*Image: “Woven” by Louis Staeble, Photograph
My mother, who is dead,
has come to ask me questions
about how I am living my own life.
We talk about other things.
She lights another cigarette,
which pours out of her like milk.
What do you want to see,
now that you are going blind?
Over her head, out the bay window,
the naked trees wear cellophane sacks
like embryos in the brittle cold.
I have just noticed them,
or the edge of them, gray spokes
against the gray sky and the impossibly
smooth conclusions they make of the air.
On cold nights
I picture my mother’s
Naked body on a slab
Stripped of all possession
Her rings slipped off
And even her eyes
Donated to science.
And the attendant
Who opens the door
To the fire with such
Fear of Great and Small Percussions
I am sometimes wakened by my doubts,
in morning darkness that feels like space
both wondrous and detached, floating
toward nothing in the shoreless sea.
Then train cars coupling in the yards.
I hear them when they slam and link,
the deep groan and hammer strike
filling air with dumb-tongued metal
and the tireless urge for loveless congress.
Upon which, the silence of that off-sprung
car rolled down the track to park alone
beneath the fading baby’s-breath of stars.
Spike anchor right here
in my lake of ice.
I have hated the memory of you
for as long as I could.
Nothing is different between us.
We are brothers. You up there
in your tall ship, and me
down here pulling you across.
Drop your irons.
I can’t go on. It’s not that
I’ve grown tired,
but I’ve forgotten where
I’m taking you.
—all the shoreline—