“My Mother Speaks to Me from the Dead” by Alexander Radison

Alexander Radison


after Sharon Olds

Isn’t it funny, man?
It took me dying, but 
I finally got out of New York.
I know you don’t like
that word, but it is what it is, ya know? 
Death ain’t so bad anyway—
I’ve ridden the autumn wind
through ancient elms in Forest Park.
I’ve hitchhiked across lonely country roads
at dusk, unseen and undisturbed.
I’ve dug deep into the earth,
look for me and you’ll see,
I’m the first tulip in spring,
the pink one.
Think there’s room for two poets in the family?
But enough about me.
I want to talk about you, man.
I love who you’ve become.
Not a stuffy statue sculpted to perfection,
but the one that’s been chipped
again, and again,
the dimensions not quite right,
the color a little off and rusting,
but so fucking what? 
Perfect’s boring.
I know, I know, I’m embarrassing you.
Too bad.
I love even the parts of you 
that are your father—your rage
like furnace flames 
fanned and scorching
under that quiet façade.
Your quiet seething strength,
river raging against the dam.
Yeah, I know they’re cliché,
so sue me.
I love your silence.
Your mouth was always sealed shut
with the glue of social anxiety.
That was the me in you, 
believe it or not.
Oh, what am I saying, of course you knew.
I never would leave the house
until my hair was done.
Too embarrassed for Facebook.
Never remarried.
But anyway, where was I?
That’s right. Your silence.
I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more.
I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.
Couldn’t carry you like a mother kangaroo
and protect you when things got real bad. 
I’m sorry.
I should’ve listened to my gut, I knew
something was wrong that day,
should’ve reached down your throat
and pulled the pills out myself.
I know you never meant to hurt me,
but you did, man. I’ve never
hurt so fucking bad.   
But I forgive you.
Your nanny always said silence talks.
You never could say what you wanted 
to say out loud, but that’s ok man, I knew.
I always knew.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Alexander Radison: “Ever since my mother died, I knew I wanted—needed—to write this poem. But I was terrified. I was afraid of being inauthentic, of getting it wrong somehow, or perhaps worse—getting it so right that it would break me. Beyond that, there was a question of morality—who am I to summon her spirit as if through a séance, to force words out of her like a Ouija, and put them onto the page without her consent? In the end, I’d like to think that she would be ok with it, and happy that her words could help to heal me, even after she was gone.” (web)

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