Eye to Eye

Poetry / Carol Moldaw

:: Eye to Eye ::

When I see my mom and H__ stare into each other’s eyes, inch­es away from each oth­er, my moth­er on her sag­gy flo­ral coach, H__ bend­ing to her lev­el, lean­ing in, with her obsid­i­an eyes and limpid smile, the deep­ness and unbro­ken length of their gaze stuns me. Had my moth­er ever held her wild­flower blue eyes that steady for any­one, for that long? In old pho­tos, she looks straight into the cam­era, shin­ing, intent—until the flash pops. With us, her regard was tran­si­to­ry, less than a gaze but more than a glance. H, one hand on the couch’s arm, close to my mother’s rest­ing arm but not touch­ing it, is firm and insis­tent as she cajoles and appeals to my mother’s bet­ter nature. And no mat­ter how unin­ter­est­ed or stub­born­ly oppo­si­tion­al my moth­er is, H, in this way, man­ages to per­suade her time after time to do what she wants her to. To rise from the lily-print­ed couch, to eat, go to the bath­room, change from one fleece or print­ed poly­blend zip-up caf­tan to anoth­er, fresh­er one. I arrange not to be there to wit­ness the get­ting out of bed, the teeth clean­ing, the bathing, the trans­ac­tions from one room, one chair, to anoth­er. For the moment, H__, the firm but lov­ing moth­er my moth­er nev­er had, has her entranced.



From the writer

:: Account ::

In describ­ing aspects of the rela­tion­ship between my moth­er and H__, her caregiver–H__’s patience and lov­ing kind­ness, my mother’s unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly pli­ant response to it–I want­ed to con­vey how deeply the rela­tion­ship reach­es into my mother’s psy­che, how heal­ing it appears to be for her. Of course, I can’t–and the poem doesn’t–presume to know what place, if any, in H__’s psy­che the rela­tion­ship has; the poem can only char­ac­ter­ize the way she treats my moth­er. Prose, straight­for­ward and obser­va­tion­al, seemed to bet­ter con­vey the cadence of their inter­ac­tion and my own role, as a bystander. Only in describ­ing each set of eyes did I feel the neces­si­ty to use imagery. 


Car­ol Moldaw is the author of Beau­ty Refract­ed (Four Way Books, 2018) as well as well as five oth­er books of poet­ry, includ­ing The Light­ning Field, which won the FIELD Poet­ry Prize (Ober­lin Col­lege Press, 2002) and a nov­el, The Widen­ing (Etr­uscan Press, 2008). Her work has been pub­lished wide­ly in jour­nals, includ­ing The New York Review of Books, Poem-A-Day, AGNI, Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, FIELD, Har­vard Review, The New York­er, The Yale Review, Plume and On the Sea­wall, which also pub­lished Tyler Mills’s inter­view with her in 2020. She lives in San­ta Fe, NM.