The Only Response to a Grief So Large
in response to Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland
When your mother dies and you are her only daughter,
and this was not a mother who
came at you with all her needs,
this was the mother whose delicate breasts fed you,
how firm and full they were
you felt the calm and patience with which
they were offered,
the natural musk of her, almost patchouli
and you remember this in some way.
This was the mother who
when you fell off your new bicycle
sure you would never be able to ride it,
held you until you finished your tears
then said “would you like to try again?”
Let you say yes in your own time.
This was the mother who read you stories
whose voice invited you into the world of tangled forests
luminous creatures. Lost, then found again.
To remember and celebrate this mother
you patiently choreograph photographs
animated by your obsessive
attention to ash whiteness of face and eyelashes
surrounded by extravagant flowers and fruits
purple tulips, white anemones,
deep green of ivy leaves
a headdress of a hundred yellow roses
copper bells and green beads woven
sceptres, filigreed orbs
the mother young and iridescent standing in
a gown of yellow leaves in an autumn forest
long trail of orange marigold heads
on the path back
face and dress garlanded by flowers.
And the death-face
a silver mask
with a crown of roots.
Everywhere, books, splayed open
to the stories which permeate
this radiant grief that passes
into these costumes,
Editor's note: We regret that we were unable to contact the artist whose stunning work inspired this poem. Lisa Fotios' image shown is beautiful, but was not the source of the poet's ekphrastic piece. Please follow this link to visit Kirsty Mitchell's Wonderland, which is essential viewing alongside the poem.
John graduated from UBC with a degree in English. His poems have appeared in the Titmouse Review and The Maynard. He attended the Writing With Style program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and lives, writes and wanders the streets in East Vancouver.
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