Marian K. Shapiro – “Totem”

Cardinals are pretty plentiful, but I always
know when it’s my mama… — blog post

It’s a miracle, one says. There she was,
just as I was thinking of my mother.
On Mother’s Day! No coincidence,
the readers sing as one. It was just
like that for me! On her birthday!
On my birthday! When I had my heart
attack!        You can almost see them nodding,
a choir of exclamation points. Mawmaw! Mommy!
Ima! Mamela! The cardinal tap-
tapping on their bedroom windows, landing
on their cars, until they paid attention
and fell to their knees. It’s you! Mom!

Not my mother.

No cardinal she.

A dirty snow morning. Black ice.
Sleet arrowing at her grave. Fingers
numb inside our mittens. The shovelers
cursing the frozen ground. We said Kaddish.
The Rabbi moved uphill. The diggers shuffled
their boots waiting for lunch-time. Not yet…
…Not yet…        How to know when the spirit rose?
Out from the cloud-murk, a goose. Dive-
bombed. Swooped. Settled. Stretched
its goosey neck. Made its goosey sound.
Translation: Nothing stops me. Tough I came,
tough I lived, and tough I go.          Took off.

The Rabbi raise his hand. I nodded.
It was time.

(Whatever that means.)

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