My mother would have been eighty today.
I only realise this sitting in college listening to a reading.
The poet, a tiny American professor, is speaking
of her mother’s seventieth birthday.
I don’t recall the poem.
Earlier the same day my son calls.
His sister has told him to, he says.
She’s worried because I’m sad.
Tangled threads, twisted together.
Meaning and reason
hidden in a knot.
After the bubble burst, and the thick red liquid
flooded the rivers of your mind,
drowning your memories,
you said to me, ‘You’re not Peter, are you?
you look like Peter.’
You forgot my name.
And now I have forgotten you.
Did you prefer tea or coffee? Red wine or white?
What was your favourite colour? Or flower?
Did you still dream of could-have-beens or
glimpse happiness from the upstairs windows of buses?
You loved to garden, I remember that,
to nurture and to tend. To party.
Eighty is worth a party. Tonight
we would have celebrated and I’d have
watched you gathering my children around you,
your eyes full of pride and love.
No hint now of past illusions.
If I choose to tread thorny paths,
or return to unlit rooms
will I find out who you were or why I am?
But for now I’ll do as the professor says.
‘Do something with it,’ she says, ‘you must.’