Coming Up for Air

Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Poetry, women | 7 comments

pearlsComing Up for Air

My little sister may not win her battle with cancer.
She says God asked her, Will you take a bullet for
your son? To her it means, Will you give your child
a life of strength, wisdom born of losing his mother?

When she speaks I hear the surf begin to roar.
The tide inside threatens to push me over.
I dive beneath the surface, search for a place
where answers hide; where a perfect orb,
layered in the right words glows iridescent
inside a crusted shell, waits for me to harvest,
roll between fingers, string beside others,
offer as a gift to her – warm and comforting.
But I lose my breath, come back up for air.

My son marries his love. I am Mother of the Groom,
buy the only strand of pearls I’ve ever owned.
Here, in the desert, I feel the ocean against my breast,
watch a hundred little suns rise in the palm of my hand.
I let go my grown child and hold on to this moment,
these drops of light, these worlds of wonder.

My mother dies, her life unstrung.
Before she passed I thought I had all the answers
about how she lived, why she died; how God and
everything and everyone is linked together in
one eternal round. I kneel by the bed,
wait for echoes of her voice, breathe deep
underwater quiet, hear whispers from a velvet box–
What you know is smaller than a pearl.
The Truth is bigger than the universe.


  1. Wow !
    That is pure beauty.

    • Thanks, Suzette.

  2. Stunning, beautiful, powerful poem, Melody. I am in awe of your gift.

    I think I have had glimpses of realizing just how little we can know the human heart of another. Which makes me want to give people the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what experiences have helped shaped them? Who knows what, given their individual contexts and circumstances, will kill their spirit or ennoble and empower them? Of course I don’t always live up to this ideal of being kind and giving people the benefit of doubt, but I hope to get better as I go on.

    • Caroline, you are a kind and generous soul. And, yes, the last stanza is about a time I learned how little I know and how small I am. Sometimes we think we have things all figured out. But I’m convinced that (with exception of rare moments of inspiration and enlightenment,) we really do “see through a glass darkly.” We do the best we can with what we know. That’s all any of us can do. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Melody, you know your name couldn’t be an accident. Beautiful. I love you.

  4. I love the thoughts of your heart.

  5. So beautiful…thank you, Melody! I love the sea and pearl images and am struck by the image of stringing together you and your family members.

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