You Think You Know (But You Don’t)

If my pain does not present to you
in live action sobs and neon coloured
declarations of how my heart
will never beat the same
now that hers has stopped,
Then take a moment to consider
that our losses did not follow
the same trajectory just
because they ended the same.

My pain never looked like yours
because you cried and you shared pictures,
While the first time that I saw her
taken away from me in a hospital bed,
I went into hysterics, sobbed in the hallway
of a hospital floor while a nurse
put an arm around my shaking shoulders,
urging me to believe that she was gonna be okay,
And not believing her because she only saw me,
the child in tears, not the mother with empty eyes.

You never saw tubes down your mother’s
throat at the tender age of thirteen,
Don’t know what it’s like to hold
the ice cold hand of someone at death’s door,
Don’t know what it’s like to hear a doctor
tell you that they have to put her into a coma
and thinking that most people don’t wake from comas,
Don’t know what it’s like to hold your father
as he breaks down in tears in your arms
after asking him is she’s going to die
because he thinks the answer is yes.

And she did wake but not before her
absence was felt deep in my bones,
The seed of a nightmare that repeated
itself in different scenarios in my mind,
For ten fucking years it was like
I was still that child visiting the ICU
for the coma patient that was now
my mother, and praying every night
that the hospital wouldn’t call
because that would mean it was over,
She woke up but I never did.

So how dare you assume what
I’m feeling because it doesn’t
look like it should to you,
When you will never know the pain
of mourning a death before
it has even occurred,
How it feels to bleed from the
thorns of roses meant for a grave
you’ll never get to see,
Knowing that a premature death
is certain and the only uncertainty
is how it will happen and how much
pain she’ll feel when it does.

Yet you think you know
because you never saw
the birthday cards I still
have in my drawer,
The way I traced my finger
over the letters of her name
the first time I looked at them
after her death,
Didn’t see how I couldn’t
bear to look at her
death certificate for
a year after it arrived,
Don’t see that her earrings
are like a permanent
extension of my ears,
You think you know
all you need to know.

But you don’t know me,
and you didn’t know my mother,
So you don’t get to tell me
how I’m supposed to mourn her.

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