Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remembering Mothers

Today would be my mother's 86th birthday, if she were living. To commemorate the occasion, two poems:

When my mother saw me last (then left me)
Looking back in the cold high airport,
Lines straggling here, there, nowhere,
I saw her eyes, her eyes alone:

Trapped birds, bright with promise
Of the sun that lured them to the glade,
And then refused to shine as evening fell
And trees encircling turned to prison bars.

She stayed her customary summer week:
Each forgave the other in that bitter back and forth
We walk in lieu of love.

But when she left,
Her eyes!

+ + + + +

If that sole dark cedar
Did not relieve the vista to this hill,
The brown and gray of winter
Would creep interminably,
Triumphantly on,
Until ice had claimed
The summit's very crown,
The crest from which sun leaps
Each day into the cold, astonished sky.

But there the cedar lurks,
Huddled and shaggy
As a bag lady on a city grate,
Crazy-wise and sovereign,
All the world's wants
Twisted in her gnarled old hair.

Without her, sun could not come up,
Moon not pour dreams upon the stillborn earth.

But for this cedar, the hill's feet would crumble into dust,
For this tree alone holds death at bay,
Bent within the branches of its head,
Where birds find respite from the wind,
And peace sleeps like a cradled babe,
Waiting for the day when lords and masters meet
The mothers they have driven to the streets,
Nursing life itself inside their frost-torn hands.