Jeanne Murray Walker

(1944 / Parkers Prairie, Minnesota)

Birthday - Poem by Jeanne Murray Walker

It was years before I grasped how if I wrote it,
no one would believe me, how the phone rang
as I was getting dressed, as I was listening
to my mother sing in the kitchen on her birthday,

happy finally after two years as a widow-
missing him in a different way, maybe, humming
about the miracle of reaching one more station,
even without him, the power of her body

to keep her children in clothes, in food, the miracle
that she has strength to walk to work and back,
that someone pays her for what she loves to do,
that God gives us no more grief than we can bear

and now her oldest child, imagine! at college
where she wanted to be once herself, poised on the lip
of knowledge, and so her September morning
opened like a door into the sky, into some greater

likelihood, and when the phone rang
it might have been the stars calling to ask
whether they had the right address, it might
have been joy with a marriage proposal—

all of which came later- but this was a voice
that told her my brother was dead, how he was
sorry, how her son was with Jesus now, how
no one knew what happened, and I slunk in

and watched as if I were our dog, Rags; I learned
entirely from the way her shoulders slumped,
and her voice weakened like worn cloth, I knew,
I knew, since I had been schooled in the ways

of grief, and yet when she straightened herself
to tell me, she was a mountain, she was huge
and shining, on her forehead I saw hope,
and you will not believe me, it was enough.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, July 9, 2016

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