on mothers

on mothers

meghan cook

brooke mitchell  

Stephen Dedalus refused to kneel down and pray for his mother on her deathbed. Does that make him a terrible person, or just a terrible son?

“Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe and pity I went to her bedside. She was crying in her wretched bed. For those words: love’s bitter mystery.

“Where now?

“Her secrets: […] folded away in the memory of nature with her toys.

“In a dream, silently, she had come to him,” (1.250-268)

I’m scrambling through the attic: her sweatshirt, pasta stained, still good. Silver bike shorts, elastic’s dry rot, put back. Later, a scrapbook photo of her in my era: blondish bangs, holding a broom for what purpose. These are the photos I love most, pre-me. She’s always up to no good, I can tell. If we look alike, that’s fine, though my hair has only darkened and hers lightens with wispy whites. She’s not old, though, not yet.

Though less than a year ago I slept in the house alone. She had me call the ambulance. Bright flicker-flashing on the street outside our living room. Polite boys carry her stretchered downstairs. Not too heavy. Onto the gurney. Her, away. I, stay. Journaling in my room, feeling funny about the thought: my parents are getting old. And I, over twenty.

Staying with her while her mother died, writing bitter verses on the side. The best poetry I’ve ever written, reaped from a dying woman and her daughter’s best intentions. No point in repenting now, but I blush for shame. What seemed like torture at the time left no markings. My hands are unscalded, my nose is unwrinkled. But her car broke down. It was temporary, and I drove angry.

What she asks, I hesitate to give. The things I let slide by checking my pocket catch her eye, but I keep my secrets even so. Denial occupies the back seat, curls between us on the couch. On the verge of relenting, I bite my tongue. Easy to become her, hard to let her know her.

meghan cook
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Meghan Cook is a senior studying English Secondary Education with a side of Philosophy. She rows for the Susquehanna University Crew Team, which rows seasonally on the Susquehanna River. She had the opportunity to study and live in Galway, Ireland, for seven months and hopes to continue her international exploration through teaching abroadShe enjoys reading novels before bed.