Saturday Poem


I took everything from my mother, her liquor, her ghosts,
her sweetness, her heavy lips, her breath of sorrow.
I took her waist and her spools, her ears and her thimble,
I took her green thumb, and the purple cosmos blossoms
that trembled under her kitchen window.
I took her feet and her loneliness, the cities
she lived in, the small towns, their friendless dusks,
her quilts and perfumes and fingers.
I took the sound of her dresses at midnight,
and the goat she kept as a child,
I took the crickets beneath the boards of her first houses
and her lovers; I got lost in their shadows.
I took her hatred of her father,
I ate from her dishes in rooms that smelled of the sea.
I took the war and the horses that pulled the cart
that carried her mother away.
I took the odor of crushed thyme and sweat,
I took a handkerchief embroidered by my great aunt
and the iron in her shoulders and the road signs
of old villages.
I took my mother’s maiden name and her fear of oceans,
I took her bravery and her strangeness,
I took a blessing from her and
the lullabies she whispered, drunk,
and my terror of that dark music.
I took my love for a woman
who walked through a broken doorway
with her eyes closed
following no one.

by Rita Gabis

from The Wild Field; Alice James Books,
Cambridge, MA, 1994