By Evelyn Asher
PROMPT — The way I see it ...
“Aren’t you glad it’s a girl?”
The nurse asked.
Grief grabbed me.
Postpartum depression overshadowed societal joy.
An arms-length relationship with my mother flashed,
How can I do this?
The reel of life, replayed at every juncture.
Ten years of marriage in the rear-view mirror
Era of subservience, fending for myself while
trying to honor my mother, father, mother-in-law,
a kind person, but not my kind.
I tried mothering, but I did not know how.
My birth, squeezed between men. Older hellion twin brothers and another boy.
Working in my father’s pharmacy eighth grade through high school,
anchored me to a man’s world.
I birthed two more daughters.
Sought a tubal ligation. Where I heard about it, I don't recall
The first and best decision to build
and respect my independence.
She was eight when I divorced her father, amicably,
but without a dime for carfare.
Freedom for me, rougher years for her, a stepmother, two stepsisters.
I tried, each visit more present but still uneasy goodbyes.
New clothes, endless cartwheels masking hurts,
She urging us to be together longer, as before.
Winter storms steered me south – haltingly – like my children,
Banished by family who had no clue, who deemed it safe to misunderstand
Me, my decisions,
lest they break their material chains.
“Don’t spoil this for me,” I recall uttering under my breath
when she appeared for the first time
before a candidate for a second marriage
She only wanted her mother, not her stepmother -
her grandmothers yes, far apart in what they bestowed upon her, time and material goods, welcome smiles,
yet I cringed, carrying inadequacy
for fifty-six years.
“Everyone says I am like you,” she blurted one day when she wanted to flee.
The quote on a journal page resonated with me,
“If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be
a terrible warning,”
“When I come to your house, you drive me crazy!” she exclaimed at the start of a north-to-south relay, meeting her sisters halfway after a short vacay in their home.
Her chronic anger spewed. Her overeating reactions, expectations, planned resentments.
I. Listen. Absorb.
Mothering bodies, reverse roles. She responds to my 5:00 am calls to go to the ER.
Overnights are seldom, but welcome as they open dialogue down the interstate.
The country lane I used to drive leisurely to her home
under construction – unsafe for this elder.
My imperfect life has yielded a tapestry of global friendships,
Who is it that said poets are liars? I give to other children when I cannot reach my own.
Not easy - sweated mortgages, rent increases, intrusive inspections, disturbing landlords,
Daily choices for my mind’s palette reveal a rainbow of colors
laid before me to paint from.
She has still to chisel a life carved out of isolation
Who doesn’t know the feeling of loneliness in a house full of people?
Resentments overshadow forgiveness, curiosity, wonder in bloom.
She escapes on cruises at sea.
Mothering bodies, aging.
Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors,
Crumbling under pressure of an ever-evolving world.
Veil of mysteries. Yielding to the unknown.
Am I glad it’s a girl?
I still don’t know.
Evelyn Asher, a poet and gatherer, has lived and thrived in the Midwest, South Florida, Western North Carolina, and North Georgia. Her poems reflect her meaningful relationships wherever she is planted. She has an extreme fondness for High Country Writers, Northeast Georgia Writers Group, Eastern Shores Writers Association, and Tall Tales Farm Critique Group. She has a passion for literacy and the elimination of poverty. She finds utter fascination in rivers, strong mountain lives, and collage. She is currently crafting Little Books of Rivers for her two great-grandgifts. She founded Wisdom Collective writing workshops during the pandemic. She conducts monthly Ekphrastic Art workshops in her community and virtually on transcending loss and renewing one's spirit through creativity. Evelyn takes wonder walks most days when she is not writing and sketching at the shore of the Chattahoochee River.