1. Mother, my Mary Gray, once resident of Gloucester and Essex County, a photostat of your will arrived in the mail today. This is the division of money. I am one third of your daughters counting my bounty or I am a queen alone in the parlor still, eating the bread and honey. It is Good Friday. Black birds pick at my window sill. Your coat in my closet, your bright stones on my hand, the gaudy fur animals I do not know how to use, settle on me like a debt. A week ago, while the hard March gales beat on your house, we sorted your things: obstacles of letters, family silver, eyeglasses and shoes. Like some unseasoned Christmas, its scales rigged and reset, I bundled out gifts I did not choose. Now the houts of The Cross rewind. In Boston, the devout work their cold knees toward that sweet martyrdom that Christ planned. My timely loss is too customary to note; and yet I planned to suffer and I cannot. It does not please my yankee bones to watch where the dying is done in its usly hours. Black birds peck at my window glass and Easter will take its ragged son. The clutter of worship that you taught me, Mary Gray, is old. I imitate a memory of belief that I do not own. I trip on your death and jesus, my stranger floats up over my Christian home, wearing his straight thorn tree. I have cast my lot and am one third thief of you. Time, that rearranger of estates, equips me with your garments, but not with grief.
2. This winter when cancer began its ugliness I grieved with you each day for three months and found you in your private nook of the medicinal palace for New England Women and never once forgot how long it took. I read to you from The New Yorker, ate suppers you wouldn't eat, fussed with your flowers, joked with your nurses, as if I were the balm among lepers, as if I could undo a life in hours if I never said goodbye. But you turned old, all your fifty-eight years sliding like masks from your skull; and at the end I packed your nightgowns in suitcases, paid the nurses, came riding home as if I'd been told I could pretend people live in places.
3. Since then I have pretended ease, loved with the trickeries of need, but not enough to shed my daughterhood or sweeten him as a man. I drink the five o' clock martinis and poke at this dry page like a rough goat. Fool! I fumble my lost childhood for a mother and lounge in sad stuff with love to catch and catch as catch can. And Christ still waits. I have tried to exorcise the memory of each event and remain still, a mixed child, heavy with cloths of you. Sweet witch, you are my worried guide. Such dangerous angels walk through Lent. Their walls creak Anne! Convert! Convert! My desk moves. Its cavr murmurs Boo and I am taken and beguiled. Or wrong. For all the way I've come I'll have to go again. Instead, I must convert to love as reasonable as Latin, as sold as earthenware: an equilibrium I never knew. And Lent will keep its hurt for someone else. Christ knows enough staunch guys have hitched him in trouble. thinking his sticks were badges to wear.
4. Spring rusts on its skinny branch and last summer's lawn is soggy and brown. Yesterday is just a number. All of its winters avalanche out of sight. What was, is gone. Mother, last night I slept in your Bonwit Teller nightgown. Divided, you climbed into my head. There in my jabbering dream I heard my own angry cries and I cursed you, Dame keep out of my slumber. My good Dame, you are dead. And Mother, three stones slipped from your glittering eyes. Now it's Friday's noon and I would still curse you with my rhyming words and bring you flapping back, old love, old circus knitting, god-in-her-moon, all fairest in my lang syne verse, the gauzy bride among the children, the fancy amid the absurd and awkward, that horn for hounds that skipper homeward, that museum keeper of stiff starfish, that blaze within the pilgrim woman, a clown mender, a dove's cheek among the stones, my Lady of first words, this is the division of ways. And now, while Christ stays fastened to his Crucifix so that love may praise his sacrifice and not the grotesque metaphor, you come, a brave ghost, to fix in my mind without praise or paradise to make me your inheritor.