“My Mother’s Body”

Bless my mother’s body, the first song of her beating
heart and her breathing, her voice, which I could dimly hear,

grew louder. From inside her body I heard almost every word she said.
Within that girl I drove to the store and back, her feet pressing

the pedals of the blue car, her voice, first gate to the cold sunny mornings,
rain, moonlight, snow fall, dogs . . .

Her kidneys failed, the womb where I once lived is gone.
Her young astonished body pushed me down that long corridor,

and my body hurt her, I know that—24 years old. I’m old enough
to be that girl’s mother, to smooth her hair, to look into her exultant frightened eyes,

her bedsheets stained with chocolate, her heart in constant failure.
It’s a girl, someone must have said. She must have kissed me

with her mouth, first grief, first air,
and soon I was drinking her, first food, I was eating my mother,

slumped in her wheelchair, one of my brothers pushing it,
across the snowy lawn, her eyes fixed, her face averted.

Bless this body she made, my long legs, her long arms and fingers,
our voice in my throat speaking to you now.

“My Mother’s Body,” from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

This poem was originally read in the Poetry Unbound episode “A Poem for What Comes with Age.”

Reflections