Pax Materna

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Gloria Tessler wrote these poems in memory of her birth mother, Dorothy, who died when she was two years old.

Dorothy One

When I look at you in your photo frame,
Contained and smiling, your auburn curls,
Re-touched rose cheeks and painted eyebrows,
Photo-shopped, old-style, as though your beauty
Is not enough, as though I might not love you
If you showed a face of pain, I see that you are
Cheerful and film-star beautiful. Even in the
Simpler snaps, where you hold me tight to you,
There is only hope in your eyes, joy at your new baby.
No sign of anguish. You were urged not to fall
Pregnant; a cancer patient, or one at risk,
I will never know which; it was never spoken of 
Back in the day. And I -- with wonder but no memory
Of our time together -- am left to reflect on the flight
Of a mother whose flesh and smell have long faded,
You, who were dying when I was two, could only
Mourn the brevity of time, before you were snatched away
In eagles’ claws. I hope – it was some Nirvana – some place
Where you could carry me in your mouth, like a stork
Bringing babies, my ethereal body close to yours 
In the time to come.

Dorothy Two

Held to your heart-beat,

You pulled me towards you,
And your ascending earth
Was shrouded in cloud.
Your bier was the sky,
Your thorn-crown, white daisies
Flung and scattered
By a graceless wind.
Blue forget-me-not your eyes.
And your lips of pale snowdrop.
Dido’s Lament of Woman,
Reaches down, down all the years.
But you sent the green hills
For my healing,
And from the white sky
Flow your tears of rain.
Yet still I can hear
Your heart-beat
Dancing in the breeze.
Yes still -- I hear it.
And cling on.

Gloria Tessler is a journalist, author, playwright and poet. She is the biographer of Lady Amelie Jakobovits, and her two plays, The Windmill and Unveiling Hagar, both on Jewish themes, have been performed on the London fringe. She is presently obituaries editor at the Jewish Chronicle and art correspondent at AJR Journal. 
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