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Poetry: Eastern Mother

Introducing a new series of poems by Julian Matthews. Julian is a writer and Pushcart-nominated poet published in The American Journal of Poetry, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Borderless Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dream Catcher Magazine,  Live Encounters Magazine, Lothlorien Poetry Journal and The New Verse News, among others. He is a mixed-race minority from Malaysia and lived in Ipoh for seven years. Currently based in Petaling Jaya, he is a media trainer and consultant for senior management of multinationals on Effective Media Relations, Social Media and Crisis Communications. He was formerly a journalist with The Star and Nikkei Business Publications Inc



By Julian Matthews

A friend posted an old photograph of her mum and it reminded me of you
The ambiguity of a woman with Chinese features in a saree and pottu.
Coincidentally, her mother was adopted, like you, at a young age.
They say, just before soldiers die in trenches in battlefields, they call out for their mothers.
I am neither a soldier — nor in a battle for my life — at least not yet.
But like a child again in these restless times, wrestling with the not-knowing of how this is all going to end, I yearn for you.
I think of the families of millions now departed and the others battling to survive — some gasping for air in ventilators — and I wonder if they too are thinking of their mothers.
And hear you tut-tutting and saying: “Paavam pileh” like when I fell sick or hurt myself or came back soaked in the pouring rain.
And I think of those stranded, with no one beside them, curled up on cardboards, on cold, hard floors, in foetal positions, longing for mothers long gone — who once fed them from tired breasts and cradled them to sleep on relentless hot nights like these.
Like you did for me.
And I think of all the mothers worried about their own children on medical frontlines trying to help others survive. And the children cut off from their own mothers — near or far — because of the lockdowns.
And I think how fortunate the few of us are — the very few of us — who still have mothers alive and well and smiling. Ever-smiling.
And I think of your smile now, Mum
An oft-repeated anecdote at a family gathering
Your laughter loud and full on
Joyful tears that flowed after
Just being you
The Other
As I lie here. And whine and ramble.
Entombed in this anti-viral crucible.
This chrysalis of isolation.
This sealed dome.
This unhatched egg.
This pregnant pause.
Hoping to emerge again. Alive. To come visit. Outside your gate. And call you by name: “Mum!”
But you won’t be there.
And I will still be here.
Without the sun of my eastern mum.

First published in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Washington DC, USA.

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