The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Eve Packer – Poetry

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dark angel
(from calvary)

by eve packer

 

all you’ll ever be
is a one-nite stand
says my mother, at the holiday party
i am throwing, in front of my ex-
husband, son, & a friend-friend,
i take the Courvoisier out of her
hand, now its November,
you have a pool problem
she says from her bed
at Calvary–yes, MPHC
pool is undergoing renovation–
I am swimming at WorldWide Plaza,
basement, not so clean, but doable,
and i get a phone–flip–no iphones yet–

i get this phone because i know
they will have to contact me,
she will go very soon, metastic melanoma–
and as well as swimming, i am still
working as a Home Instruction teacher–

so: there is a t-mobile that opens up
in a tiny space on 8th ave, just south of 14th–
the whole cell phone thing makes me nervous–
but here i am–and the salesperson is….
how can i say this: the handsomest man
i have ever met–tall, dark, extraordinary–
he is, it turns out, from Egypt, in a lovely
yellow sweater, glorious silver bracelet–
i get my phone–

the next morning the hospital calls–
you’d best come up today–
i am about to go into the pool,
then –take the 2 to 180th, a livery taxi–and i am
there–meet sam, my son, and greer, soon-to-be
daughter-in-law –fill out the paperwork–someone
holds me up–

we are at my mom’s bedside–she is
unconscious–we call her older, favorite
brother–so she can hear his voice in her
ear–my cousin is there, its his birthday,
so i will always remember the date:
nov. 6th, 2002–
there is nothing more to be done–
we head downtown, take care of the cremation details
at the funeral home in little italy–then head to soho
and have a bite to eat–they head off, i head

uptown, back to the pool, then subway
home–but notice the sound not working right
on the phone, can barely hear–will stop at the
t-mobile place– without warning: its locked–out of business–
but, the guy next door says–knock, he’s there
and cleaning up–

i knock, the door opens–my phone, i say
isnt working right–
he fixes it in a sec–then i tell him
my predicament–my mother, i say,
is dying up at Calvary–

my mother he says, when she was dying,
i sat and sat with her, i didnt leave her side–
go back up there he says, thats where you
need to be–

its now about 7, dark, cold, november–
i walk from 8th to 7th ave, take the 2
again, to 180th, a livery taxi happens
to pass by– to the hospital–its now about 8:30 pm–
my mom still breathing–
i get some tea, open the daily news–
my body at bedside uncoils, unclenches–

i sit for a minute or two, then hear–
have only read descriptions of the death rattle–
but its unmistakable–a deep rattle cough, harsh
unyielding–drop the paper, hold her–
i tell her we all love her, and i name all our names,
i tell her we’ll be allright, and hear a voice, mine,
i’m singing ‘easy living’, her & my father’s favorite
billie holiday song, the only time i think, they really
ever got along–i am holding her, its allright, we’re all right,
we love you, she is finding it so hard to breathe,
and i hold her, find myself saying, you can can let go–

and she’s gone
****** ***** *****

the assistant rabbi comes, a lovely
young woman, long hair, arm around me
for a minute–i call a taxi, i call greer
& sam– they are at the house. waiting
for me.

the next day the t-mobile store closed & locked.
the dark angel never again to be seen.

Struggle, my mother used to say, she was talking about
the fierce longings for our art, struggle,
but struggle gently–

i wish only to have the self-control and dignity
she had at the end–save your visits she would say
for when we really need them.

we were arranging an exhibit of her paintings–
an exhibit she just missed seeing–from her Calvary bed
she recorded a message
for future artists: paint, paint–

her name was doris. maiden name: litz.
and litz is how she signs her work.

thurs-fri, 7/19-20/21/18: 2:45; 8:45 pm; 6:45 pm


eve packer – Bronx-born, poet/performer/actress. Appearing widely with dance, poetry, performance, music, theatre. NEH, NYSCA, NYFA awards. Downtown Poet of the Year awards. Numerous publications. Three poetry books (Fly by Night Press). five poetry/jazz CD’s. Teaches at WCC. Mom, Grandmom, lives downtown, swims daily. (evebpacker@aol.com).

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