Clara Mitchell submitted her mother’s poems to The Mom Egg two weeks after her mother, Mary Harter Mitchell, passed away from breast cancer.  Two of the poems are included in the 2010 issue.  Here is Clara’s prose piece, written in honor of her mother.


Advice

Clara Mitchell


If you believe in life after death, there is no need to cry when you sift the grit through your fingers and tell your stubborn heart this weight, easily slid over the kitchen table, is the sum of a soul you loved. Because you believe in life after death, do not think about how the body (the smooth hand that took your temperature, the feet you rubbed with lavender lotion when words fell short) gave itself to flames and returned, a fistful of sand, your poor idea of something better.


Let me tell you a story.


I was sixteen.  I thought I knew loads.  I wanted to go on a trip with some friends.  So I did and we went to the beach. We lay in hot sand. We drank beer from paper cups.  We coated our thin arms with coconut oil and let the sun toast us brown.  I thought about driving. I thought about a boy with dark eyes.  I thought about spending seventeen dollars on a new curling iron. Then I got a phone call I did not expect.


There were ghosts in the sky, lumped together like clouds, and they whispered to me and they warned me things would get dark, real soon. There were skies in my eyes, clouding over.


When you are very small, you make suds pies. You will stand at the sink, solemnly on your footstool, squeezing green Palmolive into pie-pans and carefully shaping the clouds of foam. Your mother probably washes dishes beside you. She will often smell faintly like lavender lotion; she hums Willie Nelson, just quietly, as she runs cool water over plates.  She smiles at your concentration but take no notice—you are small, and you should take such gentle things for granted.  Focus on your suds pies. That is important, now.


Let me give you advice.


After the call, there might be trees dropping leaves in shudders of gold.  You might forget to think, how beautiful. You could be out for a run in the park. November trees will arch overhead and sunlight will fall in shattered tiles across your path.  There will be clouds shifting swiftly, changing the images drifting in the river you run by.  Be sure of yourself. Be very, very sure of yourself. Muscle-strung, continue to run: you are young, you’ll be here awhile.  Decide on names for the children you will have with a man you won’t meet for another six years. 


Do not doubt.


And do not allow your thoughts to wander through the quiet, empty rooms of the past--they might never come back.


vox vocis matris

  Copyright 2010 The Mom Egg. All rights reserved.

The Mom Egg

Poet

Mary Harter Mitchell


I pressed Clara’s flowers

in the unabridged dictionary

years ago

in the pink and yellow times

and have just again found them

in the press of words.


She danced on a luminous stage

in pale pink slippers,

youngishly tossing our hearts,

and afterwards her grandparents gave her

yellow carnations,

which she has forgotten.


This is what I do:

I close and open the book.

It is a slow career,

but I do it: I press and then look

to see

what holds.

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