Poem | Erica Jong

May, 10 2013

Not With a Bang but
With a Whimper

(My mother died & the world did not end)


How I wish it were
apocalyptically dramatic—
the end of the world

burning books of fierce fire,
horsemen with spears,
flaming suns sprung
from trebuchets,
dire projections of our stoned
fantasy lives,
awake, dreaming,
dreaming our dreaming selves.

But no.
Breath slips away
on pneumonia’s sweet white wings,
eyes fix on the snowy park & can’t see
but a blur of white, eggshell,
cream, buttermilk & smeared smog.

Both parents calmly left
this world of pain.
My one regret was not to be

there for Papa, Daddy
as I was for Mother, Mom, Mommy
(as I never called her)
Eda Mirsky Mann the glorious,
great mother of daughters
but no son.

Painter, illustrator, costume-maker,
designer of dresses she could cut & sew.
Designer of tsatskelech,
beloved wife, daughter, sister,
who never knew how loved
she was (or did she?),
flirt & party-maker
for her pals,
painters, musicians, actors,
but never crass colleagues
of her husband’s trade.

O how she hated gruberyungen!
Merchants & moneymen
though she adored furcoats & jewelry,
antique screens & silk & first class travel—
the Trianon Palace Hotel

might have been her second home
like poor, sad,
Marie Antoinette.

She embraced her grand Trianon
as the Austrian Princess never did.
Poor Antonia,

little nowhere child,
of a much too fertile
Queen. . .no Maria Theresa
you—but a fierce
second daughter
of a second daughter
of a second daughter,
like me.

How I mourned my mother
sitting by her side,
saying that I loved her,
crushing all adolescent
ambivalence forever.

I did love her with my crooked heart.
my mother of the crooked heart,
her generosity with flowers & filets & food,
her lavishness with gifts
for all.

I know you adored all three
of us—as we ate up your talent,
devoured your fabulous words,
sucked your bones dry
as daughters do.

One of a kind, my mother,
sui generis,
& generous
to the bittersweet end.

All my love
began with you—
you who left more quietly
than you ever lived.


 Erica Jong is a novelist, poet and essayist. She has published 22 books, including eight novels and six volumes of poetry.


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