She ate the fires

For my mother, Doris. You will always know where I live… 

She ate the fires that burned our feet,

but kept us dancing still.

An outsider to her own life,

she dwelt in the shadows with others,

unadorned, weary and unnoticed by

those who mattered most.

She was a woman of family loyalties

seen through the well-pictured mantle;

of a burdened sensitivity filtered through an indomitable strength;

of shrewd candor minted in the currency of honesty.

* * *

His love was real enough but

tentative, unsure, safe – he saw her

as through a glass, dimly; sideways, peripherally.

Though his arms were strong,

they were no match for her constitution,

mammoth by comparison; a roundness

of stalwart purpose swimming in a barrel of uncertainty.

* * *

Though his word was law, hers was heard,

and heeded in the hours, in the minutes,

in the places where we actually lived.

Wrestling one child with words, another with shrewdness,

still another with a ping-pong paddle

on which was written “for a better future,”

she forged us in fires not of our desire but her design –

on the requirements of character and truth.

* * *

Mirrors told her what they saw

not what she hoped for and always, just behind her,

skulked the injustice of vengeful time.

All the words nearly rhymed to songs sung

just a little out of tune; pleasant enough at a piano with a broken back.

Despite her stature, there was never any doubt

who stood tallest, whose shoulders were broadest,

whose voice spoke loudest, and whose purpose was sunk deepest.

No scars ran deep enough, no bruises blue enough

to raze this spirit from the earth’s deep places.

* * *

She ate the fires that couldn’t devour her…

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