There are 100 counties in North Carolina,
and I begin trolling through them all,
searching the obituaries for a place I’ve got a homesick longing to see.
I have to do something, my hunger to know gone so long unfed
and I’m given over to the kind of desperate that makes you clutch and grasp and make a fist.
I want to find her hometown, walk down her childhood streets,
see where she spent her long ago days
– to feel the traces she may have left behind.
And to find the grave of the mother she mourns.
I won’t barge into her space uninvited, but I ache to quiet the rattle as my mind
circles ’round the lot looking always for a place to park.
But I don’t want to wreck this for either of us.
God help me please, I’ll wait.
She’ll say when she’s ready. She will.
I pull up, unfold the clench of my jaw, release again the strings,
and another year goes by.
She is bright and accomplished and can find me if she wants, I am positive.
But why doesn’t she?
Is it because she can’t hear the all of my heart?
Or because she can and doesn’t want me?
The un-knowing makes me feel small. A mouse. My imagination on too much catnip.
And Edith, please, what do you actually say to her? And how do you say?
Because, for the love, why doesn’t she write back?
I wrestle like this for years.
I can be minding my own business, living as wholehearted as I know how, and then
this roque breaker will clap down sudden like thunder and I’m splintered by the silence.
I sit down hard on every grabby impulse; I want her to know she is free.
She doesn’t owe me anything – this I believe.
I can touch my own scar and remember vivid when they wheeled me down the halls
and away from her small body left still beneath the bilirubin lamps to make her better.
I bear down on a hope that I’m leaving her to something better,
but I can feel it inside where something tears sharp with each door they pushed me through
that I am the one who is leaving.
And as I go, I know it like I will come to know this pain that never leaves,
that there is no way she’s not gonna feel this.
Does she feel it now, I wonder, and it unnerves the holes of me.
It’s been almost eight years since the tide rolled in with a bottle on a wave
and brought me first news of my girl.
One busy afternoon in September the agency rings again
and I grab on like a rope sweeping past.
She’s talked with Amanda and has some things to share; do I have the time?
The orbit of everything grinds to a halt as I drop to the floor to listen hard.
Edith’s words come like giftwrapped punches. My daughter’s whys.
I hear from a long ago place and can’t remember how to breathe.
The grown of me defends Amanda’s right to take whatever time she needs,
to feel whatever she feels – even if it’s abandoned.
She’s smart and feels deeply and her process is beautiful and valid
and I get behind her choices like an angry mama bear –
thanks for calling, really, but please don’t call again unless there’s a letter.
I hold this fresh jumble of not-knowing for five minutes, maybe a little longer,
and then lunge for my laptop,
prying open the lid long forbidden.
A newspaper in the eastern part of my state whispers the name of a woman,
survived by a daughter, that offers an “Amanda” in the cluster of those related.
There it is. Their family name. Her hometown.
I know enough from Edith to be sure that she’ll have a web presence
and my fingers fly across the keys as I google the magic box
and a string of images appear.
Oh God, it’s her.
I know them at once, those honest, hazel eyes.
I’m glad to be alone as I rock backwards on my feet and bolt from the room,
suddenly overcome by emotion that I still can’t name or figure.
My throat goes dry even as I type this now.
I return and look again, scrolling through several images, all so deeply familiar
and overwhelmingly and achingly and astonishingly her.
I’m head over heels, peering through tears that geyser up from somewhere deep,
as if my belly recognizes what my eyes can just now see.
I can’t quite keep breathing, but I love this face more than air
and I stand for a long, long while at the bright window of her smile.
This Summer series. My story finding it’s way into the light.
It’s been peck and crack and struggle and I appreciate your kind patience
as I wobble along. If it reads smooth and clear, then I’m not telling it true.
I can feel your questions like I’ve keenly felt mine. I’ll answer them around the bend.