So I moved a yellow daylily in my mom's honor. She had bought me various daylily varieties when we first bought our land and I am now slowly shifting a flowerbed. The lily in my mom's memory reminded me of spreading lilies when we spread her ashes. At that time she been losing her memory. She would lose the salad, new potatoes from the farmers' market, names and keys. Making drawings of apples and geraniums was her best connection to the moment. So much better than cleaning for the onset of family visitors. When we were in Maine the place and way we lived reminded her of her childhood memories of camp. She would tell us over and over about going to summer camp. I remember wanting to walk and write about all the stories she told me but that was the year that I realized her memory of recent activity was gone. Her memories of camp were more vibrant than the name of a friend. When we walked I had to let go of who she had been before. My way of relating to her was outdated. She taught me to be in the present moment. She taught me to look at the lilies, the sunset and the lit candles at dinner. She taught me to love children's books and to take time to put flowers in a cup on a table. Reading her poems now almost thirteen years after her death reminds me how outdated my thinking was when she was alive. I didn't understand how much she understood and how much she captured in her poems.
I planted an apple tree in memory
of my mother, who is not gone,
but whose memory has become
so transparent that she remembers
slicing apples with her grandmother
(yellow apples; blue bowl) better than
the fruit that I hand her today. Still,
she polishes the surface with her thumb,
holds it to the light and says with no
hesitation, Oh, Yellow Transparent . . .
they're so fragile, you can almost see
to the core. She no longer remembers how
to roll the crust, sweeten the sauce, but
her desire is clear--it is pie that she wants.
And so, I slice as close as I dare to the core--
to that little cathedral to memory--where
the seeds remember everything they need
to know to become yellow and transparent.
--Cathryn Essinger. Her most recent book is What I Know About Innocence from Main Street Rag Press.