Happy Birthday, Mom! … The Echo of Her Sighs, a poem

Zbaida Mahfouz

“Think for a minute, darling: in fairy tales it’s always the children who have the fine adventures. The mothers have to stay at home and wait for the children to fly in the window.”  Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife



My mother’s birthday was really yesterday, not today. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to write anything.  As part of another poem last week I wrote two lines: “The shock of the corpse that/Once was your mother.” I might be feeling rather somber this year since the reviews I’m working on are of Through My Father’s Eyes, a chapbook from Sheila Jacob, a memorial to her dad who died when she was fourteen and also The Last Parent, a collection by Anne Stewart. Neither book is without light and Anne’s work is marked by that sort of macabre humor that helps us survive our dark moments. Everyone who has lost a parent or parents will relate though: let’s face it, no matter how old you are when you lose your parents, you become an orphan.

Greek Mariner’s Hat courtesy of Édouard Hue under CC BY-SA 3.0

When I think of my mom, I remember the beauty of her rare smile, her love of the Greek Mariner’s Hats she bought at Fisherman’s Wharf, and how enamored she was of her grandson and my cousins, Chris and Dan. Those three could do no wrong; and indeed, they were the most charming lovable boys and grew to be smart, compassionate, and funny men.

One of my other main memories of Mom is how hard she worked (no doubt where I got my own work-ethic) and how much her identity and self-esteem rested on her occupation, though clearly she found it less than rewarding. Unlike all of us who probably had our writing for most of our lives, she didn’t have a creative outlet until she retired. Despite the crafting she did in her maturity, when she was moving toward coma, she was working on an invisible (to us) 10-key adding machine on her knee. The fingers of her right hand never stopped. So, written some years ago, this

the echo of her sighs

mom stressed
as she sat
with her 10-key
urgently
conscientiously
feeding it numbers
for a business
in Redhook
a commercial building
in old red brick
her calculations spun
Monday through Friday
dripping white paper
in ribbons
pooling on the floor
with all her adds
all her minuses
she accounted
in gray led
on lined green paper
A/R and A/P
payroll
chart of accounts
bank reconciliations
consolidated financials
transactions
neatly ticked and tied
to ledgers and subledgers
hand formulated
amounting to
zilch
zip
squat
zero
nothing
gone
forgotten
except
for the echo of her sighs

© 2015, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes; illustrations below, courtesy of PDclipart.org



HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! 

We’re sure – positive! – this finds you knitting ski caps for the angels, not pounding a 10-key for the man. 



ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

14 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Mom! … The Echo of Her Sighs, a poem

  1. Dear Respected Mother Dear, My Dear Friend Jamie’s Mom Dear
    Happy Birthday in Heaven’
    while I read the loving words tears roll down
    though I am a mother too in time, but still like a child
    look for my own…
    Respected Jamie Ji though late but wish to share some lines here..

    I see the vision the presence the grace
    Mother, its you I see, I feel in her, she
    touched cleaned cut and stitched
    came again and again and again
    when I was stiff n senseless in pain
    I felt a hand ,and heard a voice
    twenty minutes more
    a voice…calm, a look angel like…
    fear left me, then there was peace,
    I felt a hand on my forehead
    Yes, yes, Mother was there…
    All the time,with love and prayer.
    Mother I need you …
    I wish I could be that special book
    in which I could place my treasure
    like the scented rose close forever
    never to wither or be dry but
    All I am able to do is cry
    You were The Angel-You are…
    who checked me with care when
    I was in pain you checked me again
    and again, with a calm serene smile
    in you I found peace never felt for quite
    a while-I wish I could be the book
    and place the angel rose and each day
    say for you a prayer return your smile
    and look at My Angel on the page and
    Up in the sky I pray…Dear Mother
    I need you, I need you all the time

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an absolutely beautiful poem and wonderful tribute. When my mother was close to death, she quizzed me constantly about how I planned to “feed all those people,” no doubt referring to the caregivers who cycled in and out. I went wherever she did, always assuring her that I’d made a pot of sauce.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. tenkey very much

    the book of numbers is immense
    and hints of debt and recompense
    in arab calligraphic code
    throughout the warp and weft and node
    of former mom in current mom-hearse
    who turned her fingers into commerce.

    how nice how much of mom is left
    in poet-daughter’s warp and weft
    and words of numbers servicing
    a mother’s life, her nerves to sing.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I inherited my Dad’s Greek Fisherman’s cap from Fisherman’s Wharf! I bought one for myself in white with gold stripes when I was in High School, but it got drowned in a swimming pool and lost its shape.

    Liked by 2 people

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