may 18th: a year since

by Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene 

may 18th
will be a year since my mother died.
may 19th
is my 33rd birthday.
my mother’s birthday is
may 30th.
mother’s day is
may 12th.

may used to be my favorite month,
now it careens towards me like an out of control train
headed for my chest.

I have been tired for a long time
I have a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings.
or I wake up too early
or I cant get to sleep
or I don’t eat.

tears are quaking somewhere on the verge of something inside me,
on a precipice between where I am and where I’m scared to fall
if I let go into my own pain.

I am not good with past tense.
I don’t speak about my mother in the past tense.
sometimes I want to stay undone
undone and throbbing, aware of the sensitivity of our relationships and our love.
I want to remember the pain of loss,
that everyday you don’t speak to someone you love is a million words you swallow and hide.

I want to remember the millions of words I need to say.
and say them

I am not a regular person anymore, not who I was.
maybe I was
never regular
maybe everyone has their own brand of irregular

I want to cook up my mother’s egusi soup.
I piece together recipes from online sources, friends and memory,
piecing together a patchwork world.

I am not together.
my instagram, facebook, twitter presentation of myself is smiling, hardworking, creative.
most days I feel like a bed-ridden failure. I do not know how to celebrate my own birthday anymore.
my heart heavy with a weight I can’t explain to you.
I can’t quite wrap my mouth around the word
it tastes chalky in my mouth.
sharp bones, dull flavors.
there isn’t a word for this.
it is more than grief, more than depression.
it is a lifetime of mother-daughter fights swallowed and living in my intestines.
it is all the recipes I never had the chance to memorize,
the questions I didn’t know I had
the family tree in the branches of my mother’s arms
tell me why my face looks like you
tell me why each month that passes, my face is less mine, more yours
give me the sonic space to call out mom and hear a response instead of
tell me your stories again, the ones I was supposed to remember
but thought I’d have the chance to ask you to tell me again

I repeat, I am not together, not organized
I don’t know my shit
I am not progressing nicely towards any semblance of normality
in fact, I am troubled,

the roots in me feel like they are rotting at the ends
I want to be able to say all this in 30 seconds
I want to be able to put it all in one ill ass performance piece and just be done
but I can’t
I am never ever okay and I will never ever be okay.

my mother is buried
on randall’s island.


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