Walking with My Mother

by Olga Dugan

(for Ola M. Dugan)

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (Prov 31:26)

past a first few years of elementary
school where I learn to see
geometry in hybrid faces
of Sweet Spirits, States of Grace
making Sunday School even more
captivating, I ask Mom about creation
the great of it, the small of it—she
points out Spring breezes pushing
sunlight on schoolyard swings, then
tells me, “we’re all given a special reason
for being, doing...God plants it right
here...so we’d never forget”
after baptism, diaconal ordination
I would remember her hand
lightly patting at my heart
past school bells pinging
undergraduate, graduate, then back
home for a short respite between
life’s chapters, myriad choices
cloud my current walk, raise
questions about there being
some other path altogether—
Mom just points out black and white
tiles covering our kitchen floor,
“Put your hand in the black space” ...
I know she means figuratively
but I jump when my hand
nears the rim of imagined shadow...
“don’t be afraid of the dark,” she
coaches, “you bring the light”                                                           
navigating downtown Rochester past
Philadelphia streets to a first
class I’ll teach—
Mom, who forgets more
and faster now, sometimes
slurring nonsensical phrases that say
this that and such about some
gem she wants to share, other times
a simple stare, knows today why I
stare, nerves prickling like bare heads
in the rain as I prepare to meet
new minds soon to fill
the empty chairs, “Professor” —but
she remembers the child who’d feed
the hungry, end poverty, wrest world
peace yet always wondered with what?—
Mom turns my hand palm up like
she did when I was that girl,
 “What do you have there?” she recalls
words—spoken clear as a Georgia creek
from her childhood where Hare-foot
Frank finally got caught and baptized,
words—still shaping my daily walk
their meaning ever crystal

Olga Dugan is a Cave Canem poet. Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, her poems appear in many anthologies and literary journals including Ekstasis, Saint Katherine Review, Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith, The Windhover, Anti-Heroin Chic, Poems from Pandemia – An Anthology, Cave Canem Anthology: XIII, and Red Moon Anthology of Modern English Haiku. Articles on poetry and cultural memory appear in The Journal of African American History, The North Star, and in Emory University’s “Following the Fellows.”

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