Sunday, March 07, 2010

My Two Mothers

On the left, below, is my mother, Ethel Ruth McColley Eilers, the mother of my older brother, Edward Lloyd (Buster), myself, James Thomas, and my younger brother, Dennis Raymond. Ethel was always allied with her older sister, on the right below, Elsie Mathilde McColley Pierce Scherer, the matriarch of the McColley clan, who had helped and protected Ruth during their difficult early years. Both were present throughout the lives of myself and my brothers, like two mothers, but suddenly at the end of her life, Ruth felt she had been oppressed by Elsie all her life, and severed their relationship. Below that is my verse about this "double oedipal" situation.


I did not let them come into my heart anymore –
my mother and my aunt who hovered over
my childhood. When they came to visit,
they jostled to hug me, but my aunt always won.
“Yes, hug her first,” said my mother bitterly.
My two mothers pulled me apart. I was supposed
to bring meaning to their lives, find
the Golden Fleece, return with the Holy Grail.
That’s why I made it a point to fail.

But they were the talkers, the story tellers;
they made me a writer, and somewhere back there
I believed in one or the other. Lying in bed
against my aunt’s ample bosom, while she read
to me from Bambi and Forever Amber, I was glad
that my uncle worked the night shift in the mills.
Recently I let it come back into my life –
that fearful mother thing. It would suffocate,
I thought. It will cover my mouth like a breast

but also cover my nose and stop my breath.
But then I let it come. It was a soft cape
at the back of my head and shoulders. I sank
into it as if it were bread dough. It held me.
I let it come back: breast, womb, warm
enfolding arms, comfort. It was no longer
the Wasp Queen or the Virgin Mary with crescent
talons sweeping down the night to tear
out my heart. The mother thing, freed

of my mother and my aunt, came into my life
as if it were part of the universe, that black
stuff between the stars drifting down to hold
me and to heal me and to make me not afraid
of love and connection. It’s like a fur cap
for a cold head. It’s like lifting a warm
tortilla in your hand. I intend to entertain
this stranger, the Mother. I only wish my
mother had found her. Goddess of Mercy,
Our Lady of Compassion, heal us all.

(Copyright 2010, James McColley Eilers)

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