Mother Bird

By | 16 August 2019

we didn’t have much, but my mother
carried an invisible bag around her strong neck
went out searching for food and found

tidbits of affection, small sovereigns of love
she wandered all day while we were at school
would gather the warmest words, the softest touches

her bowerbird eyes found plenty; a scarf left at the bus stop
feathers, a two cent piece, lost keys
one special stone for your pocket

she collected and felt prepared – a sort of parenting kit
afternoon, they grew heavy in her pouch and she wandered home
at times only just arriving as we did

I don’t know if comforts came naturally to her
but she always had a stash of warm things
memories she had collected

a riddle overheard, cats whose chins she’d scratched
a whiff of chocolate on a walk past the posh shops
if we were hungry she’d bring us a mug of hot water

whenever unsure how to respond
Mum reached into the bag to feed us, in tender murmurs
the tiny stories of experience

we waited, beaks open
for the next wriggling warm thing
we could swallow to feel full

always able to kindle comfort
she’d sing a lullaby out of tune
recite a poem Grandma knew by heart

transformed from birds back into children
water-bottle warm, she’d kiss us on the head
we’d fall asleep smiling

as I grew older there were times I wanted to put my hand in the bag
but she was trying to help me grow up
it was time to weave my own

one day Mum put her bag down
we found it by the laundry door, full of odds & ends
– junk without her stories

the hands that no longer collect are stained
with maps to past adventures
now, deep in a maze of corridors, Mum, frail
waits for me to bring pieces of colour to her shrinking world.

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