Re-posting this poem for my Poetry Sampler on my blog.
My mother sews without a needle,
fingers making birdbeak stiches
in the hem of the dress
on her tiny body.
My mother wants me to buy cookies and coffee.
She imagines her old table with plates of goodies
instead of the electric bed and call button.
My mother calls me her sister.
Doesn’t remember that her sister
died last year.
My mother stitches scraps of life
while sleeping and awake.
The needle moves in and out of her mind.
She binds us all till we are stuck
like nuts on honey cake.
We lift our fly legs and wave them
but we never escape.
Long after she leaves us, she waits quietly
under her kosher made-in Israel shroud,
hoping that Carol and I are together,
waving our tiny legs, holding each other’s
wrinkled hands, mine looking just like Mama’s
with her two rings staring.
But we are not together.
Only I am here now.
I am the one who hates to sew and always have.
Still, I am learning how to make the needle airborne.
Driven by my memory chip, it zooms through
the pages and I see our bunk beds,
breakfast nook, my father’s Sweet Williams
in his tiny garden in Brooklyn,
my sister in her first evening gown,
I hear my Zaida admonishing his sons,
my Bubba fishing for compliments,
the other chopping nuts and apples to make a pie,
with sounds of praying humming in the background
in the kitchen in Boro Park.
I sew together all of the births, the baby smells,
the hard-boiled eggs and whitefish salads
after the funerals.
My hands are tired but I sew,
the sound of Ray’s voice shouting at my father,
the gifts my father gave my mother,
wrapped in silver paper and stacked to the sky,
the collections of necklaces and earrings overflowing
from boxes into streets I see but cannot find or follow.
I sew my brother’s prosthetic leg to my first husband’s
I sew my father’s music and his lit-up face listening
to my poetry.
I sew my mother’s eyes to mine.
Somewhere she smiles, but I cannot see what she saw.
I sew until I run out of invisible thread
and until all of this is bound in a tight ball
of white light and dark, a huge
black and white cookie just for me from the bakery.
I don’t yet know whether to eat it, or keep it in a box,
or wear it, or feed it to my granddaughter.
So I just sew.