Diane Raptosh’s poem immediately brought this piece to mind–if she can talk to her unborn grandchild, then I can share talking to my dead mother– though I am determined to dive into more epistolary poems after reading hers.
I read a book last month that dropped me down into a waterless lake where gasses ignited like fox fire and illuminated the glass of ice overhead, stars glinting through like fireworks, and the birds, trapped down there, rushing up to the translucent surface and stunning themselves silly. I wanted to go there with you. I wanted to call you and talk about what I had read–the wonders of Rick Bass, the wilderness of our lives.
Instead, I talked to my sisters who have been reading the same stories and we each tugged quietly on our own memories of living in the woods, the holler, or the bush, which contributed to our appreciation of this author’s sensibilities, his propensity for keeping his stories close to the wild.
I can see you now with your stacks of books beside your chair, an open book on your lap, chin in hand, your head just slightly bowed to catch the phrases spread across the page. Remember when Colette and Anais Nin swept through the house like a tidal wave? You missed Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, Mom, and Brian Doyle’s Mink River. And the poetry—don’t get me started on the poetry! Which has come a long way since your Dylan Thomas. . . .
I just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you, Mom, and that if you ever decide to come back, to continue reading, for instance, then know that I’m in—I will read with you, from whatever distance; we all have cell phones now, you know–well, all except Mary Agnes—and we can pick them up any time, day or night, and read our favorite lines to one another.
Goodnight, Mom. Don’t forget to turn off NPR before you climb under the covers or I’ll think that talk show host, mumbling though the walls, is you, talking in your sleep.
This poem was previously published in the Oregon English Journal, Winter 2018.