Anniversary Poem

(on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death)

If I could crack open your heart
unstick the clotted care and make it flow again
undo my failures, or do the penance they deserve
I could save myself and you
be the superman I wanted to be
as a child in my underwear, towel tied round my neck
jumping from the sofa.

There is no redemption that fits this.
God forgives, I see that every sundown
but you are made of sterner stuff
like the dreams from which I wake groggy with loss:
we’re always traveling, always late for somewhere, something.
I am always unready, taken by surprise.

If I could smooth that brow with fingers that would make it stay
I would keep it secret
I would wait until the time was right
the next breath, for instance.
My next stop would be the hospital
to perform other miracles, towel flying behind me.
I’d hide behind doors and cheer children
steal worry away from old women
silence crying
replace it with a lifting sigh
that would color the night.

I would then use my power
to travel back in time
ten years
and tell you what I’d done
to see your pride one last time.
You’d frown at the towel, but I’d bargain with you awhile
For more time, and other powers
things you might grant me now
but could not then.

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