Poems for a Mother


I suppose
now that our friendship
always tenuous & shrill
has shattered itself forever
upon the jagged rocks
of indomitable will
had I one wish & task
left here to fulfill
& could
in some quiet space
stand unobserved & still
I would choose a fevered place
beside that floor or bed
whereon my father pressed his lust
between your open thighs
to see: what love passion
or even hate
you lent that karmic moment
that sealed in time
my solitary fate.
Barcelona, early 1979

Mother and second husband Phil Moran

for Marie Moran (1909-1987)

Toward the end we laid our griefs aside,
the quarrels, the bitter fruits, our inability
to understand who either of us was.
You even began reading the letters I’d sent,
from India & beyond, all those years before,
said you were enjoying them, knew now
what you couldn’t fathom then, why I went there
rather than opting for the land you embraced
as the center of your private universe;
why, too, I picked Europe to live in,
the continent that spawned us
and you later renounced—
until Phil appeared and you visited Ireland,
Lourdes (yet skipping your native Italy!),
my ex-wife and daughter in Germany,
clipping Monika’s flowing locks short
and doing your best to turn her against me.
It worked for awhile, then she bolted back:
the blood we shared was thicker than your water.

But yes, we buried our hatchets, blunted all swords,
well before the curtain came down
and you weren’t there to talk to anymore.
Sooner was simply not in the cards for us.
Pity there wasn’t sufficient time
to cover all the ground; it was going so well,
odds are we would have finished the game.
Someday I’ll listen to the tapes again,
our phone calls over those last two years,
read whatever you wrote and I didn’t burn,
perhaps learn what else went wrong between us,
behold joyously how we tried to put it right.
Another year would have seen us discussing sex,
plus those goddamn blankets you put under my ass
to keep the bugs off, along with the good earth
you saw as dirt that might soil your precious boy.

Wish you could hear the long-distance rap
I had with Father Nosser, making arrangements
for your Requiem Mass; it would warm your spirit,
bring a smile of peace to your lips at last.
And no, I wasn’t there, stayed in Amsterdam
with my ‘business dealings’ and my dying dog.
You were gone anyway, there was nothing more
I could do that I’m not doing now, lovingly.

Hopefully your soul took pleasure
in the Gregorian chants, the incense, the hymns
your so-called friends and our relatives didn’t want,
and what little Latin the priest’s memory could muster.
“Who did this?” they asked, as though I’d ordered
your cremation (which perversely enough
today’s Church allows), blindly scattering the ashes
in the red-lit night a condom’s throw from my house.
The calm reply, “Her son rang,” shut them up quick.

Did your ‘lady in waiting’ actually help things along,
some medication nudging your blood pressure awry,
accelerating the heart attack? How convenient for her.
After the funeral she started sleeping with my cousin.
Anything to get her hands on the family jewels, eh?

That you could have done better goes without saying;
but so could have I. Guess Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”
never quite touched you. Pavarotti was more your bag.
It’s all right, babe, doomed lovers like us
are meant to be dark knights of the road, lying in wait
for a fleeting chance to pillage dreams. Two sides
of a coin is understating matters. Yoked together,
we ransacked the same pouch of sacrificial silver,
each spending their takings in opposing directions.
It is still unclear which of us was Judas to whom,
while to avoid my wrath you shouldn’t have posed
as the Virgin Mary. That also annoyed Kali.
Stubbornness has value, but it comes at a price.
Trust me on this, I’m still paying off the mortgages.

True, I damaged you as well. One instance I poignantly
recall is when I walked away from a Sunday dinner
you prepared specially for us, left without a word
the moment your voice sang out it was ready.
I know that hurt. It was meant to. A wound
intentionally inflicted. Nor can regret alone make amends;
it bestows no redemption unless garlanded with remorse,
pangs of conscience inspiring forgiveness by desire,
wiping the slate clean to leave room for Love’s purity
where once the glyphs of hate stood inscribed.

Do I therefore believe in God? Never mind that.
The important question is, Does God believe in me?
I pray for your sake he always did in you,
religiously, in the throes of perpetual orgasm.
Withal, thou wert, thou art, full of grace. Amen.


Mother (at right) with Marianne Woods and little Monika (Munich ca. 1967)