Shortly before he was killed, my husband and I moved to a rattle-trap beach house on the peninsula in Long Beach. Going to sleep to the sound of the surf and waking to dolphins and pelicans sustained me through the almost unbearable grief. Making the place habitable gave me a task; writing gave me purpose. I am still here, loving the place, taking nothing for granted. www.donnahilbert.com
FOUR POEMS REMEMBERING MY MOTHER
Author's Note: It will be four years on February 8th of this year since my lovely mother died. She met her death with the same grace and good humor that she met her life. I found this photograph after her death. I don't know what she said that caused me to collapse in laughter, but it happened often, as she was quick witted and hilarious.
I thought my mama’s friend, Betty Ruth,
was sister to a candy bar.
She’d pick Mama up to make
the Main Street drag,
buy us a phosphate at the Rexall,
whisper about who was p.g.
Later, they would put hennas
on each other’s hair, make spit curls,
then take out their ukuleles and sing,
kimona here, kimona here
Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
And I would fall asleep
with phosphate, Rexall, henna, p.g.,
a sweet, chewy candy on my tongue.
Introduction to the Food Chain
On the way to Deep Red Creek
I cried when Daddy shot a jackrabbit
startled onto the road.
Later, we walked along the mud bank.
I sobbed, carrying the pail of half-dead fish.
Daddy said, “Careful you don’t slip
or the water moccasins’ll get you.”
Mama wore moccasins
of leather soft as her hands
with a beaded red star on each toe.
In Mary Bell’s Sunday school class
we sang, “Jesus Loves Me,”
and prayed for everyone to be good.
Mary Bell had a brown mole
on her cheek and she said
we were supposed to love Jesus
more than anyone in the world.
I didn’t want to be a Methodist
after that. I loved lots of people
more than Jesus,
my beautiful mother
best of all.
preceding three poems from Deep Red, Event Horizon 1993
When I Open the Door
It scorches my face
like a slap: sweet odor
of Mother, trapped
in bags of jackets and hats,
in boxes of knick knacks
and books, which sat
two days closed up in my car.
It sears my face
while I empty the car
with each parcel I mail
with each offering of books
each bag that I leave
for Goodwill: this perfume
of my mother disappearing.
from Mas Tequila Review, 2015
©2016 Donna Hilbert