Mothers are beginnings,
certain as life is movement,
that first felt spin
in the pit of the pelvis
more directed than bowel gas,
a twist with purpose to it;
an introduction more real than EPT,
sore breasts, or missed periods.
We have no experience
with letting go, besides the small
letting goes of birth and school and college and marriage,
not that final one, my mother
tracing my sister’s stone face
with fingertips and kisses,
saying I don’t want to leave her alone
that last night before her funeral.
She would have followed her
into the dirt, ready to do it
since part of her was already buried.
No mother should do this, another mother said,
sponging warm water across cooling skin,
kissing eyelids that won’t open again,
his cold, small lips under hers already hardening.
This was her goodbye, not the ritual
with prayers and family.
We should all wash what’s dead,
clear away the dust we are made out of
from what’s left of who we love;
a shroud the last swaddling gift
from loved hands that always held
before matter meets dirt
or becomes ash in its unmaking.
There are no words for this. Never say
your child is in a better place now
to a mother. She won’t believe it;
because the better place, the safe place
was always the beginning, under her heart.