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.