Ann Keiffer

Her Words

My mother,
our mother,
died at 94,
leaving a fully-ripened, meaningful life.
Oddly, I find my grief isn’t coming
in gouts of mourning that she is missing…
I am grieving, more,
over Life’s losing
a sensitive observer
who truly saw Life and held it all dear.
I am grieving, too,
that I have lived so far away
from home so many years
I may not have treasured
or perceived full-measure
what I might have shared
with my mother had I been near.
And strangely, now that she is gone
I find her amazingly close,
entirely present with me
in the words she left
on computer and paper,
as I gather them to make a book.

…Letters and notes of concern,
encouragement and congratulations
to friends and siblings,
children and grandchildren;

…Pieces she wrote for herself about
barefoot summers on the farm,
driving the blind team of horses,
milking cows in the barn—
finishing her milking,
then helping her brother catch up,
falling in love with my dad,
such sadness in his early death;

…Her words about loving the busy years
when we kids were growing up,
boosters club and banquets,
carpools for football games
and cheerleading practice,
cooking, cleaning, baking,
sewing prom dresses
and wedding dresses for her girls;

…Her words about
growing old, giving up driving,
needing a walker, feeling “invisible;”

…Her words about
family reunions on the homeplace,
the hay rides, contests and races,
the picnic tent and porta-potty,
little kids’ happy screaming
and games in the yard;

…Her words about
regret—no heavy self-condemnation,
only wondering how things
might have been different;

…Her words about
her joys, her abiding faith,
her thoughts on adversity,
how it can make you strong.

In her words,
she is still so present
maybe especially to her word-girl,
the one she knew me to be.

My mother and I lived
so many miles apart for so long,
still, she was always “there,”
back in Ohio,
my lifetime point of reference,
my mom.

In the weeks following her death,
I felt a little like a blind person
tap-tap-tapping with my very-long cane,
trying to find that reference point
that will tell me where I am.
I am tap-tap-tapping with my cane,
but my reference point is gone.
Except for her words.
Such a perceptive observer,
someone who painted with her words,
a poet who hardly ever wrote poetry.
And I marvel at what I had not known before:
my mother was a word-girl, too.

Ann Keiffer
April, 2019


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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