I was planning to call this “Blank”. I had even typed it up at the top in preparation, but at the last minute I decided to change the theme, so I guess you readers have dodged a bullet. One that creates much noise and smoke while signifying nothing. Just a typical exercise in poetic reflecting, or columnity, or something to that effect. You know what I mean. Hopefully. If not, don’t worry. You are not alone. There are many out there who have no idea what I mean most of the time; possibly all of the time. Besides the ones who have never heard of me, let alone met me or read me, which is virtually indistinguishable. I am really much more me when I am read than when I am not.
With that said, or mumbled (I think I was mumbling or muttering it, though I cannot be certain since it was all in my head) . . . I see we are off to another fine and confusing start. How nifty! I do so love to obfuscate. Or is it discombobulate? I can never keep straight whether I am doing one or the other. Suffice it to say that I am being vague and rather muddled. We’ll leave it at that. It may not stay left, or right for that matter. It may wander off and stay something else entirely. It’s so unpredictable. We’ll just have to see what it ends up being, I suppose. Whatever it is. To tell you the truth, I’ve already forgotten. Let me grab something and stick it here. Hold on . . . (rummaging) . . . got it!
Oh, sorry, it scurried away.
Wait, I’ve got this. Or that. (Digging deeper.) Hmm. I’ll just put some duct tape over the empty spot. There, good as . . . well, the gaping hole is gone. Let’s move on, shall we? I think that would be best, rather than dwelling on the obvious patch in the middle of the page. Pretend it isn’t there.
Didn’t your mother teach you it’s impolite to stare? Oh come on, I bet she mentioned it once or twice. Of course she did. She must have. You’re in denial, that’s what. You should listen to your mother. That’s the problem with this world. People stop listening to their moms, and pretty soon it’s a jumbled heap of unpicked-up havoc and chaos. Haven’t you heard that mothers know best? It’s true. Ask anyone. Ask me, I’m a mother.
Ignore it, I said!
Okay, I see we’ve become a little obsessed with the duct tape. Just because it has silly yellow ducks on it is no excuse. Really, you’re behaving rather juvenile. We were trying to have a nice one-sided conversation in which I do the talking and you do the listening, but now you aren’t even paying attention. I might as well be playing Tiddly Winks, or Badminton. I could be. I was playing them the other day. It was very nostalgic. I used to play them a long time ago, a long long time, and I’ve taken them up again. I was a bit rusty, but it’s one of those things you never forget, like riding a bike or twiddling your thumbs. You can forget how to swim (trust me), but you don’t forget Tiddly Winks. Or Badminton, also known as Batmitton at night since you have to avoid swatting bats.
I’m teaching my sons everything I know about the games. Noél and Rafael were soccer players and Mexican folklore dancers growing up. This is all new to them. After mastering the art of skipping, which Rafael had managed to skip until he was an adult, I thought it was time they learned something useful . . . something serious and more competitive. As a mother I need to prepare them for the world we live in. It’s never too late. We had overlooked these vital skills. What manner of mother would I be if I failed to share my experience and valuable knowledge with my kids? Not that I claim to be great at being a mother. I tend to worry about it, actually. Hoping I’ve been a positive example and influence.
Whether you’re a mother or not, I’m sure you can relate. We all have moms, unless we’re especially odd. Even then, even if we hatched from an eggshell or sprang from a can that stuff pops out of when you open the lid, we must have started this crazy thing called life the same. It’s fairly universal, the whole mother thing. Whatever our language, beliefs, customs, species. Just think how incredible it is that we’ve had one, or somebody like a mom. Every child needs that. Just as, I believe, every woman needs to experience a maternal bond with someone else, or another creature, a furbaby, a kid with feathers or scales. We make connections of the heart, and the roles of mother and child are essential, whatever side we may be on. Then again, we are all children of the earth. We should, every one of us, feel connected — with each other as well as with Nature.
Phew, that was a heavy thought. My head feels lighter now. Oh no, here’s an afterthought: The roles of parent and child are often interchangeable over time. There, my mind feels much clearer. I fear I went off on a tangent, making statements instead of the usual cotton-candy fluff. I do my best to skate around such unfortunate bother, the starched-socks bee-in-the-bonnet nonridiculous nonsense that can creep in and spoil a rambling essay that says so little and means a lot less. Now and then I may lapse into something which nearly resembles a point (if your pencil hasn’t been sharpened for a while). You’ll have to forgive the occasional outburst. It must be a personality dysfunction. I am kind of quirky. And kooky.
Now that I have explained myself thoroughly, let’s talk about mothers. I don’t know why that popped into my head, but it’s as good a topic as any to go on about in a roundabout sort of way. I was first typing “a roundabout wort of say”, which is fairly different. I’ll save that for next time, perhaps. It’s a subject that requires adequate time to rattle off with as little attention as possible. Yes, I will have to shelve it for future discussion and hope it doesn’t roll from the shelf to be lost under a table or sofa, or collect dust in a corner. My mind’s attic does tend to get dusty. I wonder where all of that dust comes from? Is it outer-space dust? Is it the soot of candles burned at both ends or the ashes of burned bridges? Might it be those chips off old blocks, the splinters or slivers pulled out of fingers, the sediment of eroded rocks and cliffs and beaches? Maybe it’s spilt fairydust, sleep or hourglass sand that has trickled out of place. Could it be the Moon’s dried tears, the hardness of clouds, the fog turned to powder? Stray particles escaped from that Hadran Collider contraption? Old brittle grease from the gears that keep Time slipping away and everything else going like clockwork?
Speaking of which, we’ve run out of time to discuss mothers. I shall have to write poems missing a theme after all. The slate is blank, folks. Please disregard the title. I’ll send a little painter with a bucket to redo it in due time, whenever that might be. Perhaps when I’ve paid my dues. Wait, I thought I already did. Is Life trying to double-deal me extra charges? That’s some nerve! Hold on, I must go and argue with those quacks in the Bills Department. In the meantime, here are a few poems about whatever they’re about to entertain you. Like elevator music. And the recorded jingles they play when you’re left holding the phone — not to be confused with holding the bag . . .
A mixed bag, you never know what
You might get, reaching into the pot
Or the hat to draw a mother. A hugger
Or a slugger; a nagger, gagger, lagger,
Washragger; baker or shaker; comforter,
Quilter, or a blanket excuse for screaming.
You could be mothered, smothered,
Tothered, sister and brothered . . .
Will she dress you up or dress you down?
Will she understand or reprimand you,
Teach you or preach to you? Will she
Reach out from the darkness of her past,
Lead you into the sunlight of a golden path
Or new day, encourage you to cross rainbows
And let smiles keep you dry, take your hand
When you are lost yet leave you the space
To find yourself? Can she make you laugh
When you feel like crying — make everything
Fine again after the world clobbered you?
Did she do her best to love you and provide
As much as she could of the essentials;
Give you life without giving too much
Or taking too much in return? Don’t fret,
The odds are in your favor of landing
A good one. Chances are, if you have
Known a mother in your life or ever felt
A mother’s touch, a mother’s protection,
Her absolute affection, then you are rich
Beyond compare and there is nothing that
Will ever compare with that. Everyone
Has a mother. Good, bad, or indifferent.
But if nothing else, know that you are
A child of the universe and you are blessed
With the ability to dream your dreams,
Sing your songs, dance your dances,
Write your wrongs, most of all to live.
And eventually to change your life if you
Wish, if you so desire. Because a mother
Granted you the chance, carried you and
Gave you a birthday. Whether you have
Eaten your cake or not; whether it was
Upside down or weighed a pound . . .
Know that you were loved at least that much,
For that is love. That is sacrifice.
It is the greatest gift you will ever receive.
Have you given her your thanks, forgiven her
For any of the mistakes she was bound to make
If she was human? Even if she was an alien,
They’re probably imperfect too. So give her
A break, give her a hug . . . in your arms or
In your heart. It is not too late. It is never
The tolls of years were too evident
The toils of a life could press and chisel
From so many sides until what remained
Was sculpted to a woman
Once a carefree child, a budding girl
Then a comely maiden whose high degree
Of fairness did not guarantee being treated
The same, for the world could be so mean
But the woman was stronger for it
Smarter and wary; ever more cautious
Of changes and artifice, the double faces
On strangers who lied with straight tongues
Tired of their smooth talk, crooked morals
Weary of a twisted route and false paths
Even at times of friends who could be
Twin-edged or masked like Zorro
She spoke softer, more reluctant and shy
Than when she was fresh to the world
Of landslides and woes. Time must whittle
Away that charm-school polish and naiveté
Disappointment erodes the eagerness and
Confidence of youth, leaves a trail littered by
Rubble and lost hopes, tears melted to glass
Fragments of dreams lay scattered in her wake
The paragon of womanhood, she became
Entangled by the ties of deception, abandoned
In her prime; the only good man she had ever
Known was married to The Law
Handsome and courageous yet a coward
Unable to commit himself for a family, for her
The fraud claimed to love her too much; a fool
He would spare her from bereavement
She lost him anyway, finding the door
Walking through it such a difficult thing
She kept the secret when she left him
That was burning in her womb: an egg
As a single mother she raised the child
Without support; fingers pointed, scornful
Looks, belittling words cast in her direction
But she held her head up and endured
The girl was her light, the only reason for
Her smiles. Calling her Mama; a small thing
Can make all the difference, change a dismal
Day into an array of sparkling moments
Or rip open a soul to let everything of worth leak
This woman would know the horror and pain
The grief and heartbreak at last when her child
Was hit by a stray bullet one bright innocent morn
Her sorrow could not be measured like rainfall
It was devastating. She felt her life had been
Extinguished, as if the bullet sailed through her too
For an eternity she wandered in a haze of misery
Until she chanced upon an egg without a nest
And carried it home to hatch. The bird emerged
Fuzzy and pink, gray and brown, kind of purple
Then grew to a brilliant hue of crimson
Red was her daughter’s favorite color
The bird reminded her of the girl, the way
His black eyes peered at her, thinking she was
Mama; how he hopped and pranced with joy
The softness of his feathers rubbing her cheek
The notes of his cheerful tweets and whistles . . .
An offbeat pair, an oddball family, they had
Each other. Both were saved from being lost.
At the apple’s core, the center of all things,
The nucleus of organic and mineral elements,
There is one voice that speaks loudest,
Bearing the authority of a vast web linking
The cosmos, connecting each strand, each heart;
Flowing like a river of silk in every direction.
Her emotions are renowned, widely feared
By those who lack a depth of perception,
Who fail to acknowledge that her spirit
Lies within us as well as around us. She is
Our anatomy, our character, our composition
And constitution. We are in tune, we are one:
Liquid and solid and gas combined,
Part of the ether, part of the past and future
And everything between. The ground below
Our feet, the atmosphere we inhale in a gasp
Of pleasure or exhale to speak out and sing.
She is as stunning when she wakes as when
She goes to sleep. A pin-up queen, the ideal
Of breathtaking charm; the duchess of
Delicate balance and proportion; the epitome
Of dignified, feminine, matronly, maidenlike
Grace; of grit and determination, glorious
Unconquerable attitude. As close to perfection
As you can get. She is beauty and inspiration,
Wisdom and purity, life and death and birth.
She is the current that generates creative thought.
The spark that ignites artistic brushstrokes.
The charge that leaps from braincell to braincell
Conducting moods and actions like an orchestra.
The impetus for change. The melody of hope.
The harmony of peace. The motivation to be
Bold, to be brave, to be different. She is
The stardust of dreams, the fabric of love,
The essence of imagination. She is the mother
Of invention and Nature, which have been known
To clash like siblings; she is who we come home to
After drifting a sea of constellations or swimming
Against moontides. She may be riled by
Random circumstance; watch out for her
Tempestuous personality. When reacting to
Contempt, neglect, the ravaging of her gifts,
Beware a woman scorned. Her wrath is
Tremendous, and there is nowhere to run
From her unladylike behavior. Angered,
She will hurl lightning with a cacophony of
thunder as if the heavens were crashing down.
She will pour a flood of tears; inflict a wave
Of anger, anguish, provoked emotions.
Try to understand, underneath the drama
There may be a wound unhealed, scars from
A history of disrespect or lack of care.
She is first a lady, like any mom, and requires
Courtesy. Like the female of a species,
Her strength and perseverance deserve
A shining regard, a reflection of her love,
Though she may linger in the background
Unnoticed, forgotten, less flashy and
Attention-seeking. A nurturing force,
She furnishes a bounty of thankless support,
Asking so little of her children while
Imparting a diversity of unrivaled treasures,
Shelter and nourishment. It should be a crime,
A mortal sin to not appreciate her —
To not protect Mother Nature, Mother Earth.
Once I had a mother
Who was not like any other
She was a lot like yours, I’m sure
But yours was not a lot like her
My mummy was rather odd
As if emerged from a creepy pod
Or a moldy old sarcophagus
Raveled in linen straps like a truss
Then she produced a kid like me
As out of the ordinary as can be
Possessing attributes uncommon
Wearing one long rag like a cup of ramen
The same as you in certain ways
Yet sorting the gnarliest of Bad Hair Days
Every strand in a perplexing knot
Which vexes and flusters me a lot
But isn’t why I seem abnormal
It’s that I’m never quite conformal
I use strange words that don’t exist
And like to give my life a twist
As if it were all a sinister plot
In fact, I’m not so sure it’s not
We were born alike, I guess
Unless you crawled from a gothic mess
Where you were being put together
A jigsaw puzzle of flesh and weather
Sparked to life by nuts and bolts
The limp target of electric jolts
It wouldn’t matter in the least
If you were made of ginger and yeast
Concocted by a spell, a voodoo curse
Spat out by a cat or something worse
As long as you don’t pull my threads
Unwind my bindings, mock my dreads
We can play here all day and night
My mummy’s tomb is sealed up tight
She likes to take the lengthiest nap
We won’t disturb her if we clap
Her ears fell off countless years ago
She’s bandaged so it doesn’t show
I think she’s the prettiest mummy ever
Rigorous too, rather ghoulish and clever
Except while playing possum or passed out
Dead to the world as a drunken lout
Silent and brittle within a box of stone
Or stiffly chiding to let her alone!
At times I’m cradled in her cold embrace
A little mumby, wrapped toe to face
Rocked by shriveled arms and breast
My head against a vacant chest
It is then I sense a special flutter
Like wings inside thicker than butter
Forever could I sleep in her gaunt hug
Cozy and still, never feeling more snug
A mummy’s love is a sacred treasure
Enduring beyond all earthly measure
It is there I am safe at last to slumber
And nary a care may dare encumber
Until her withered appendages break
From too many games of Paddycake
And a swaddled babe would sorely tumble
To the museum floor then crack and crumble
I will lie at her feet in strewn decay
To be swept, repaired, and made okay
My owies glued, the bandages restored
And my mummy laid flat as an ironing board
To rest in one piece with me at her side
But I always slip out, then skip off and hide.
These days a mother might be scoffed at
For staying home, as Feminism battles to
Gain recognition, as women fight for equality.
It’s unfortunate that this is necessary
In a world where mothers are so important
And should be revered, considered valuable;
Where ladies have demonstrated themselves
To be as smart and wise as any man, as
Talented and skilled, as strong in so many
Ways. We have nothing left to prove.
Yet it’s sad that men born of women could
Still put females down and treat them
With disdain or even violence. A shame
That humanity has not even reached the
Level of intelligence and civilization
Where no culture will consider women
Objects, possessions, property. Where
No person will be enslaved, no girl forced
To wed, no worker paid less for being
Branded an inferior gender. Why is
The modern world so unfair to women?
It is as inexplicable and absurd as bias
Over the color of one’s skin. Until we
Judge everyone by their individual merits
And deeds rather than superficial traits,
We cannot call ourselves a civilized society.
Men are not the only persecutors; women
Need to stop pressuring all women to be
This or that, to be champions of whatever
They now view as feminine. I am for
Balance, for a middle ground between
Extremes. I think the world needs more
Gentle men and gentle women. Let us
Remember, ladies and gents, to be kind,
To be decent, and to treat others with
Respect — just like your mother taught you.
I have heard it whispered
along the edges of the zones
where nobody is foolish enough
to enter, afraid of what prowls
the interior. I’ve heard a lot of things:
idle talk, truth or wisdom, advice
for staying alive. Words are like rain.
You know you can’t rely on the drops
to be clean, to keep falling. They just start
and stop when they please. Ghost rain,
it comes and goes. That’s all there is
in these parts. The great storms of the past
are gone. They say the monsters guard
lakes underground, secret pools in the
desert, tarns sheltered by mountains.
There are many rumors and legends
about the creatures, driven by hope
and desperation; by greed, humanity’s
bane. We battle them to stay alive.
It keeps us from fighting each other,
makes us feel civilized. We might be
reduced to mere savages — packs of
marauding beasts, without actual beasts
to set us apart from them . . . establish
who, correction, what we are not.
They set a standard of behavior,
Not that everyone is polite, considerate.
We are all just dealing on our terms
with the collapse of society, the demise
of anything good or sane.
A repeated wisp of gossip flashed in
my skull like a beacon. The catalyst for
this adventure: I wondered if it was
a fact the things could have mothers.
Such a wild notion sounded quite
incredible, fantastic, yet I knew
from studies of history that most life
originated from a womb of some sort.
It’s my belief there is a cosmic mother
for everything, a maternal source.
I carry a sense of this inside,
on a deeper level, and there the idea
didn’t seem far-fetched or impossible,
struggle as my brain did to grasp
that these hideous beings of nightmare
were young and vulnerable at any point.
What is real does not necessarily
have to be reasonable. Only tenable.
After most of the animals disappeared,
monsters came down from the hills,
out of the wastelands — dreadful,
so nasty and harsh-tempered. Men were
still organized; governments hadn’t failed,
been overthrown, the concept abandoned.
With the monsters came pernicious wars
that halted internal conflicts between
human beings, who must now bond
and band together against their
childhood fears, these wretched ogres
out of a distorted mind’s imaginings.
They are winning — thrashing us with
sly unpredictable attacks, untraceable —
striking anyone, any age, in devilish hits.
The methods vary; no certainties exist.
A single constant, that they are brutal.
Utterly vicious; terrifyingly cruel.
My hands tremble as I scrawl this.
I wanted to be a writer when there
were presses, practically a lifetime ago.
I scribble thoughts on scraps found
in abandoned houses, with ink or paint,
dirt mixed with spit or sweat, blood
from an arm if I must. Anything.
I feel compelled to record the horrors
taking place, to serve as witness in case
we disappear. We cannot last . . .
They allow no chance for us to rest
or rebuild, to prepare, as if the earth
has simply opened up and spills them
forth in retaliation, out of self-defense,
an endless legion from Hell. I did not
need to seek them, crossing into Badlands,
the infernal hinter regions they inhabit.
I must know, must see with my own eyes;
as my mother said, curious to a fault.
Are they born or shaped with vengeful
nonchalance . . . spewed out of a molten
mud frenzy? They come to feed and toy
with us. At first my kind had hunted them
for water; we cower from their raids.
Resistance seems an exercise in futility.
The will to survive is frail, splintered by
brain-numbing assaults. We are human
after all, subject to emotions and faultlines.
Anger fades to acceptance, to inevitability,
the embrace of fate, a doomed mentality.
We are a lost species, perishing like others,
soon to be extinct. My days are numbered
by the odds as well as years. I have little left
to relinquish. The sacrifice is purely selfish.
I need to glimpse them at their root, their core.
It won’t be long . . . Steps crunch black soil
that is firm yet fragile. Courage flares, a torch
blazing with interest, fascination, kindled
from a meager wick, the wavering flame
of a candle. This will be my glory, my last
hurrah! Fingers do not shake as I pause
to pen a final statement, a belated insight:
Knowledge is life; love is water,
to be sipped and savored; truth is
everything and nothing, for it cannot
be held in your hand, only your heart.
I will carry it to my grave, but in the end
have an empty fist clutching air,
grabbing the wind as I topple and die.
All I wish at present is to endure
long enough to reach my destination —
to have the satisfaction of a small
yet profound victory. Coarse snarls!
I duck behind a ridge, pulse throbbing.
The frightful cretins have no mercy.
Brawny, bold, they stalk these barrens
to protect what the creatures claimed.
I do not begrudge them terrain or water;
they can have it, these diverse masters
of the planet, like dinosaurs before us;
apex predators. Hail the current kings,
it is their turn to reign. I hope they’ll be
kinder, not treat the world as we have
despite our intelligence. We brought this
on ourselves, a new age of violence,
unleashing a dominant species to replace
corrupt rulers. Could it be that we created
these monsters somehow? Playing God.
What stupid malignant lords we were.
It saddens me, for some of us did not
deserve this awful conclusion to the
human chapter. It is the sweetness, the loss
of innocence I mourn once the beasts
are distant from my position. Recovering,
resuming the journey, I scout discreetly
then hear a chorus of howls as if baying at
the Moon, but the sky is pale not dimmed.
Sunlight still gleams, and through its radiance
I can view a circle of ogres prancing, parading
gruffly in a festive tenor. Apparently a custom!
Orbs round with astonishment, I stare between
two rocks, then gasp in wonder at a crying infant
nestled by the arms of one that squats within
the ring of celebrators — each unique and ugly.
Here it is; I cannot believe my fortune!
There has been a birth, an addition to the tribe
of abominations. However crude and vulgar,
the fiends are capable of sentiment, compassion,
not mindless rampages without a trace of
cunning or concern. More exceptional;
more depraved, barbaric and revolting than
I could have conceived. A chill travels my veins.
Cold fog penetrates my soul, the brume of
terror seeping into my bones, crystallizing
the marrow to bits of ice like a shattered window.
I cannot believe my eyes, no, they must be lying!
How could these killers — these heinous unholy
slashers of men, women, and children — have
families of their own? Then I recall the crimes
of mankind, the slaying of lambs and calves,
baby seals, jovial dolphins, whales and elephants,
and each other . . . There has been no lack of
wars and slaughter by human beings during
the ample generations of our existence.
My guard is lowered. Abruptly I am moved
to uncontrollable sobs, gut-wrenching tears.
The wails betray my presence. Monstrous brutes
detect my location. Abruptly I am in the midst
of a new circle. The mother saunters near,
bringing her baby to join the throng.
Trollish beasts salivate like I will be their
banquet, the feast of demons. My gaze is locked
on a child. All babies are cute if you squint.
This one is beautiful. And I realize in a burst
of madness: You can indeed love your enemy.