Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lullaby for my mother

By Blaga Dimitrova

Translated by Ludmilla Popova-Wightman

In the evening I smooth her sheets
Covered with deep wrinkles.
Her hand,
withered by giving,
pulls mine towards the night.

Half-asleep, barely able to speak,
she says in a childish voice
so naturally,
I become my mother’s mother.

A cataclysm, a reversal
Of the earth’s axis—
the poles flip over.
What was I doing? I don’t have time
for philosophical musings.

I dry her impatiently—
A skill, I've learnt from her.
“Mommy” she whispers guiltily,
remembering her naughtiness.
Cold air blows in the window.

The heating pad. The glass. The pills
I adjust the lampshade.
“Mommy, don’t go away!
I am afraid of dark! “
Who is losing her mind, she or I?

Heavy with pain and fever, crying,
she waits for me to take her 
in my arms. Two orphans cuddle
in the winter cradle.
Which am I?

Wake me up early tomorrow!
I am afraid, I’ll oversleep!
Dear Lord, is there something
I have forgotten?
Who will be late, she or I?

Mommy, my child, sleep!
my baby…

There is often a reversal of roles that takes place in life when parents age and previous relationships are reversed. Thus we find the famous Bulgarian poet Blaga Dimitrova eloquently writing in her "Lullaby for My Mother" of this poignant situation. 

I have been recently reading . "I Remain in Darkness" by the famous French Novelist Annie Ernaux , an extraordinary evocation of a grown daughter’s attachment to her mother, and of both women’s strength and resiliency. It recounts Annie’s attempts first to help her mother recover from Alzheimer’s disease, and then, when that proves futile, to bear witness to the older woman’s gradual decline and her own experience as a daughter losing a beloved parent. This poem somehow seems to complement that reversal of the roles I find in in Annie’s memoir.

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