The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged #mother

When I was a little girl,
I lived in a house with a big garden
that gently sloped into a ravine.
Across the water, lived a willow tree
and when my brother and I
followed the stream against the current,
it lead to an open field full of
huge rocks- islands to our childminds
and we swore the water there was magic.

When mom got sick,
I used to walk up stream to
sit, skinny legs folded up against my chest,
smoke cigarettes, let the stream that
has held me my entire life
hold me then

I questioned a lot then, but never that the water
was magic.

And when she died,
I planted a tree beside her grave
one with purple flowers
like the ones in her garden
like the ones on the kitchen table
passed down from her mother to her
the ones that died when she did

because I’ve never been great with houseplants
but I know a few things about putting down roots.

When I grew up to experience
the first bookend loss,
I drove to Lake Ontario
just like she would have done
and scoured the shore
for a jar full of lake glass
and with my own hope for comfort,
the kind I’ve always felt
rooted in water,
I almost forgot to listen
to the messages she sent through the lake-

Something about collecting and purging
what fills her without any control of her own.

So when the second bookend loss came,
it was waterless winter ice
and it’s taken until spring to thaw
and I can’t help but think that maybe

if I stop



my body

motherless child
childless mother

might find that I can
simultaneously be
to the elements that have held me my whole life
and maybe by feeling held,
I can hold her too.


I’ve been listening to poetry
For hours trying to find
Something that feels as familiar
As you did the first time you
Introduced me to the static
Of this world that mid summer
Red hot
Rose petal
True love
My mother
You were like a Friday evening
And I was Saturday morning
You looked at me like I was
The best choice you had ever made
So when I celebrate you on
This day I am tied to
With the roots of your arteries
On this harvest moon
I’ll hold you at the helm
Of the care that you gave me
While I hear the echo of your
Heeled shoes through the sound
Of the still static.

Losing you is a lot to hold.

Sometimes, it feels like I’m losing you all over again. While I mourned for the mother I had as a child, as I grow into an adult, I am realizing that there is a whole other aspect to this loss. I have never mourned for the person I never had the privilege of knowing. My adult self never knew your adult self. My perception of you as a person, through the eyes of a little girl, could not have possibly been accurate or well-rounded, and as I grow, and I see my friends with their children, I know that this is true.

Playing such a heavy role in your care while you were sick skewed my perception even further. I was young enough that I don’t even remember you. I don’t remember how your voice sounds (that drives me crazy). I don’t know if you would have condoned many of the choices I’ve made over the past nine years- I don’t even know if you would have liked the person I’ve grown into.

As I’ve watched many of my friends make choices about boundaries in their adult lives with their parents- and as I’ve made my own choices about the boundaries I have with my living parent- I find myself mourning the loss of that choice. The choice to have a relationship with you.

As I watch my friends have children, and as I think about it abstractly, I mourn the fact that you will never meet any one-day child of mine, you will never be there to support me while I go through the process of bringing a human being into the world or raising them. One thing I remember about you, is that you loved being a mother. I think that I will one day too. I wish we could have shared that.

I wish we could have shared a lot of things.

I wish you could have met my partner. I wish you could have seen me graduate- and told me that I should just go straight to grad school instead of putting it off. I wish you could help me pick out clothes for work (my idea of professional attire isn’t exactly the most well-rounded). I wish you could help me paint my apartment, and try out that new lunch spot with me, and warn me about that friend who you KNEW wouldn’t be worth my energy in the end. I wish you were there to answer all my questions about how long to cook chicken breasts or how to shave my legs without razor burn.

But I didn’t have you around then, and I still don’t now. I have raised myself since I was fourteen years old, and while I felt lost for a long time, I’m found now. I found myself, no one did it for me. I did the work. I cared for myself. I nurtured myself. Not gracefully, but successfully none the less. I have been my own mother.

But I also know that would break your heart, because another thing I remember about you is that you never wanted me to feel lost of alone or that I had to mother myself. So sometimes, when I miss you the most, I wrap myself in the quilt the hospital gave you and I breathe in a decade’s worth of missing the you I’ll never get to know.