On the occasion of my mom’s 75th birthday

I wanted to take her on my run.
I wanted her beside me
as I traveled on the bluff
above the Mississippi.

To talk about the trees or
the poetry class I was taking or
what she was weaving on her loom or
where to plant zinnias in my backyard or
the latest book about history she was reading or
the wildflowers she knew the names of but I didn’t or
when the Real Housewives would stop being a thing or
why you can’t find a decent pair of jeans that aren’t skinny or
how it was to be seventy-five when you always feel 17. But

I couldn’t.
She’s dead.
8 years now.
And when
I’m running
I can’t spare
the energy
needed to
imagine her
beside me.
The most I
can do
is imagine
she’s the shadow
leading me
or the
runner I
encounter on
the path.

A few months ago running
south on the river road I thought
I saw her coming towards me—at
least the her I like to remember—mid
50s short reddish hair (before she started dyeing
it blonde to hide the gray) teal shorts muscular legs
jogging so slow she is almost walking. I know it isn’t
her but for less than a minute I allow myself to believe my
mom is still alive never diagnosed with a death sentence
never not running or walking or breathing. Then I remember

if those things
hadn’t ended—
mainly the breathing—
I might not
have started
running or writing
to reshape my grief.

Who would I be
without my grief?
Someone else. Someone
whose Mom is still alive but
maybe not someone who loves
to run or someone who is writing a poem
for their dead mom on the occasion of her 75th birthday.