Gillian Kessler Poetry

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For my Mom, at 80

She takes all of me.
I’m a little sprout somewhere
deep inside her universe.
Deep inside,
a single woman,
a third baby.
She takes all of me.

She takes all of me.

The rocking horse flies across the room in rage.
I hide behind the sofa, face pressed into velour,
decide I will not go to school.
She reaches down and lifts me up.
Takes me.

She takes all of me.
The eye that won’t stay still
and writhing belly aches.I
can’t seem to learn my multiplication tables and
she takes me, a record of sea sounds and a
swaying crystal: Six threes are eighteen,
seven threes are twenty one.

The slow and steady mantra,
her accent clear and all-knowing.
When she snaps her fingers,
she’s done it again.  
All of me in her hands.

She takes all of me,
the exuberance and mess,
pink glasses and pixie cut,
grass stains on my white jeans that she
advised me not to wear while skating.

She takes all of me.
Chickenpox in a high rise hotel room,
on the last day, she lets me lie in the back of
a yellow cab, look up at all the skyscrapers,
takes me as I am.

She takes all of me.
The sudden changes,
a date at the Clinique counter,
frosted coral lipstick and soft beige foundation.
Even though I know how expensive they are,
I ask for them anyway—the pink overalls
and the new topsiders. She makes it work.

She takes all of me.
The betrayal and lies,
the confusion and disarray,
innocence slips in dark shadows,
my secrets spill like rain.
She takes all of me,
holds and listens,
eyes blue pools,
radical acceptance.

She takes all of me.

The hours on a leather sofa,
piles of homework and the constant
ring of my phone.
The music, the volume, the chaos.  
She takes it all.  
Always meets me
as me,
before an age,
before an era.

They leave me in an eleven story dorm room.
They leave me and drive through garlic fields

and the vacuous heat of Central California,
leave me and go  home.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be the same.  
All of me wants to be in the backseat of
that blue Honda. All of me feels empty
and alone without her.

She takes all of me.
I come back, ease into adulthood,
settle in a little guest cottage,
yellow walls and a fridge full of food
I don’t have to buy.

She takes all of me
when I come home covered in
blood and briars,
lost for hours, I stray
from the trail,
look out alone at the lights of the city,
wonder when I’ll see her again.

She takes all of me as I announce I’m
moving to the mountains,
another leap of faith,
a man to marry and

pies at the wedding.
On the video, her toast is my favorite bit,
how beautiful she looks,
how proud I’ve always been of her,
all wit and intelligence and grace.

She takes all of me,   
waits for the contractions to start,
the dry July heat,
sits and sits in a waiting room,
knitting and books.
All day I move through my endorphin haze,
the red sleigh bed and hot tub jets and

the girl flies from me
just like that.

It is so clear her face,
how amazed and how perfect,
all the worry a washin those sticky little limbs,
the vernix and blood.
She can sleep easy.

And tonight,
I take all of her,
out of bed again,
says she can’t sleep.
She rests on my chest and we
read another book,
her curls matted,
a halo of golden frizz,
eyes red from exhaustion,
the blue like you.
I’m frustrated and speak sharp at first
and then remember
take all of her,
take all of her,
every single day.
Take all of her.



About the Author

Gillian Kessler

Gillian Kessler can be found dancing to loud music, teaching exuberant children to appreciate language, writing in the early morning when everyone is asleep and exploring the wilds of Montana with her beautiful family. Read more about her eclectic and full life at .

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