On a complicated Mother’s Day

for my now-gone momma and for anyone for whom this day comes with a little sting

Oh mothers — and all you gentle nurturers of other people’s children
who show up at just the right moments —

And daughters of mothers,
Soon-to-be mothers,
Would-be mothers,
Choose-not-to-be mothers,

Can I just be honest and say: like any day
that comes with its own greeting card section,
this day is complicated.
Like our scrolling feeds,
we know deep down 
there is something suspect about perfection,
about making a whole day
out of a wishful worshipped moment.

Certainly gratitude is good and useful — 
but it’s no surprise the day doesn’t always hold together.

What I want to say to you is this:

Whatever the source of the unraveling,
whatever has been said to you,
things done and left undone,
the days you lived like a stilted or gilded version of yourself
in a story that someone else wrote,

whatever you are missing today, right now
(because I’ve seen those impossibly tiny hands,
with skin so new and translucent that you can see
the blood pump in the thin sparks of veins at the fingertips,
like a flint striking over and over and over again,
trying so hard, so hard to start a fire;
And I’ve seen the old and bent and papery hands;
And I sat for days in a white room, holding a still, cool hand 
that did not hold mine before letting go) —

I want to say out loud

that what is lost or absent — whether ghostly or simply never-was — 
is part of us, for sure,
but it is not us in our entirety.
No one ever tells us this, but it’s still true: 
grief can be an honored guest at any table.
And this day, like all the other days, can be beautiful 
in its uncertainty and mess and longing and celebration.

We can name what is missing
and still be found whole.