Instructions for Hugging Your Momma by Sarah Mackey Kirby

Instructions for Hugging Your Momma

Forget about the car ride, where you both
talked past each other, after all that tired
rolled into a boil. Walk up the front path,
kicking away stray twigs that could cause
her to stumble. Wait, even in this 100-degree
summer heat, so she can stare at thirsty roses,
shake her head at growing weeds, and smile at
clusters of pink phlox and orange daylilies.
Help her up the concrete steps. Into the
front door. And after she catches her breath,
kiss her forehead right next to the scar
where cancer first reared its ugliness.

Wrap your arms around her arms,
and don’t let go. Squeeze out every
back-in-the-day embarrassed teenage
eye roll. All those July mornings she came
inside covered in sweat and garden dirt.
Grab on to every Saturday buying blackberries
at the farmer’s market. Each time you had to redo
her mascara and all her huffing at the TV news.

Clutch each facepalm instance she didn’t
know the names of bands and comedians,
so you helped her finish her crossword puzzle.
Hug the smell of almost-done banana bread,
the knock-you-out perfume that lingered
after she’d leave a room. Hug away this hell,
this wicked hell, so it’s not the first thing
you’ll forever think of. Hug her zest for travel, her
concern for people, her lack of patience of any kind.
Her gorgeous smile and finger-snap gumption.
Her terra cotta pots and love of lighthouses.
Hold on to her laugh, her marvelous laugh.

Grab her hands that never put down a book.
Squeeze her shoulders that carry too much tension.
Feel her heartbeat, her skin, her quiet strength.
Hold on to this moment for as long as the two of you
can. And pray to everything. To God. To the universe.
To the ground, the stars, the taxis, the refrigerator.
Pray to the trees. For another exhausting tomorrow.

by Sarah Mackey Kirby


Editor’s Note: The opening image of this poem immediately draws the reader into a moment to which we can all relate. The end of the poem is where the title’s admonition pushes against the heart.

10 thoughts on “Instructions for Hugging Your Momma by Sarah Mackey Kirby

  1. Having a 95 y.o.Mother who is both very wonderful and who sometimes plucks my last nerve, I found this to be a beautiful poem full of specific details.


  2. I read this poem yesterday. By coincidence, we visited my ancient mother last night. Once a force of nature–but never a “huggy” woman–she is now frail and dreadfully hunched. As we prepared to leave, she struggled to her feet, and I put my arm around her–in the back of my mind–thinking of this poem.


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