A friend and I were talking late the other night. Her daughter was upstairs, crying, so sad about something my friend couldn’t help her with, though she desperately wished she could. Oh my God it would be so much easier if we could bear it for them, my friend and I said. So much easier on us, is what we meant.
Witnessing your child’s grief is its own special kind of hell, which is one of the reasons I so love this poem. When I’m gone, I hope my children move me to a land where grief is in the background. Where they remember how much I loved zooming down the giant slopes of Glass Factory Road, or that one time I got stuck behind the Christmas tree, and how about the embarrassing number of letters I wrote them when they were away at camp? I hope they think of me and laugh.
Praise Song, by Hafizah Augustus Geter
After she died, I’d catch her
stuffing my nose with pine needles and oak,
staring off into the shadows of early morning.
Me, too jetlagged for the smells a ghost leaves behind.
The tailor of histories,
my mother sewed our Black Barbies and Kens
Nigerian clothes, her mind so tight against
the stitching, that in precision, she looked mean
as hell, too. My mother’s laugh was a record skipping,
so deep she left nicks in the vinyl.
See? Even in death, she wants to be fable.
I don’t know what fathers teach sons,
but I am moving my mother
to a land where grief is no longer
gruesome. She loved top 40, yacht rock,
driving in daylight with the wind
wa-wa-ing through her cracked window
like Allah blowing breath
over the open bottle neck of our living.
She knew ninety-nine names for God,
and yet how do I remember her—
as what no god could make?
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