Four years ago, my mom asked me to write a poem for the family reunion gathering. I do not typically write poems on a schedule, but you have to make exceptions where your mama is concerned. With it being Mother’s Day weekend, I wanted to honor my mother by posting the poem here.
Family Poem (for Mama)
(originally posted on this website’s Weekly Wafer page on August 6, 2017)
Long before you are born
Your family’s eyes and hands are running all over you
Studying your mama’s belly
Trying to decide if you are a boy or a girl.
When you are little, the family is squatting, asking you your name
And what you learned in school
Smiling at you and telling you how cute you are
Then looking past your cuteness
And hunting for bits and pieces of themselves
In your gestures and your speech,
Asking where the dimples came from and how long you will keep that baby hair.
Family knows your hair, your toes, and everything else
Everything you spend the rest of your life hiding from the rest of the world
Your family must know
So that you won’t forget it.
A family survives by telling stories that no one else thinks are important,
In places where no one else can hear them
Guarding them with their lives and their hearts.
Family hold you back, then push you forward
When you see yourself falling
They see you
Stumbling and splitting your forehead on a coffee table corner
And they remember how you cried when that happened –
Yes, you did cry, but you got up first –
Your family believes in you.
They remind you of the life you are busy forgetting in your
Bustling and your fleeing, in your hunger for freedom.
Your family teaches you the meaning of freedom.
When they let you go,
Things open up for you and things die right in front of you
You lose things and you can’t get them back,
You break things and you can’t put them back together,
And you can’t fault mama and daddy, or my sister that, or my brother so-and-so,
You have to learn to fail on your own, get mad on your own, face yourself on your own.
When your dreams turn their backs on you
Your family kisses you and gives you a bed and tells you everything is gonna be alright
And for them everything is alright, because you are with them
And you mean more to them than a whole world of dreams.
A family will wait 20 years for you to come home
Will remember all your names
A family can stomach strong smells and dirty hair
They can take your being rude
They can handle that awful mess you made
As long as you don’t lie about it
You will hurt them
But they will heal
You may push them away
But they will pull you back
No matter how far you run
Or how you acted that day
You have a home
Among these faces
Inside these hugs
And these hands
The hands you have held and let go
These are the hands of the people who have missed and waited for you
The people you have sometimes forgotten, sometimes remembered, and always loved
These people are your birthright
They are your family.
Copyright © 2017 Stacy Torian. All rights reserved.
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