Her oldest packed for college, mother readied a wave
goodbye. Her others read comics, turned pages like paper waves.
She was never alone, even when her young husband sailed away.
Landlocked, she imagined the Pacific’s cursive blue waves
as she read letters of submarine gossip. Those days, she found
my father handsome with stars on his chest and waves
of night-black hair. Post-war, hired as a Professor, he moved
my mother to Mississippi, to a University where he taught waves
of restless students, to a place where she thought she was finished
with children and returned to school. But when the waves
of sunrise nausea pulled her back under, she could barely breathe.
Months later, she steadied herself by laying a yard full of sod, waves
of Bermuda grass around the family’s home. That evening,
her skirt still patched with dirt, she cried as waves
of anguish and my father’s apologies washed over her.
Mother was too old for this labor, too old for the water waves
braiding down her legs and puddling at her swollen feet.
She was under almost too long until the Dr. finally waved
her awake with smelling salts. I was born in May,
on a day for church bells and florists’ bouquets with waves
of silk ribbons—Mother’s Day. She called me Vivian, a Scotch name
for the mad-white water pushing shoreward after the breaking of waves.
Enjoy this story? Subscribe to the Oxford American.