Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Borders by Sharon Olds

My mother died in July of 2006, but I could not get back up to Ohio until the second week of August, near the Feast of the Assumption (which is tomorrow, the 15th).

And on that day, I scattered her ashes into the Tuscarawas River, in Massillon, Ohio, a few scant feet from where my stepfather (her beloved) had been employed during our 3-year residence there. It was in this location, she said, that she had been the happiest in her lifetime. It was in this location that she was markedly different; she was finally in a country-and-western band that respected her and valued her input. She lived with the man she loved and during the days, briefly attempted the fantasy-sitcom stay-at-home mom role, so valued by the middle-class. She made curtains, she drew sketches in pencil, she put bouquets of flowers on the table. She practiced endlessly, leaving the identifiable bass-lines of various 60s pop-songs in my head forever. She smiled at me.

She was herself there, more than she was anywhere else... before or after.

In the tumultuous years that followed, I often thought of my "Massillon mama"--and wanted her back.

So, I returned her there.


The Borders

To say that she came into me,
from another world, is not true.
Nothing comes into the universe
and nothing leaves it.
My mother—I mean my daughter did not
enter me. She began to exist
inside me—she appeared within me.
And my mother did not enter me.
When she lay down, to pray, on me,
she was always ferociously courteous,
fastidious with Puritan fastidiousness,
but the barrier of my skin failed, the barrier of my
body fell, the barrier of my spirit.
She aroused and magnetized my skin, I wanted
ardently to please her, I would say to her
what she wanted to hear, as if I were hers.
I served her willingly, and then
became very much like her, fiercely
out for myself.
When my daughter was in me, I felt I had
a soul in me. But it was born with her.
But when she cried, one night, such pure crying,
I said I will take care of you, I will
put you first. I will not ever
have a daughter the way she had me,
I will not ever swim in you
the way my mother swam in me and I
felt myself swum in. I will never know anyone
again the way I knew my mother,
the gates of the human fallen.

--Sharon Olds


D. said...

That's a powerful poem,

bryce said...

u made me cry, d.

YogaforCynics said...

Today's the fifth anniversary of my dad's death, so this post particularly resonates with me...

Doc Anchovy said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing about you and your mother. Beautiful story and poem. Happy Feast of the Assumption !.

JoJo said...

I hope you have a peaceful day tomorrow. :)

Joan Kelly said...

I love that you did that for your mom, Daisy, that you brought her back there where she was happiest. I don't know what I believe about whether we're "here in spirit" or nowhere or in our ashes or bodies or what after we pass. But I still feel like you brought your mom there.