a few stragglers remain.
a few stragglers remain.
Our home is a pale shade of blue,
one you might find looking west in the spring
minutes after sunrise,
or in a robin’s egg whose green tints
have been replaced by gentle grays.
It was once a deep red,
more readily apparent in recent years
from the street-facing, sun-bleached southern side,
where spots of peeling and chipping have grown
past neighborly size,
reflecting the same inertia
that has kept me from replacing
the almost imperceptibly dripping basement pipe.
I peel an orange –
the fruit itself is disappointing and dry;
my son pushes the lawnmower
back and forth across the lawn,
glancing to me each time he makes a turn.
It’s the first time I’ve stood back so far.
I’m finally looking into the cardboard box
I brought home from my mother’s house
late last month;
The clementines she insisted I take and perched on top
have long since been eaten;
it’s been otherwise untouched
sitting in the corner of the yellow room.
Two pairs of my infant pajamas —
The yellow corduroy with the embroidered lion;
the faded white and green night dress.
She had remarked on the drawstring
she had sewn into the bottom,
how it was still there,
and the fold-over sleeves to keep me from scratching myself
as I slept in my crib.
My white shoes, too —
but still with their impossibly stiff soles;
my grandmother’s blue-and-white Canton ware,
wrapped in the 1975 Daily News
from Bowling Green, Kentucky.
just before I left,
we sat on the basement couch flipping through
faded Kodak prints, square with rounded corners,
(most taken before we moved into the house on the hill).
We paused at one where I wore that night dress,
standing with my sister
in the deep darkness of an evening east window.
There were others, too, from that forty-years-ago,
and she told me again about each one.
We had such fun, she said,
A poem hasn’t completed me
since last season;
I bring an occasional one
to the finish –
so I don’t forget
how many lines are in a stanza,
or to remind myself
the weight of my pencil.
I have to get the leaves moved;
the ones scattered
across the lawn
I have to get them moved
before the snow arrives.
hold misunderstood questions
alongside bright smile greetings.
at the end of the day,
I stayed late at the Temple
to water Roshi’s flowers.
oceans of bright clouds,
oceans of solemn clouds.
The final couplet comes from the words of Dogen in our school’s translation of the Ninth Precept.
It’s supposed to be raining this morning,
but I awake without the sound
of small drops trickling from maple leaves or
spattering the old tin roof
outside our bedroom window –
either would have muffled the clinking of
spoons against the edges of
glass cereal bowls that
filters up from downstairs.
Yet well past the hour when
I often find myself alone,
you are still beside me,
I watch your breasts rise and fall
under the softness of your light blue camisole,
its narrow strap rising over your left shoulder
into a blur of light from the south window.
Your birthday is two days from now –
early forty-something this summer –
I should get up and settle the children’s argument,
plan for a gift.
Standing at their top
in the old house on the hill,
it seemed a long way down
the steepness of the dimly lit stairs.
From below in the kitchen,
you called my spiderman pajamas
I thought to correct you —
but even at nine,
I knew it didn’t matter.
Driving to work this morning,
it was even more remote
from the concerns of this day
or the decades in between.
Yet there we were,
among the forsythia
and apple blossoms
in the brightness of spring.
There’s a much more involved prose piece in here; but for Mother’s Day, this is the essence.