Motherlines Remembered

Day 17 NaPoWriMo and I am feeling a bit more serene. I am taking my time to walk around my poem a day today. And the prompt is more congenial, too.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) follows Gowrishankar’s suggestion that we write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time. It could be the story of the time your Uncle Louis caught a home run ball, the time your Cousin May accidentally brought home a coyote and gave it a bath, thinking it was a stray dog, or something darker (or even sillier).

The featured photo is one of my mother and Grandmother Russell, who both feature as characters in today’s offering. It was taken when my mother was about the age she was in the tale recounted.

The last time I saw my mother alive

 

My brother was driving us so I could catch

The Chinatown Philly-NYC jitney.

She was recounting a memory

of another bus trip maybe seventy-five

years or more ago

to the disbelieving ears of her grandson.

 

I was catching my first connection

back to my life that was many stops and changes

away from the USA.

She told her memory like beads on a rosary,

the pink crystal ones she kept at her bedside.

She began with her sister, oceanside

in New Jersey waving her off on her journey.

 

How Mamma met her at the station

in Philly to pack her off onto the correct bus

on the leg to Washington, D.C.

An unknown  friend  or some kind of cousin of Mamma’s

met her there since it was growing dark

to usher her into some midnight caravanserai

before setting off through the night

sitting bolt upright through Maryland and Virginia.

 

Morning light and North Carolina. Gertrude’s brother

was there in his pride and joy jalopy.

Her cumbersome suitcase filled the whole rumble seat.

The front seat was full of meet and greeters

so she clung onto the door handle

surfing into Winston-Salem on the running board,

grinning at  being  back, wind speed making her florid,

feeling a bit desperado, like Bonnie and Clyde

 

At this point in the narrative

her grandson  looked like his head was beginning to hurt

jaw dropped,

configuring an impossible Venn diagram from

this rather staid, devout, stalwart

ancient relative and that girl who was only

just turned fifteen.

 

Which was probably the age when I first heard

this tale, when I learned that my mother

was someone not solely concerned about

my health , and could actually be quite

devil may care about personal safety.

 

She was off with her childhood adventurers

hanging by  a speeding  Model T’s handle

with kids with whom she had climbed trees and

smoked corn silk behind the outdoor privy.

She was the before to her after.

And then, just then, I knew how

I wanted to be that woman’s daughter.

how that Her had been able to make me.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

 

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