“68 days,” Siri answered the first time I asked,
“How many days until June 3?”
3 days before my birthday,
the day she was diagnosed —
dry heaves in the parking lot
as the helicopter lifted.
Morning sun raked the bed, her eyes searching mine
“Happy birthday to you,” she warbled.
That’s when everyone realized — I was 21.
She’d had 3 of us almost exactly 3 years apart.
I wasn’t showing during the holidays, she’d smile,
not pregnant in the summer heat.
50 days a patient — a rare brain tumor.
3 surgeries — 2 went past dark.
Blood on the boots of her weary surgeon.
Shaved, stitched, punctured —
3 days shy of her birthday,
she never made it to 48.
3 summers later I marry & follow her
blueprint — 3 babies, 3 years apart.
Vessel of her love, I pour — her into them.
27 years later: it’s June 3
& I’m wife & mother of 3.
I’m 3 days shy of 48.
Tomorrow I’ll be older than ever
June 3 is a really big deal for me — the day I summit the solitary mountain that has long dominated my personal landscape. My mom’s death is easily my greatest tragedy and my biggest gift. Over the last few months, I’ve pondered my mom’s last days — sometimes soberly inhabiting them in “real time.” Today I take in her final vista. It’s a huge moment. I wanted to do something meaningful to acknowledge this milestone, and this poem satisfies that need in me.
I’m indebted to another motherless daughter, Lynda, a gentle poet who asked for a favor and then returned it almost immediately with some lovely advice on patching up this beginner effort. I won’t put her full name here lest someone searching for legitimate poetry stumble upon this mess.
In its various versions, this poem naturally occupied 27 lines, then 48, then 27. I found that so curious. In its final form, there’s one line for every year we’ve lived without her.