Asked to Contribute to the Button Chair in Memory of My Mother, I Send My Regrets
by David Poston
One life we spend; one life spends us–Jane Hirshfield
A preacher’s wife, she trusted
the Broadman Hymnal, King James Bible,
Democratic Party, Readers’ Digest, and her doctor,
who gave her Celebrex and a pat on the hand
for the dark mushrooming she hid in her breasts.
One weekend a year, she went to prison and
taught the ladies crafts. She kept the church books,
counting coins and stacking bills on Sunday afternoon,
From the choir loft, she kept an eye on everyone,
stern enough that even my ex-wife quailed.
When we let her go, we gave her clothes to the VFD.
Funny, I know where Allen Philbeck’s heart beats on,
in the breast of a woman over in Forest City,
but not who came to the firehouse
and wears even one button-up sweater, one cotton blouse.
Angry for what I failed to see, what she
failed to tell me, I regret I did not make her face it,
that I was not holding her hand at 2:00 a.m. in Pardee Memorial Hospital,
that I was sleeping deep as St. Peter.
I don’t have even a button. I send you this.
Author’s Comment: Brooke Kolconay Bryand created the Button Chair in 1998, and my mother died of breast cancer in 1999. Each button represents either a breast cancer survivor or victim, and the chair raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer awareness. When the chair came through my community, it sparked this poem about a very fresh loss. Since I wrote it, I have come to better appreciate the rich, intangible legacy of my mother. She did not deal with her disease well, though, so thank goodness for the Button Chair, which is helping other women fight it.