Tonight in the small hour,
I recite the last poem she read to me:
“Renascence,” because today
would have been her birthday.
The last time I saw her,
her cheeks sucked in, mouth open,
we listened to Rachmaninoff’s 3rd
all night, early sun through the hospital window.
The last trip we took together:
driving in Southern France,
a sip of Vermouth-Cassis,
a twist of lemon, all felt forbidden at fifteen.
We sat in low chairs on a green lawn on a hill
looking out at other hills. Her yellow scarf,
wind-blown hair, her loud laugh
when I held the glass in timid hands.
When I was born, she didn’t know I would live,
undone by the dumb luck of the order of things,
the placenta coming first.
I do this over again and again,
take stock of our lasts:
when we looked at orchids together,
when she was manic and didn’t know me,
the last secret she kept from me,
last chaos, rushing to get there in time.
In the hospital, I stood
in the glaring fluorescents
holding her warm cracked hand
the last time I had a mother.