Apologia for My Mother
The view from my New York City bedroom
looks out onto the brick building next door.
One of its windows yells LA SANGRE DE CRISTO at me in red letters.
This reminds me of my mother
who prays for me even though she knows I am not a believer.
She prays for my health and wealth
and for all the house plants I now care for in this wounded city.
Mostly though, she prays, that I will not forget her.
We zoomed a few days ago, and she smiled a toothless grin.
The sight fuels my guilt about the distance between us.
I don’t mention this to her.
Instead, I take my lap top over to the window,
and show her the faithful plea on the window next door.
She tells me, que Dios guarde tu salud hija.
And when the connection ends, I weep, and my prayer plant grows new leaves.
My mother calls me by mistake,
my cell phone’s voicemail catalogs her movements;
the sound of her washing the dishes;
pots clanging against the metal sink;
her hands scrubbing the last bit of manteca off her cooking spoons.
Sometimes it is her feet that I hear, sweeping across the kitchen floor.
Other times I can make out my nephews talking to her,
though I cannot decipher what they say.
She offers them un cariño, “Que quieres amorsito corazón?”
I imagine what her day looks like,
wondering if she wears the purple robe I sent her last winter.
I haven not mentioned that her phone calls me in error,
disclosing the private moments of her day,
or that I keep them all,
and listen to try to make sense of the distance
this pandemic has put between us.