Kelly Jean White, M.D., is the mother of three, a Quaker,
an inner city pediatrician for more than twenty years, collector of stray
animals and seeker after Buddha and nature. She
has published two full-length poetry collections, The Patient Presents
and Late (The People's Press). She also has two chapbooks: I am going
to walk toward the sanctuary (Via Dolorosa Press) and Against Medical
Advice (Pudding House).
It might have been completely different
Believe what you like, this is a family
story: My mother,
at nineteen a telephone operator in Poughkeepsie,
takes the train to New York City to see her boy friend
off to the war. A frumpy older woman, big mouth,
hat at an angle, gets into their compartment. She takes
off her gloves, fumbles for a pencil in her purse, seems
about to write something. They ignore her, proceed
to spend the trip necking, despite the old ladys friendly
questions: where is the boy stationed? are they engaged?
have they set a date? where did they grow up? What
schools? They neck quite passionately. Dont answer.
At the station a group of reporters rush their seatmate:
Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, how was your trip?
The woman tugs a little at her left glove, nods just a
little at my mothers lifted brow. Cal dies in the South
Pacific. My mother marries my father, another sailor,
five years later. She sometimes shows me an orange
and pink coral necklace she keeps folded in tissue paper
and sachet. I wonder, would I have had red hair?
Karma in New Hampshire
church bell tells the same noon song
all that remains is wind
garden gone to vetch and milkweed
stone fence broken down
ground hog tunnels
and somewhere a caterpillar works
toward a cocoon
my mother calls
there are a few things she needs
to go over
Where are you mother of ribbons and rags?
Where is your basket of shavings?
Where are your torn shoes, your cigarette butts?
Where is your hatbox of feathers?
Where are you mother of wire and lace?
Where is your broken off hair?
Where is the knuckle you kiss when you sleep?
Where is your hatbox of blossom?
Where are you mother of needles and knives?
Where is your garter of onions?
Where are your ashes, your pieces of bone?
Where is your hatbox of smoke?