MA I AM

Palindromes are two-way reads.
Whichever way you turn them, they tell you the same thing.
It’s kind of claustrophobic inside a palindrome.
But also hypnotic, like a mantra, an endless lulling loop.

This one is also a short piece of concrete poetry: Me between the first two syllables of my life. Me within Mama. That’s how my life started – and losing my mother has been a throwback to early childhood – but it’s not how I want life to continue, let alone end.

This palindrome represents what I’m about to exit. The inner sanctum – claustrophobic and hypnotic – of grief. My out-and-out identification with the one I grieve.

I’m going to let others tell me about Mama.

I received my first letter in response to last week’s mailing to Mama’s friends. It’s not the first response; a number of friends have already emailed – all of them to tell me they got the blue letter and need more time to do Mama justice. But this was the first letter in my mailbox – sent via airmail from Germany – by a woman I. (and her husband D.) who had gone on a number of sailing trips with my parents.

Two things about this letter were striking:

1. I. and D. didn’t know my mother had died.
2. They thought I was my mother in the photo I sent.

#1 was sad for I. and D. because to them, in their minds, she just died now. They haven’t had any time to grieve.

#1 gave me pause, though. How powerful is that? To them, in their minds, she had been alive until a week ago. By virtue of their ignorance they kept Mama alive in the world for two more years. If they had spoken of her in those two years they’d spoken of her in the present tense of the living: “I wonder how Erika is doing? I wonder where Erika has traveled this year?” So much of reality is personal, is what we know and believe, our small excerpt of the world. Until someone adds a new hard fact.

#1 is also strange. Why didn’t our father send them Mama’s obituary? Too hard a fact?

#2 is sweet, or so thought Artie.

#2 to me personally is more loaded. And makes me rewrite the palindrome above:

AM I MA

The answer would be no.
And she’d be glad to know.

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