My Mother says No on Bloomsday

by Mary O'Donnell

It is not easy, it is not easy
to wheel an old woman to the shower

on Bloomsday, when the world
and Molly cry yes, yes, yes,

and she is saying no, no, no,
because what’s left of her life

depends on the freedom of No.
How Joycean of her

to resist the cleaned-up conscience
of filial attention, your need

to fix her taints and odours,
wash hair and teeth,

attend to toes when all she wants
is to float on the lily-leaf of her own

green bedspread, drowsing Molly
in a tangle of snow-white hair.

Now, dreams enclose her
more than talk of showers or meals,

the flowing waters of memory
rise and touch her skin

just where the mattress eases
spine and bones

in that yellow-walled room.
Hello, my darling, she greets

his photograph, flinging kisses
towards mottled frame.

To her then,
the logic of love,

to her, the logic of No,
her tongue untameable.

2020, Massacre of the Birds

Last updated July 20, 2021