January 31, 2021

Rose Tattoo & Mother Wounds: This is for the Un-Mothered Ones.

I’ve read a lot about mother wounds and re-parenting and the inner child.

I’ve done a lot of work on it too.

Yes, I’m one of those women, the un-mothered ones. Some of us have been made orphans by death, our mothers snatched away by disease or accidents. Others, like me, lost their mothers in a different way. We lost them to disappearing and wide-open spaces and addiction. They’re still here, existing somewhere on the physical plane, but they are only half-real figments to us. 

I call mine a ghost mother, she pops up now and then, in unlikely places. She has been out of my life now for longer than she was in it. And now, I’m older than she was when she left. I was 14; she was 30.

There’s another way she haunts me too, in my memories. I think that’s the hardest for us un-mothered ones, the visceral memories that come flooding back at random times. Provoked by an image or a scent, or another of the senses, we’re taken aback, walls crumbling down, to a place where the women who carried us in their bellies were with us and real. This poem is about that feeling.

Today I saw a tattoo, and it made me think of you. 

A rose on an ankle. 

It squeezed my blood-red heart like a fist. 

The heart that’s the same color,

as the petals,

of the rose,

 on your ankle. 

I can’t remember the last time we talked. 

It’s too painful. 

Like being pricked by ten thousand thorns.

You don’t even know

that I don’t have a tattoo, 

No ink. 

 No rose. 

But I still remember,

I still know,

the exact shape

of your ankle.

Even when you’re gone,

really gone,

from this fleeting little life,  

and even when I’m decaying, gray, 

and my lips lose their tint,  

I’ll still remember

what your legs smelled like, 

and the tiny bird bones of your feet. 

When the color has seeped from my skin, 

and I don’t remember quite as well as I used to, 

and I don’t hear quite as well as I used to, 

I know I’ll be able to recall,

the exact pitch of your voice,

and how you used to draw roses, 

on notebook paper,

like a little girl.

 I’ll remember your sharp stubble,

around your ankles,

and the tattoo, 

because it was of your body, 

like I was.

If you have a mother-wound aching today, or a scar on your heart that you know will be opened again, I hope you know—I feel you, I see you. I don’t have a solution or words of wisdom because there aren’t any. This pain is real and demands our attention and care.

I hope you’ve grown an internal mother, I hope you’re able to practice your mothering on others and yourself, and I hope you’ve found other women in your life who hold you in that mama way. But know this, know that I know that there’s no replacement and it still hurts and it’s still always going to hurt now and then.


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