3pm 11/21/07 Reta Lorraine Bowen Taylor
I’m thinking of her today
my birth mother
not far from here
down in Los Angeles, somewhere
in possession of my phone number
which she will not use.
my phone ring
I be brave enough to ask her
this is what I would like to say
the day before thanksgiving
when I am fifty-five:
“What do I call you?
Perhaps “Nothing,” for that is what you are to me,
and that is what you have given me; left me with.
I have no memories of Thanksgivings with you
of passed potatoes, of carved drumsticks steaming
on my plate fresh from your oven.
(Did you have an oven?)
Did you cook for anyone else?
How come you never cooked for me?
Why don’t I know what your favorite recipe tastes like?
I want to ask you, too…
why, oh why, oh why, did you have children?
Why did you breed, push us into the light
only to discard us like so much leftover thought
as important to you as afterbirth.
And, you did it again, and again.
Five times to be exact.
I can count that very well, in spite of my “F’s” in math.
(Perhaps if you had been there to mother me,
I might have tried, might have made the effort to succeed,
might have tried to make the grade, make my mother smile,
feel her pride light the room as she opened my report card,
but…you never saw a one, did you? And I can tell you now,
you didn’t miss much, because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t trying,
and only now, at 55, am I figuring out why…
and I can tell you, I am thankful for that.)”
I would ask you (if you would call):
“Where have you been all those Thanksgivings before this one?
Have you been around a table full of people?
Have you smiled at them, like you loved them?
Have you shared memories, and shed tears over baby pictures?
Do you hold withered, faded ones of me up then,
smiling when it’s your turn to show off?
Do you tell the others that you don’t know what I look like
or that you have my phone number,
but refuse to press the buttons in the correct order even once?
Do you think about the two grandsons that
are now grown men, with deep voices, wide shoulders,
and no sense of “family?”
“It’s funny (curious) to me the tenuous fragments
of connection I seem to hold onto with you,
ones you would never even know about,
ones I do, if only for myself, in some still unlost
bond with the “mother” you should have been…
like write you poems that you will never read,
or choosing your maiden name “Cotton”
for my computer password…(a choice I still don’t
understand, but each time I have to type it out, I
have to think about it all over again,
and wonder why I chose it…but there you are,
on my screen whispering your name through my fingertips
Tomorrow, (just to let you know)
my now grown sons will sit around tables of food
with their girlfriends and their families.
And I will be here, (alone) just one more day, like any other.
I may think about all the years lost, both yours and mine,
the mothering I never got, the daughter you disposed of
growing on without you,
always looking over her small pale shoulder
for the pretty lady with red hair who would swoop in one day
and pick her up and hug her and smother her with kisses
and tell her “I’m sorry, baby…but I’ll never, ever leave you again.”
I may think about these fantasies
knowing they never came true, and never will
just as the phone will never ring
and the apology…the explanation will never come.
Your tongue can not wrap around those ideas
and so it chooses to clack on tickling nonsensical useless
gaps in time (perhaps) around someone else’s table,
while I am left behind, alone, again,