O Mother

O mother
what have I left out
O mother
what have I forgotten
O mother
farewell
with a long black shoe
farewell
with Communist Party and a broken stocking
farewell

(from "Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg" by Allen Ginsberg)

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversay of my mother Sylvia's death. It seems unbelievable that so much time has passed since she "went her merry way", as the poem says--though there's nothing merry about an agonizing death from cancer. I have become much more preoccupied with it this year than I was at year 6/7/8/9--probably because ten is a number that closes, a number that encloses a very definite and easily-understood chunk of time. So the arrival of the first decade since her death marks the end of something related to her--perhaps the final and utter passing of the world in which she lived. Which in itself is a cause for grieving, though things were pretty much screwed up for me then, trapped as I was by fear and confusion, unable to move in any direction, unable to hold onto the things in my life that were good, like the active social life that was about to collapse under the pressure of my paranoia and suspicion, my fragile ego, my egotism: after that fell apart I didn't go out socially for five or six years, got caught in a twisted situation with a relative who took my money and fed me lies about everybody I knew to mess my head up...stories of rape and child abuse, horror scenes I was too fragile to deal with objectively, too naive about how vile some people can be to see the utter falsehood in. She had a heart that was as black as winter midnight, and it took me half a decade to realise.
I am away from all that now. I have many friends in the living flesh-pressed world, and long-distance friends made through poetry. But as the tenth anniversary of my mother's death arrives I find I still miss her painfully. Still recall her wit and loving-kindness, as well as her sour rotten moods and resentments--evidence of the unspoiled child that lived inside her even at 54. She gave me whatever delight I take in my life, most of the principles I cherish, and she taught me how to write--literally, by encouraging me to pick up a pen and use it, and figuratively by teaching me that the imagination was primary and the real world should never be allowed to interfere with that too much. If I can pass on a message to any impressionable minds that might be foolish enough to listen to me, it will be that one.
I hope she got the Heaven that she wanted and not my dreary old reincarnation round, coming back to die over and over and over again like Maureen and that 15-year-old friend of my friend's daughter in Northampton and John Peel and me too someday, though hopefully not until I've achieved my last unfulfilled ambition--to figure out a way to be happy in this too-short and frequently wretched life.

Comments

Ralph Murre said…
A beautiful tribute, Bruce -- if she taught you to hold a pen, she served us all.
Bruce Hodder said…
Thanks, Ralph. From a poet of the first order, that's a real compliment.