The shape of your womb
is how I learned to tilt my head
when listening hard, when taking in.
Your legs, one slightly shorter
than the other (not enough to limp
but enough to sculpt the muscles
of your back and tense your walk),
took me through my first merengue,
taught those small refinements
of sway and balance
and life spread over me
simply, cell by new cell,
as light spreads over a shadow,
lessons of pace,
lessons of patience.
A dream that you are talking.
You hold a peach and tell me
about the luxuries of shopgirls.
1943. Lord & Taylor, the lingerie
and nylon counter. Twenty,
no soldier to worry over yet plenty
to meet, the jewelry of the jitterbug
and free to stay in the city overnight.
You phrase it, the shiny black satin
of becoming a woman.
How quiet we are, the two of us.
Each reading in our favorite
chairs, the rainy afternoon
moving toward dusk and
the making of dinner.
I am proud to chop the onions
and peel the eggs.
I will earn a small piece of cake,
though not enough to ruin my appetite.
How the afternoon we made
And yet such a loneliness chipped at you,
such a bleakness, as if everything
were too narrow,
people, ease, and the coronation
of desire, so that each day the loneliness
broke off some small edge of self
until the small, ruined abbey
of your heart lost its body faithful.
In the hospital,
your legs elephantine with water
growing larger into your death
and my father and I
growing smaller and smaller,
unable to talk directly and honestly to you,
as if you were not
a dying woman
we both loved.
The first deep cold day of winter,
the air with no sense of forgiveness.
I clear some last leaves from your grave.
In a few weeks, it will be seven years.
Your grandsons are growing well.
It is so cold, and here in this cemetery,
I imagine that you bear me
once again towards the vastness of future,
while I remember and bear you back
into this tiny present, this brief
regency of noise and light.
Light in Sheets through a Break
in the Clouds out toward the
Horizon in the East
Those must be the trails of angels filing into the choirstalls,
this wind the ruste of their feet and robes
as Bach takes up his baton,
humming to set the key, rising on his toes.
For this morning he has chosen the B minor Sanctus
and the angels thrill to it since no music rises to Him
as this Sanctus does. Their voices fill all heaven
and heaven’s gold breaks all through the sky.
The light pouring into all five senses,
into my shoulders and my spine,
into my hands fierce to hold it, to shape it,
to offer it up as the heart and grace of love.