Monday, November 12, 2007

"What I Learned From My Mother" by Julia Kasdorf

Last month Stacy and I attended a funeral at Tom Lynch's place in Milford. The grandmother of a friend had passed away. Lynch has poems in frames up all over the place. I read this one there for the first time and haven't been able to get it out of my head since. So I'm sharing it with you.

What I Learned From My Mother
By Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

(From Sleeping Preacher, 1992 University of Pittsburgh Press)


Anonymous said...

Dear D'Anne--

Please stop posting poems that make me cry.


D'Anne Witkowski said...

People will have to stop writing them first.

Claire Callow said...

I just saw Thomas Lynch on a documentary about death and I just simply loved it. He is amazing. I love this poem so much.