Jennifer Hosein is a Montreal-born writer, artist and educator of Trinidadian and South Asian ancestry. Her collection of poetry, A Map of Rain Days, was longlisted for the 2021 Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Her poems, fiction and non-fiction have been published in The Fiddlehead, The Quarantine Review, Event, and more.
As a writer and visual artist, my work tends to overlap. In difficult times, I lean into one or the other, or both, for sustenance. Therefore, when my mother’s aortic valve needed replacing, I began to write frantically about our time together.
After her passing, I did not know how to survive, so I painted. Madly. I painted my mother from old black-and-white photos and found her in the hours that I spent looking into her face. I am still painting her, nine years later, still privileged to be in her company. She never leaves me!
I’d like to share a video of the poem “Heart” from my book A Map of Rain Days, as well as an excerpt from a work-in-progress:
Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. I promised her a cake before midnight, and I do everything I can to stop the car from turning me back home, my heart pounding against the steering wheel. But my mother is waiting by the window. She doesn’t know, and then she does, tossing fragments of her old life into plastic bags: a handful of photographs, a miscellany of yellowed papers, a tattered jewelry box, too-tight clothes, slippers.
I am paralyzed. I cannot pull myself up off the floor where I spent much of the summer in a pile of sleeping bags and pillows, paper and pencils. There will never be another summer like that: doctor’s waiting rooms, Chinese supermarkets, creamy popsicles from the Pakistani grocer’s, trips to the lake. Sometimes, then, I felt caged. Now, it’s all I want.
My aunt’s house is warm, but my mother’s new bedroom is wintry and smells of mothballs and cat. I spray perfume into corners, place a few of my mother’s photographs on the dresser top, tune the clock radio to the jazz station we listened to on dusk drives from my aunt’s house back to my mother’s apartment. How I will miss those drives! Helping my mother dress for bed, I take her socks off, pull a flannel nightgown over her head, kiss her and tuck her into the cold, stinking night before I go.
I race down the Don Valley Parkway toward January 6th, but there is a car rolled over on the highway. I run in the door at 11:54 p.m., just in time to put candles on the cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to my daughter. Love fills me up like a balloon, so full and stretched and thin am I.
Here is the link to my book and website: www.jenniferhosein.ca