Mothers

the last time i was home 
to see my mother we kissed 
exchanged pleasantries 
and unpleasantries pulled a warm 
comforting silence around 
us and read separate books 

i remember the first time 
i consciously saw her 
we were living in a three room 
apartment on burns avenue 

mommy always sat in the dark 
i don’t know how i knew that but she did 

that night i stumbled into the kitchen 
maybe because i’ve always been 
a night person or perhaps because i had wet 
the bed 
she was sitting on a chair 
the room was bathed in moonlight diffused through 
those thousands of panes landlords who rented 
to people with children were prone to put in windows 
she may have been smoking but maybe not 
her hair was three-quarters her height 
which made me a strong believer in the samson myth 
and very black 

i’m sure i just hung there by the door 
i remember thinking: what a beautiful lady 

she was very deliberately waiting 
perhaps for my father to come home 
from his night job or maybe for a dream 
that had promised to come by 
“come here” she said “i’ll teach you 
a poem: i see the moon 
the moon sees me 
god bless the moon 
and god bless me” 
i taught it to my son 
who recited it for her 
just to say we must learn 
to bear the pleasures 
as we have borne the pains 
Nikki Giovanni

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