A Mother's Death

Northridge Review, Vol. 1.1 (1983)

Jodi Johnson

When Mother was sick she sent
Morgan and Jason and me
Outside to roll down hills,
Catching hay-colored grass and purple flowers in our hair,
So that at five years cancer seemed
Something made of sky and hot yellow splinters of sun.

I picked sweet peas for Mother,
Purple-pink flowers in a glass by her bed.
But she didn't see--eyes closed, she sang,
Her voice dropping like petals in the room.

It was a year before I knew she was dead,
(Knowing was a dark sour taste on the roof of my heart)
I only thought she was gone
And perhaps walking suddenly into her room one morning
I would catch her there, smelling of sweet peas, singing.

I think that if I could
I would reach both arms around the waist of the world
And squeeze it flat as a sky
To make the dead sprout up.

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