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Remembering Mom: Five Poems



for Chris Allen

Winter evenings just after sunset,
my future father would stride athletic
under and beyond that lone blue light set
back from locked doors, dark windows, pathetic
white walls of the asylum, and through chilled
Little Rock night, a cocky bachelor
orderly, making his way to her, filled
with a young man’s hope for touch, for smiles, for
heaven’s laughter glowing in her hazel
eyes. My future mother, ears a bee’s hum
from a day’s work on the switchboard at Bell,
would blot her lipstick with Kleenex, succumb
to admiring mirrors, ponder and sigh,
awaiting fiery blue light of his eyes.



Internet radio flows Loreena
McKennitt’s soprano semi-whisper,
transforming to Celtic St. John of the
Cross’s images of dark night’s specter,
haunting strings framing her mystical voice.
Beyond those strings, my mother is singing
her soft, a cappella, eternal choice
of Irish legend she loved while living:
gentle plea to young Danny to return
when summer’s in the meadow. She would hold
my child’s frame close, quiet my crying yearn
to end the toothache, or my coughing cold,
rocking me to cloudlike silence with her
own, then-young, soprano semi-whisper.



My mother’s brother, I only saw him
once I recall, after World War II when
I was five, maybe six. I barely skim
his vision now, dressed in brown, body thin
as a birch, pecan-shaped face like my mom’s
and mine. We sat over bowls of home-blend
vegetable soup in our kitchen. She hummed
of their seven siblings. He just listened.
Shell-shocked from combat, hand trembling, chain smoke
surrounding him. He didn’t stay long. I
watched him disappear in the sun that broke
through thick clouds where Kavanaugh curved down by
Van Buren. I still hear her crying, low
voice sighing, Oh, Joe…oh my dear, sweet Joe.



for my mother

As Mary talks
of walking a Long Island garden
with her grandmother
I walk there too
but I am with you
our arms wrapped like vines
as we wander the gravel path
surrounded by columning clouds of
lilies leaning like limp Victrolas
and rising rows of roses
suddenly falling
into a flowing field of sunflowers.
We look a long time.
I feel you tiptoe toward my ear.
I bend to catch your whisper:
“Van Gogh would have liked it here.”




for Joan and Frank

Today we celebrate our late mother’s
birthday, December 23rd. I smile,
recalling her pose for photographers,
feigning a coquettish cover-girl style
on our couch or front doorstep. We three kids
would laugh as she turned family snapshots
into five-second fashion shoots, eyelids
fluttering, hazel eyes wide like in plots
of silent movies, lips pursed like Lily
Damita. She never complained, that I
recall, of her long days and nights. Early
mornings she prepped breakfasts and ham on rye
for school; managed the Prospect each evening,
locking the movie-house doors when leaving.



Roger Armbrust

Roger Armbrust's articles and columns have covered labor and management, Congressional legislation, and federal court cases, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. He formerly served as national news editor of Back Stage in New York City, where he also taught a professional writing course at New York University. His recent book of sonnets -- oh, touch me there: Love Sonnets -- is available from Amazon and other book sites. He is an associate curator of The Clyde Fitch Report. He is also co-founder and co-curator of reality: a world of views.

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