October 31, 2014 would have marked my mother’s 90th birthday. In honour of her, I wrote the following poem, inspired by something she had said on the eve of her 80th birthday.

October Moon

When my mother was a whirling girl
The moon was a thing pure
The lily of the night
Understood as untouched

On the cusp of her 80th
Twirl round the sun
As we rolled through an ink-black Gaspé night
To the promise of rest at Rivière-du-Loup
My mother gazed up
At the blossomed October moon
Floating above the round-hipped hills
That gird the great river’s flood plain

“Isn’t it awful to think that people have walked on that”

From the back seat
In the family quiet dark
As my father navigated the night
She said that

She said such a thing!

My mom
Who waxed and buffed our kitchen floor
When I was a shining boy
In the Saturday way

(She offered me then a den fortress
A castle built of refugee chairs
My kingdom a kind ransom
For a kid-free kitchen)

My mom
Who sighed at the inevitable
Of our careless footfalls
On her unsullied surface
As we flooded in
And out again

Mischief and mirth
Bruises and blood
Tides of tears
Heedless of her constant pull to make it all anew

Who wiped our noses
When in from wintry whiles
Whose spittle, very essence
Kept our round faces pure
And turned toward the world

If we, the tale of her tissue
Could retrace our missteps
Wipe away the smudges
The wrinkles!
The sins

Of years disconsolate
Peering ’cross time
Distant bodies reaching out
Silent regret over tranquil seas

Still
In this night
You, quiet presence
Glow

Conquered and pure
Constant and changing
Waxing and waning
Our calm and watchful mother


Originally published at jimkellywriter.com on November 1, 2014.