My mother wrote poetry. Lots of poetry. I guess the muse struck at odd times because she would often write on gum wrappers, napkins, envelopes, bills, old movie tickets, recipe cards, notes home from school and on the back of photographs. I was too little to actually remember her doing this, and I suspect I may be the only one that knows this happened. How do I know she wrote poetry? Because she hid her poems all around the house. From the time I was about 5 and could read semi-fluently and comprehend tenuously I started find them.
The first discovery was in our cookie jar. My father was at work (as usual) and there was our Cookie Monster cookie jar, staring at me from atop the refrigerator with that goofy, drunken smile on his face. Since my mother had been gone there were no longer homemade cookies (they came in bunches after she first was gone, brought in by my aunties and neighbors and ladies from church; but just as quickly as the bounty started, the visits suddenly stopped). Now, my father would buy generic brand cookies that were supposed to be like the real thing, but were always a little off. Chocolate wafers with cream filling, vanilla-flavored rounds and crunchy chocolate chip delights were the best we got now, but they were better than nothing.
I did my little climbing maneuver of pushing the kitchen chair next to the counter. Then I stepped on the chair and carefully put one foot and then the other onto the slippery counter (my mother? or maybe grandmother had taught me early to NEVER wear socks when climbing because they would surely make you slide off and break your neck). Finally, standing on my tiptoes, I carefully removed Cookie Monster’s head and slipped my tiny hand into the jar. I felt around blindly, touching crumbs, one cookie and a piece of paper.
Of course, my main concern was the cookie. I snatched it out and set it on top of the refrigerator. I picked up Cookie’s head and was ready to fit it on it’s base, but something made me pause. I can’t really explain what it was. I had figured the paper I had felt was part of the wrapper of the bag of cookies, but something in my tummy told me to grab it. I sat down the head and stood on my tiptoes again. I searched around the crumb-filled jar and caught the slight paper between my thumb and forefinger. I breathed out, set the paper next to the cookie, placed Cookie’s head on, grabbed my two stolen goods and carefully climbed down from the counter to the chair.
I munched on the vanilla-flavored cookie as I pushed the chair back to the table with my belly. The paper, which I now saw was a torn off corner of a sewing pattern, seemed useless. I was annoyed that I went to all that trouble. But, then again, I thought, why would that be in a cookie jar? I stuffed the rest of the cookie in my mouth, sat down and turned over the torn paper. On it was beautiful, perfect, light-as-a-feather handwriting. My mother’s handwriting. She had written:
He was trying to steal my heart
But he went by way of my head
His words brutally injected with a drill
He broke my heart, made my mind fuzzy
And I never saw clearly again.