This piece was written and performed for Hazelwood West Writers Week, 3/2/17
In the three years since she died I've been called strong more times that I could count on twenty hands. Most of the time strong is good. And I know they mean it to be, but what does one say when strong feels like a consolation prize? She died and I grew stronger.
I would rather be weak.
All three of my children close enough to touch weak.
I would die if my baby died weak.
Weak in the knees, as I watch them all breathe
Just beside me and think how
"I'm glad that wasn't me"
I don't feel strong exactly, but I'll tell you what I am if you'll listen
Of this there isn't a question.
I am brave.
Brave as the mother who places dirt atop her grave and walks away
Who taps her blinker, changes lanes
On the way home.
Brave is tire tracks on roads you never wanted to know.
Brave is go.
Brave is not being allowed to love someone over bones.
Brave is loving them anyway. Loudly. Publicly. Uncomfortably.
Brave is, every day, stepping foot into a world that will hurt you. Mock you. Fail you.
Brave is telling those who ran "no thank you"
Brave is straightening your coat; locking all the doors behind you
Brave is a claw in a hole.
Brave is weakness.
The kind that catches in your throat with her name, the kind that slays you.
Pink and blue and pacifies
All you thought you knew
Brave is forgiveness.
And holding on and letting go.
Brave is an oxymoronic existence.
Brave is persistence.
Brave is the heart that betrays you.
The one that beats when you beg it not to.
Brave is weakness given voice.
Brave is a choice.
Brave is a courage grown from ashes.
Dares to risk it all again
For something so fragile, so fleeting, so often unkind
As love can be
Brave is me.
Brave is now.
This body who gives life after death.
Brave is his every breath.
Brave is a stone's throw from crazy
The kind that haunt you from dreams
Brave is a scream
And a silence in the night
The perpetual waking to a life that isn't right
Brave is loss.
The black and blue and bleeding kind. The open, ugly, fester kind
The kind that makes them turn
Brave is a moment, and a silence, earned.
Brave is her.
She is gone and I remain.
Brave is pain.
The kind that swallows and drowns you, and follows and surrounds you
Brave is the hand that swells,
Longs to hold her
Brave is bolder.
Than a life you thought done.
Brave is a fist and tongue, when being brave isn't fun
Brave is a spark in the absence of sun.
Brave is not wanting to stay.
Brave is love. Brave is yes. Brave is life
Brave is upright, brave is a heap in corners of rooms
Brave is every moment life resumes.
It is tragic, and tugging, and leaching
It is holding death in your hands and still reaching
Call me dramatic, call me scary, call me sad
I will own them but I won't run
And so you can add just the one.
I am the face of every parent's worst nightmare, for a lifetime
I am her mother.
I am the pulse in the ruins.
I am brave.