Learn More

Marilyn Nelson

(1946 / Cleveland / United States)

Mama's Promise


I have no answer to the blank inequity
of a four-year-old dying of cancer.
I saw her on TV and wept
with my mouth full of meatloaf.

I constantly flash on disasters now;
red lights shout Warning. Danger.
everywhere I look.
I buckle him in, but what if a car
with a grille like a sharkbite
roared up out of the road?
I feed him square meals,
but what if the fist of his heart
should simply fall open?
I carried him safely
as long as I could,
but now he's a runaway
on the dangerous highway.
Warning. Danger.
I've started to pray.

But the dangerous highway
curves through blue evenings
when I hold his yielding hand
and snip his minuscule nails
with my vicious-looking scissors.
I carry him around
like an egg in a spoon,
and I remember a porcelain fawn,
a best friend's trust,
my broken faith in myself.
It's not my grace that keeps me erect
as the sidewalk clatters downhill
under my rollerskate wheels.

Sometimes I lie awake
troubled by this thought:
It's not so simple to give a child birth;
you also have to give it death,
the jealous fairy's christening gift.

I've always pictured my own death
as a closed door,
a black room,
a breathless leap from the mountaintop
with time to throw out my arms, lift my head,
and see, in the instant my heart stops,
a whole galaxy of blue.
I imagined I'd forget,
in the cessation of feeling,
while the guilt of my lifetime floated away
like a nylon nightgown,
and that I'd fall into clean, fresh forgiveness.

Ah, but the death I've given away
is more mine than the one I've kept:
from my hands the poisoned apple,
from my bow the mistletoe dart.

Then I think of Mama,
her bountiful breasts.
When I was a child, I really swear,
Mama's kisses could heal.
I remember her promise,
and whisper it over my sweet son's sleep:

When you float to the bottom, child,
like a mote down a sunbeam,
you'll see me from a trillion miles away:
my eyes looking up to you,
my arms outstretched for you like night.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

Do you like this poem?
0 person liked.
0 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: warning, child, fairy, remember, death, car, trust, birth, faith, sometimes, son, friend, red, sleep, children, kiss

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (Mama's Promise by Marilyn Nelson )

Enter the verification code :

There is no comment submitted by members..

Trending Poets

Trending Poems

  1. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  2. A Smile To Remember, Charles Bukowski
  3. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  4. Daffodils, William Wordsworth
  5. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  6. If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
  7. I Am the Only Being Whose Doom, Emily Jane Brontë
  8. Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
  9. Alone, Maya Angelou
  10. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas

Poem of the Day

poet Emily Jane Brontë

I am the only being whose doom
No tongue would ask no eye would mourn
I never caused a thought of gloom
A smile of joy since I was born

In secret pleasure - secret tears
...... Read complete »

   

New Poems

  1. A Mother's Loneliness, Muhammad Farhan Ahmed
  2. God ia not all macho, kalemeera collins
  3. My mom, Meenakshi Hariharan
  4. 2006 Tsunami, Meenakshi Hariharan
  5. Yes, I am emotional, Meenakshi Hariharan
  6. Perspective, DEEPAK KUMAR PATTANAYAK
  7. Let the music play on, Harold R Hunt Sr
  8. A Girl's Proposal, Meenakshi Hariharan
  9. Man, Katherina Palomo
  10. Move on, Edward Clapham
[Hata Bildir]