Mother’s Song

he was an instrument
     to be played
     she'd decided
since he'd been conceived
to give his mother what she wanted
     which was
as wife
and mother

but half that credibility
     the plan
     fell apart
     when Richard's father
     mostly disappeared

the disappearance was lemons
     she decided
     but out of it
Richard was 
              still of use
     useful to be groomed
          as drum major
          youth pastor
          to learn the family business
                for your own good
          not for his labor
          not for the glory of his mother
to prove to her
     and others like her
that she was still a success
     in the way she was defined
          as a parent
              who failed as wife
          but would not fail in this
    with the easiest asset she had
          instead of herself
to mold it into the reflection
          that she wanted of herself

but Richard 
     though shy and timid and sensitive
         wanted none of that
     he wanted to grow his hair
           and dye it green
     and learn guitar and chords
     and write haunting poetry
     and skateboard
           not to learn 
               and execute 
                  plays on the field
                      or bible versus for recitation
                          on Sunday

but he couldn't be that
for there was no glory in it
     no glory for his mother
     only the child
     so she denied him
          while she could
          for as long as she could
all the while taking pride in her sacrifices
     of taking Richard to tutors
         and ball practice and counseling
             instead of sitting in a bar
                    or fucking the milkman
                    or mailman
                    or strangers
pocketing those sacrifices
     like grocery store green stamps
to remind her son
     for her lifetime 
     she imagined
     of all of her sacrifice

but Richard rebelled
     as most teens will
         with his green hair
         and skateboard
         and guitar that she refused to buy
              but his uncle didn't

he rebelled
         made that much easier
         with no father around
         to help absorb it
         to help discipline 
         or help guide Richard
         through his troubles

Richard rebelled at being a tool
         not a soul
         to the only person around
         who should have loved him
         as a soul
         instead of a tool
he rebelled at not knowing what he was
         but that it didn't feel right

he rebelled at having to take control
         without knowing what it was he was really doing
         in taking control
              of himself
              for himself
              to become himself
         against all the odds

usurping control as a confused kid
         without support
         only added to the burden
         of all the other burdens
              like his mothers disdain
              and his distant father's dismissal
         of Richard's silly songwriting
they were silly
for Richard's songs were mostly about him
         not his mother
         but still
               as his handhold slipped
         she held out a bit of hope
               if only his songs were about me
               and he might take the stage
               in front of millions
               to sing about me

so she let go of the dreams
          of quarterback
          and valedictorian
          and engineer
to permit Richard his songs
         without interference
         and to later say she condoned his musicianship
         which he'll know was a lie
         and when she wonders why he doesn't love her more
             he'll be kind enough
             not to tell her
                  it's hard to trust a liar
                  and without trust, there is no love
             instead he'll hide it
                  not so subtly
                  inside the notes and words of his songs

but most of Richard's songs weren't about her
             they were mostly about him
             and the world around him
             and a few people listened
             but not enough to make his mother 
                  very proud

around this time
she began telling Richard about his grandmother
              and the mythology of all her sacrifices
              and how his grandmother's sacrifices
              weren't that much unlike her own
                 and so
                 this new phase 
                 the exultation of grandmother 
                      another soul
                      to be used
                      as just another tool
while Richard wondered
     why none of the other kin
          sang the same praises
               that his mother did
                   and why his mother
               just like her sisters and brothers
               failed to print
               in the classified
               on her birthday
                   in loving memory of...
               their own mother
               the way that
                    some other children do

Richard was growing into manhood
     and with that
                withdrew into manhood
                and into his music
                and away from his mother
                     which made her sad
     for Richard was all that she owned
                 and she knew she was losing
                        her prized
                        and only possession
                  to other things
     so she told Richard that she loved him
         and missed 
         how things used to be
              when he was younger

but Richard was wise enough
     by then a young man
     to see she had no interest
          in hearing his songs
          or watching him perform
          unless his songs were about her
      what she wanted
          was for Richard
          to listen
          and feel
          her songs of all the sacrifices 
                 she'd made for him
             which were nothing more than normal
             far less than many
                  in the eyes of all
             but her own

when Richard wrote a song
             that she heard was about Mother
             a sublime song 
                    according to a niece
                    who fancied Richard's work
             she asked Richard what it was about
             but Richard refused to say
             come to the show and find out for yourself

so she went to the show
             self-conscious of her age and normalcy
Richard walked out on a small stage
             in a small, grimy club
             to applause
             and he sang the song about Mother
             and the crowed cheered
                  beautiful and confident 
                      the tattooed girl beside his mother
                  said to her
                  he's got such soul
             but Richard's mother couldn't agree
                  in fact
                       she knew then and there
                       that he had no soul
                             or love
                             or compassion
                             or respect
for Richard's song
        was about someone else's mother
        a mother who'd scarified
        through misery
              and remained humble
                   and compassionate
                      through it all

and if not a song about herself
    his mother thought
then why not one
     about his father
          at least
     and what a wretch he was
          for letting both of them down

instead of praising her son
        for creating something 
        in spite of all his hardships
               hardships seen easily 
                    within herself
               but never
                    within her son
                    or the sons and daughters
                    of others
she drove home that night
     ears ringing
          imagining what kind of song
          she might write about herself
          if only she was Richard

she drove home
          writing the lyrics
          in her mind
          about how hard it is
          for one person
          to create something decent
          all by themselves
          without the help of a partner
          when the workload is twice what it should be

     was her creation decent?
          or was Richard as loveless as she needed to believe?
                she decided he couldn't be 
if she wanted those lyrics for herself
          so she wrote that ode to herself
          imagining herself a better artist 
          than maybe even her son
          an artist
          far more sensitive to the plight of others
                      all of who
                      were really just
all the while
          the plights far worse
          and achievements much greater
     than any of her own

Richard grew older
    and continued writing songs
while his mother grew older
    and lonelier
         and knowing she'd die alone
               with only her wealth
                  offered Richard some
                     for guitar strings and such, since
                     being a musician's a struggle
               she insisted how it pained her
                     to know how he struggled
                     she insisted he accept since the ability 
                            to help
                         made her feel better

so Richard accepted
       by the time of her approaching death
          he still hadn't written her song
       which she announced on her deathbed
          had caused her endless grief
              especially in being so generous
                  late in life
                  with her wealth

please, Richard, won't you see that I was a good mother
     and at least write a song about me? that way i can die 
     without all this grief. that way i can rest in peace.

Richard assured her he would
     with no guaranteed
     that it could be finished
     before her passing

but I need it now, Richard. i so desperately need it now.
     remember how good i was to you? remember all the money
     i've given you for tuners and guitar strings so you could 
     write about all sorts of people and things except me? and
     remember how I worried that time your broke your arm?

so Richard tried writing that song
     a song about his mother
          and guitar strings
          and heartstrings
          and love
             with or without
                 strings attached
      and a mother who 
             for some reason believes
                its only her who worries
                   when their child breaks an arm
it ending up sounding like a simple song
     but inside it 
               was a lot of complexity
               in the music
               more than the words
which is how Richard wanted it
he wanted it difficult to play
     while sounding simple
     something that only other musicians
        in trying to play it
            would get

it was a difficult song
that took a long time to write
    he tried 
          but couldn't finish 
    before his mother died
but it ended up being 
the best thing he ever composed
for his mother was in that song
    and though it had been difficult loving her
he finds it a bit easier
    loving her
    inside it   
        as he plays
     and cries
     imagining her
     in heaven
     happy at the tears
          she believes are for her
          which he says is okay
     cause she doesn't need to know
     they come from the song

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