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.
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.
Marilyn Nelson's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (Mama's Promise by Marilyn Nelson )
- Gentle Laughter, RoseAnn V. Shawiak
- PH: Nature: Canoeing the Mississippi #5, Brian Johnston
- Existence Of An Only Time, RoseAnn V. Shawiak
- Diwali..., DRASHI SHAH
- Season And Interest, George Egba
- Heart Turned To Stone, RoseAnn V. Shawiak
- Flying October, Vinaya Joseph
- অলস কবি, Yakub Ali
- Intimately Caressed, RoseAnn V. Shawiak
- চান যা পাবেন তা!, Md. Ziaul Haque
Poem of the Day
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- A Drinking Song, William Butler Yeats
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
Alfred Lord Tennyson
(6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
- Heather Burns
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)