I compiled River Ghosts in the summer after my mother, Sylvia L. Schreiber, died from Covid-19. She died in April two years ago in a terrible week that began with the death of one of our two cats on a Monday and ended with hers on Saturday. We were able to be with our Mickey, but not with my mom, as the world was shuttering and shuddering, and we were closed in our bubbles of grief and mourning.
However, River Ghosts is not a collection of sad poems about death and dying. Oh, there are some, of course, but there are also poems that celebrate life, our Earth, the stars, family, and love. I imagine that’s the way my mom would have wanted it.
I feel like I should tell you a bit about my mom—not just howshe died, but how she lived. She was the daughter of immigrant parents who both worked in their small grocery store in Philadelphia while she was growing up. My mom and dad married during WWII, and by the end of the 1950s, they owned a large, wholesale antique store in Dallas, Texas. After they divorced, my mom worked in retail, and opened a series of stores that sold jewelry and clothing. She had wanted to go to college for art or design when she was young, and in her seventies, she began painting again. She loved color and flowers; she had a sweet tooth and loved chocolate. She loved her children and grandchildren. Perhaps its’s that love that explains how she could see a short skirt or uncombed hair even when she was nearly blind.
I think it’s important for you to know that my mom had a laugh that made everyone around her laugh. And that though they ended up unable to live together, my father was the love of her life, and I think she was his. He died over two decades ago, but before she died, my mom thought he was there with her. I hope he was.
Even before my mother’s death, I had enjoyed walking by the Delaware River. Afterwards, I walked there nearly every morning. I think of all the river has seen in its existence. Perhaps there are ghosts who walk along its banks, but right now, I also see flowers and nests, and the promise of new life. I hope you will see these things, too, in this collection.
Cherish the people you love and who love you.