By DAVID LEHMAN
Mother died today. That’s how it began. Or maybe yesterday, I can’t be sure. I gave the book to my mother in the hospital. She read the first sentence. Mother died today. She laughed and said you sure know how to cheer me up. The telegram came. It said, Mother dead Stop Funeral tomorrow Stop. Mother read it in the hospital and laughed at her college boy son. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t remember. Mama died yesterday. The telegram arrived a day too late. I had already left. Europe is going down, the Euro is finished, and what does it matter? My mother served plum cake and I read the page aloud. Mother died today or yesterday and I can’t be sure and it doesn’t matter. Germany can lose two world wars and still rule all of Europe, and does it matter whether you die at thirty or seventy? Mother died today. It was Mother’s Day, the day she died, the year she died. In 1940 it was the day the Germans invaded Belgium and France and Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister. The telegram came from the asylum, the home, the hospital, the “assisted living” facility, the hospice, the clinic. Your mother passed away. Heartfelt condolences. The price of rice is going up, and what does it matter? I’Il tell you what I told the nurse and anyone that asks. Mother died today.
David Lehman, editor of The Best American Poetry series, has recently published a new collection of poems, Yeshiva Boys.