Poem At Forty

This is how my mother looked
when I was as old as my son is now
I am the same age as my mother then
I have drawn even with her.

I hold her photo
I look at her soft flab
the workouts I have fiercely found time for 
has kept me slim.

My mother never massaged almond oil around her eyes
never firmed her skin with lotions
never included nuts and sprouts in her diet
never hennaed her hair

sari hastily clad
she ran a comb through her jet black hair 
collected her bag and
went for work

sudden calls came from her old distressed father
to manage her violent brother
she bonded with another brother
who shut himself up for days in depression

then, starving he came home
she fed him and they both silently sat together
she thrust money in his palms
when he rose to leave

she was the axle for the family
her brothers and sisters
so diverse and with differences
looked to her to string them together

the smile that she carried
toned her muscles
the compassion that filled her eyes
galvanized her with undying energy.

I nudge time for myself
scoop it away greedily
hate taking calls on a weekend
for fear of committing time to someone.

I close the door to the world
when I get back from work
settle in my large chair with a book
tea steeped in the kettle.

I walk contently around the silent house
the quietness loosens my limbs
cooking meal for the family
stirring soup for myself.

When it is time for a face mask
I get ready to meet a stranger in the mirror
hair thinning at the temple,
henna paling to reveal grey squiggles.

The face toned with massages and masks
can’t hide the anxiety around the eyes
mouth that seldom sees a smile
is drawn tight with stiffness.

By shoring energy for myself
I hoped to appear young
my mother burnt herself out
and stayed radiantly timeless.


3 thoughts on “Poem At Forty

  1. Brilliant uma.
    U have vividly described her as we remember.
    Poignant memories. keep them coming. like to read a lot more like this

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