a mother’s dying

oral history:

my mother whispered to hers, “it’s like childbirth,
you have to let go,”
as she slipped away from herself
leaving the body chill, dying is surely
one way of being born.

new reading:

it is akin to her own birth
for the child to behold a mother’s dying


our history is sprinkled with the salt of loss
forfeiture defines the pair of us
and all our words have been an elegy
to that primordial unity
before weaning, school and weddings pulled me
from the anchor of your flesh.

a mother’s dying is the final echo of being born.
birth was the first time I lost her
her death will be the last.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “a mother’s dying”?

“A Mother’s Dying” was written just after I learned my mother had been diangosed with a terminal cancer. I didn’t know how to cope with what I was feeling. So I wrote a poem as a way to find a larger context of meaning. The poem doesn’t so much express the raw emotion I felt at the time as it detaches me from it.

What poetic techniques did you use in “a mother’s dying”?

Techniques in the poem include metaphor, rhythm, postmodern self-consciousness, enjambment, alliteration, understatement, quotation, and imagery.

This poem “a mother’s dying” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 156 (Spring 1998): 82-82.

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