A Poem for My Mother

By Tracy Gregory

After her seventeenth birthday, she got in a VW Bug
and drove from Windom, Minnesota
to the Orange Groves of California.
She claims it was for her father,
but I know it was because she’s fascinated
with how a cold cheek feels against
wet glass; she loves words.
They frolic in her ears like freshly cut daisies
whispering to her about the white cliffs
of Dover as she picks up Swiss stones on the beach,
the echo of WWII fighter planes booming in her ears
as one by one the rocks slip out of her hands,
their smooth grains leaving her finger tips
white and chalky. To this day all she needs
is a strong cup of coffee and 10 words
that sound like ‘bottle-rocket’
and she’ll be content. She thumbs through
dusty catalogs and transistor manuals,
newspapers left by my father
with rings of coffee staining the edges
to find words she’s never heard of before.
The Field Guide to North American Birds
has a permanent place on her nightstand just because
she loves the way ‘guineafowl’ and ‘sapsucker’ sound
on her tongue as she dozes off to sleep.
You will never catch her doing it,
but I know when she’s tending her garden,
letting the hose water trickle through her toes,
she’s mouthing words over and over
to try out their taste on her lips.

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