The Map My Mother Drew

I’d like to take you on a journey from birth to death.

No, not from living to dying but from

baby to friend.

And this I guess is my soliloquy, to you from me,

because I finally see that you are inside of me.

 

Mom.

You sat me at a table and laid out a blank page,

you gave me a crayon and told me to map my own way

You held my little hand as I

scrawled back and forth and when we were done you

kissed the page with red lips and pinned it to my heart to guide me.

No compass should chart the winding routes I take or the journey I make,

you just gave me the pallet with which to colour my slate.

 

And all of this time I thought I had been following that map,

but really?

I had folded it into pieces and put it at the back of a drawer,

to come back to for sure.

I held it inside but never really saw because blinded

by possibilities, I never checked for more.

 

And now, stuck to the floor

I can almost reach the door if it wasn’t for this last stage

this last phase of the game,

call out my name because as I realise now

You always check the reverse side of the page.

 

So this little girl, she went back to that drawer.

She slid it open and the hinges had whined,

and she hoped against hope that it was still inside because

it had been years since she had decided to backtrack the tracks of her life’s trajectory

up until now

it had all been perfunctory.

 

Perfunctory.

 

That means shallow and without much reflection and just like mirrors

I was surprised how much of me was rooted in deception.

 

 

But now, I have taken that map,

pinned it to the ceiling so if I want to read it I have to reach up

because I’m done with kneeling.

 

And that’s on you.

You gave me the height without those high heels.

You held my hand as I dangled off the edge of a precipice and that kiss

that you pressed to the page we drew together,

well I have taken that kiss and pinned it to my lips.

 

So every word I speak is no longer a cheat, and yes

that did come with a few slaps on the cheek

but you’ve always experienced the show from a front row seat I think interactive

is an understatement.

To say the least.

 

Cause you got sprayed with the spit and the shit of my fits,

picked on and called on to take part in the pit but now

move a few rows back.

Just sit there and sit.

 

No longer stationary I run

between earth and sea and back and forth across the course of my topsy-turvy mappery

and now I want you to see

through my mind’s eye how you and I have travelled from point A to point B.

 

You

held your baby at your breast

took in every shuddering breath.

I drenched your chest

with tears and you absorbed the fears of a childhood earmarked by the throwing of spears

whose only intention was to lift the suspension of my belief in myself.

 

You told me to keep my hands up, baby hands up.

Remember to wipe from front to back.

A little girl on her black plastic bike all garbed up

in mom’s nightie and tights.

A little too baggy at the time – but she grew into them

and never really out.

 

Because even as a preteen, teenager young adult and in-between

she was still playing dress up.

And did I mention I messed up?

Maybe I didn’t fess up.

Blame it on the dog

or a number of other excuses through which I stumbled

tumbled from a practiced tongue that nearly

always got me out of trouble.

 

At the time, mine didn’t fit quite right

so I tried to zip your skin up over mine.

Fingering through your wardrobe was like paging through the chapters of a book

I had always wanted to write but

could never muster up the courage to ask to borrow.

 

Because I was DAUGHTER. I was Titled.

And therefore entitled to type with unbridled maniacal insight over a page

you had hand written for yourself.

 

But you kept saying – hands up, baby hands up.

And no matter what, I always got a postcard.

 

I was in, and you were around and then

I was home

and you were out of town.

All the landmarks were the same

but land never really marks the place.

 

We crawled after traces of names left in spaces drowned out and tainted by previous exchanges

ecstatic when static

but trapped by the placid.

Our routes were mapped on thin strips and it took a while to come to grips

with the fact that our maps were Photostats

disappearing crayon replaced by varying shades of black.

They crisscrossed, converged, ran parallel and diverged but were always submerged

in love.

We viewed each other from below and from above but never

failed to see through each other.

 

We may have been ghosts in the night but

we bumped shoulders left and right.

Our fights to survive were not isolated plights,

they were always underlined by the ebb and flow touch and go of the clasped hands

perched on the shoulders we gave each other.

 

We

were light as a feather.

But weighed down inside metal shells

buttoned at the collar

zipped at the crotch

and always, always

waterproof around the eyes.

 

So while my hands were up

– baby hands up –

your hand lingered on my cheek and I curled my body around you

like a fern in the spring and just like John Martyn says

you came to see me and I see the things that you bring.

Cause I wanted to relieve myself of the relief of not being myself,

but we both learned there is no escape

and the only thing to do is shake the fear of being that sits on the self

behind the peanut butter

and the bottled MSG

and the labelled disparity between you me

 

but you pushed those aside

and saw how scared I was of just being me.

 

As a kid I had a habit

of breaking my own hand just so you would grab it

but what I didn’t see when I looked away was

that you were holding it anyway.

You

have been the strap that I used to snap my bones back into place.

I have straightened out that leg I pretended I couldn’t stand on.

 

So now…

I’ll lower those hands you told me to keep up

but only so that I can take yours.

And together we’ll walk tethered

to the past but only

so that it keeps us on path

towards that end

which is already inside of you and me –

that ever-changing, evanescent, ever-present

Point B.

 

Now our maps are no longer photostats

and nor are they pinned to the ceiling,

now

they’re fingerprints

etched into the backs of our hands.

 

And that kiss? The one you pressed to my lips?

Do you remember it?

I have swallowed it.

 

You are so far inside of me

that if you ever dangled off the edge of a precipice,

I could get to you faster than the ink in my pen drips.

 

Yes.

Our skins may be less than seamless,

but seams, seem less meaningful when you need seams to breath

and it seems to me that our point B’s

are in all of our seams.

 

So

if you ever need to hold my hand

if you ever need to borrow my shoes

 

 

they were already yours.

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