Before, this box contained my Mother

For months she’d sent me out for index cards

Scribbled with a squirrel concentration

While I’d nag at her, seeing strength

drain, ink-blue, from her finger ends

providing for a string of hard winters

I was trying not to understand.

Only after, opening it, I saw

how she’d rendered herself down from flesh

to paper, alphabetical; there for me

in every way she could anticipate

– Acupuncture: conditions suited to

– Books to read by age twenty-one

– Choux pastry: how to make, when to use.

The cards looked after me. I’d shuffle them

to almost hear her speak. Then, my days

were box-shaped (or was I playing safe?)

for every doubt or choice, a card that fitted

– Exams: the best revision strategy

– Flowers: cut, how to make them last

– Greece: the men, what you need to know.

But then they seemed to shrink. I’d turn them over

find them blank; the edges furred, mute,

whole areas wrong or missing. Had she known?

The language pointed to what wasn’t said.

I’d add notes of my own, strange beside

her urgent dogmatism, loosening grip

– infinitives never telling love

– lust single issue politics when

– don’t hopeless careful trust.

On the beach, I built a hollow cairn,

tipped in the cards. Then I let her go.

The smoke rose thin and clear, slowly blurred.

I’ve kept the box for diaries like this.

By Carole Satyamurti.