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Poems by Gillian Kessler

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

By Gillian Kessler:

My mama died at the beginning of this year. Saturdays are now the hardest days. Saturdays, a little before one in the afternoon.

She was my lady. My dear friend. My lounge around on the bed and chat. My eat fine cheese and crisp apple slices partner. My let’s go deep and now. My fellow lover of Birkenstocks and soft, flowy pants. She was my champion of radical acceptance. A love force. A love blanket.

She died quickly. One day she was leaving me another silly phone message filled with love and random thoughts and strange questions, and the next she’d been found confused in her little apartment. A showering of strokes.

So I do what makes the most sense: I write. And feel. And process. And write some more.

This will be sacred space to share her story. Ours. We will see what becomes of us now.


At the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

You read that at the Garden of One Thousand Buddha’s we must walk clockwise, our right ears turned towards statues, our right ears ready to hear the words between the space that is sameness, stillness.

You clutch your blue cane, butterflies dance around the steel periphery and we walk hand in hand, your weight in my hip like I did with my babies, those natural grooves, that flow.

So very slowly we circle and I feel the false move, the slightest tap, could knock you down, a heap of only the finest linen, lips outlined in subtle red, not a smudge, everything just so, the weight of my task immense as we shuffle this circle, the still of this valley, the patterns, intricate and deliberate, molded and holy and you say you can almost feel it. How it feels to feel. Because, perhaps, when you’re near the end it’s better to ground in logic and knowledge, your strong mind dictating the terrain, because you’ve always done it all by yourself:

Come to this country. Marry this man. Raise these children. Education and education, work and work, one heavy step after another, though today, your legs barely support your frame, your back bent and broken, a tiny hand shakes, your face serious and deep, pained clarity.

Sixteen years ago, I never thought you’d still be here. The morphine dripped and I told you all my secrets, spoke to your closed eyes, laughed myself silly, delirious, those hours spent in that stale room, striped curtains and






Her Journey to America

She carried books perhaps

a pressed silk scarf

something woven with the indigo

hues of Ayah’s sari, the scent of

curry and cumin folded into the

careful creases.

She carried a handbag,

leather and posh with

just the essentials:

a cotton hanky,

a new lipstick,

a few hard candies,

in case she becomes


in case she needs

something slightly sweet.

She carried drive and


curiosity and zeal.

Something called brazen.

Something called pride.

Her shoulders square,

spine straight,

she stepped carefully off

the rickety dock,

inhaled the scent of

sea and salt,

smiled boldly at

the strangers on board,

turned her head one last time,

flashed her gorgeous smile

at the hills and

street signs,

at the dusty roads

and swaying palms,

at mothers and fathers,

brothers and uncles,

their injuries and false

hopes, their needs and

arrogance. She smiled and

sat, palms facing skyward