Distance from Loved Ones
by James Tate
After her husband died, Zita decided to get the face-lift
she had always wanted. Half-way through the operation
her blood pressure started to drop, and they had to stop.
When Zita tried to fasten her seat-belt for her sad drive
home, she threw-out her shoulder. Back at the hospital
the doctor examined her and found cancer run rampant
throughout her shoulder and arm and elsewhere. Radiation
followed. And, now, Zita just sits there in her beauty parlor,
bald, crying and crying.
My mother tells me all this on the phone, and I say:
Mother, who is Zita?
And my mother says, I am Zita. All my life I have been
Zita, bald and crying. And you, my son, who should have known
me best, thought I was nothing but your mother.
But, Mother, I say, I am dying. . .
Monday, August 27, 2007
Distance From Loved Ones
I've been thinking about this poem recently, for reasons I'm not sure I understand. The poet responsible, James Tate, taught at the University of Massachusetts when I as at Amherst. Once or twice, I saw him wandering around town. He typically had a dazed, self-absorbed, fragile kind of aura about him--very much like a poet is supposed to. A holy innocent, he seemed, although I don't know how much of that was contrivance and how much was truth. Regardless, I love this poem.