard, the storm comes. Everything conspires to speak for the mother.


In the mother’s scrapbook, a love letter pressed between the black pages. The daughter finds it years later. She reads the stranger’s name. The mother is tearing apart the body of a cooked chicken, she cries against the window looking out. The daughter presses herself into the yellow kitchen. All that remains is the mother scrubbing potatoes for dinner. The daughter collects the peelings. The mother says you look terrible then quickly looks away.

The psychiatrist suggests the daughter take Celexa. He says it could calm her vertigo, which is getting worse. He tells her to slice the 20-mg. pills in half with a razor or knife. The daughter takes out a pink pill, angles a blade on it, shattering it in half, into powder, the taste licked from the blade is bitter.


Dreams of running through hospital corridors, dreams of being housed in beige walls, to love, to be loved, the never ever was of it.

The mother lying white like porcelain waiting, her skin shimmering, glimmering with the fractions of, the death rattle happens in the daughter’s absence, the absence of the mother seven years though death is clear and clearer like childhood developing in a dark photograph.

Memory and the loss of memory. The daughter’s dizziness gets the best of her. She takes a test, tracing the dizziness, the eyes register, memorize.  The mother is indelible forever. And the dizziness.

The landscape takes a turn for the worse. Everywhere the daughter looks she sees the mother. Every blossom, every dead branch green leaf. Every seed spread across. The landscape knows itself. All the daughter can do is stand clear.

The mother dead spreads her influence across the mesa. A single match, her light, carelessly thrown into a pile of trash, and how the fields burn. Her birth, lonely and proliferating with offspring, let loose into the corn, and even in this parched circumference a scarecrow stands, and also burns.  


Bobbi Lurie’s third poetry collection, Grief Suite, is forthcoming from CustomWords. Her other  collections are The Book I Never Read and Letter from the Lawn. Her poems have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including diode v1n2.