Mother Incarnate

Mother Incarnate                          from The Impossible, Kelsay Press 2021

My mother asleep on the chaise with the moving water adjacent.

We two, only residents at the pool, late spring afternoon,

long shadows from the high-rise swaddle the lounges. Dark towels

of treetops fold over brick tiles. Supple sun in the rails of the catwalk.

Slatted shadow cast on the grounds. Always the dark

and the light, dark and light. The pooled water keeps moving

because the wind is up and the palms are passing it between them

finger by finger, a rush of messages only a mystagogue might decipher.

The swish and wash of the breeze complements the clouds rumpling

toward comfort. The water goes where the wind says and the voices

of gulls follow. The water moves because the wind says

something moving, what a mother might say to her daughter

calming her worries before she must sing for a crowd. I remember

my mother praying always, now almost cheerfully waiting to die,

breath expectant each night. Like anyone, she'd prefer to pass

over in sleep. Proud mother who says out loud nonetheless,

she's aware of her mind's decay, under crimped skin, aware

of a silkworm lighting her limbs, something spoken in code

by trees and shadows. Small strokes like those that skirt across water.

One spark burnt here, one brain cell's invisible damage, memory's

chemicals draining away. What life did. The visible skull

behind her smile. What it does to us all. The truth of my mother

incarnate at ninety in the sundowning hour, my own head

deflowering like hers. In this moment we're two peonies weighted

with sun. How they sing in our living faces, afloat, dozing upright.


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