Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.
You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.
Because my mother loved pocketbooks
I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.
And sometimes, unexpectedly, a faux crocodile handle makes me weep.
Breathy clearing of throat, a smooth arm, heels on pavement, she lingers, sound tattoos.
I go to the thrift store to feel for bobby pins caught in the pocket seam of a camel hair coat.
I hinge a satin handbag in the crease of my arm. I buy a little change purse with its curled and fitted snap.
My mother bought this for me. This was my mother’s.
I buy and then I buy and then, another day, I buy something else.
In Paris she had a dog, Bijou, and when they fled Paris in 1942 they left the dog behind.
When my mother died on February 9, 1983, she left me.
Now, thirty years later and I am exactly her age.
I tell my husband I will probably die by the end of today and all day he says, Are you getting close, Sweetheart? And late in the afternoon, he asks if he should buy enough filet of sole for two.
From a blue velvet clutch I take out a mirror and behold my lips in the small rectangle.
Put on something nice.
Let him splurge and take you out for dinner, my mother whispers
on the glass.
What I Learned From My Mother
by Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
1 cup walnuts
1 cup medjool dates, pitted (about 8)
1/2 cup raw cacao
1 teaspoon rose water
pinch pink salt
Optional: 1 T cacao nibs, rose petals (dried or fresh), cinnamon
Using an electric blender, grind your walnuts to a powder. Add the dates one at a time, blending well before adding the next. Mix in the cacao, then the rose water, finally the spices.
The mixture should be moist. If you pick it up between two fingers and it easily falls apart, add another bit of rose water. Be careful of two things: you don’t want to over-water, and you don’t want to over-blend or the oils are released and it becomes more like fudge than brownie.
Spread the mixture into a small baking pan. Press down with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Press evenly and firmly so the brownie will set. Optionally, you can press cacao nibs gently into the top, dust with cinnamon, or sprinkle with rose petals. The nibs give it a burst of bitter crunch, and the rose petals make it as beautiful as your Mom.
—for my children
I see her doing something simple, paying bills,
or leafing through a magazine or book,
and wish that I could say, and she could hear,
that now I start to understand her love
for all of us, the fullness of it.
It burns there in the past, beyond my reach,
a modest lamp.
To mothers everywhere, thank you for the gripping power and delicate tending of your unflinching devotion.
Your love makes the world go round.
Happy Mother’s Day.