Outlining: a poem for my mother (and father)

stop growing old
just for a moment
or at least help me understand
my role, my stance
as I find my footing and search for space
between our tentative boundaries.

where do you end and
where do I begin?

I see you: at once an infinitely strong
and courageous woman
who adored her husband and
held our family together
with endless bowls of steaming white rice
and the swirling sounds of music
classical and elegant
sometimes dark and mysterious
this became your gift
enriching our minds, caressing our souls
just like your soft hands and tender kisses
when we were good, or hurt, or eager to sleep.

I look again, and glimpse a face that’s
wrinkled and confused
occasionally distant, yet still familiar
I catch my breath and gaze
the maternal beauty is still there
underneath the weight of time.

now spread across the kitchen table
are letters, bills, and looming decisions
a multitude of worries about how to manage
the gift and burden of
living so long, without him.

where do you end and
how do I begin

even to imagine
a life without you, too.

(2015)

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