The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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I have no response to those sorrys of friends. And I don’t believe I am an orphan,
what the rabbi said at graveside. Yet no mother to talk to, to call, feels strange —
a sudden weightlessness, like the first moment in free fall.
“You made it,” I said, looking at her just after she’d died. Is something wrong,
not feeling deep grief? Sometimes I catch myself thinking to phone
or wondering if she’s left a message on the answering machine. No matter
we’d stopped calling months before she died, her hearing failing.
Death’s mystery sidles up in oblique ways.
My partner’s dog,
an old pug named Moxie, died weeks later. That dog made herself
part of every meal. We were bound in the rhythms of all her doggy functions.
And always that bighearted greeting, unlike what we give each other.
“Buddhas,” my partner says. “They’re small Buddhas.”
The other day, reaching for my shoes, I noticed dog hair inside, matted
on the worn leather. The fact Moxie isn’t here while her hair is stops me.
I eat with spoons my mother held, wear a silver swan she pinned on her coat,
yet they are not like hair on the inside of my shoes, which in a moment
brings me to the animal absence of my mother, its utter mystery.
A new vocation on the planet, a friend said.
“How neatening is loss,” poet Mary Oliver observed, “since it only takes away.”
Only. Often I turn, surprised to find myself staring into this absence of mother,
the way at three in the morning I have stood in the glare of an open refrigerator,
held by a nameless hunger, remembering times she turned away, whatever for.
Late the night she died, a rush swept through me on my way out of the hospice,
as though fingers ran lightly along under my skin. I stopped, turning back —
Damn! You’re here, aren’t you? I whispered, looking up toward the high ceiling.
As a boy, I used to watch through train windows a magnificent horse
running alongside, leaping trees and houses, passing through hills;
some spirit, I’m sure, out of the body’s barn, the way the other evening Moxie
just appeared, running again, racing our car, running to beat us home.