I wrote this poem while teaching at the Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community in Las Animas Colorado as a Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshop Writer in Residents. The poem was an unexpected gift I gave myself.
PORTRAIT OF MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
She’s standing up, straddling the portable commode,
her soft black leggings down around her ankles.
I am wiping her after she is done
and for the first time I feel how soft and frail
she is down there; for the first time I see
how much of her has become thin, and soft as bruised petals.
The hair is gone here too
as it is from her head and the rest of her,
a thing I should have expected
but hadn’t thought about.
We never talked about this moment.
I never asked what shame or pride or love it held for her.
But I tell you: I carry no greater memory
than this, of cleaning and caring for
this place where I am from,
this bare and honest earth,
this old house of passion
now a country cottage
who has begun the slow collapse
back into the wild garden of herself,
who is showing me even now the path home,
my own way forward
into soft earth,
the wild fertility of ruin.
Alexandra Donovan (formerly Alexandra Martin) is a poet, teacher, chaplain, workshop and retreat leader, and grant-writer based in the Los Angeles, CA, and Fort Collins, CO areas. Her first chapbook, Mother Stump, is now available from Yak Press.