Ghazal for My Mother

She’d listen closely, then gently remind Such is life!
Her mantra: don’t live a coulda shoulda woulda life.

Tucked me to bed with when the blaze is blue, and the lamp-
wick sputters, and the wind goes woo-o: my future life.

Saved the water from boiled potatoes, added it to the soup.
After parties, washed the icing from the plastic forks. A frugal life.

We’d sit in her kitchen and mange, sip tea, reminisce:
Your Uncle Lou was such a mensche – L’chiam! (to life).

She loved to wander art museums: Pollock and Gorky. Preferred
the dizzied frenzy of dancing. Dripping, spattered paint: unstill life.

When she yanked and yanked at a backyard stump, fell backwards,
broke her hand, I held the other while she cursed her mishugana life.

I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter, she’d belt out
while rolling out biscotti. Grateful for her suburban life.

Sewed my prom dress, red with black polka-dots. A vision
in a Mamma Leone’s tablecloth, slow dancing to That’s Life.

Her dream? Same as her dad’s: to get us all to the Ozarks.
Her sons obliged; her daughters attempted a trauma-less life.

Oh, Martha, where ya off ta? My own private island, I’d laugh,
not knowing I’d shoulda coulda woulda for the rest of my life.

Image: Arshile Gorky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.