My mother’s expression stolid as a tree’s,
as one by one memories like leaves slip from her mind.
Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: poems
or a compendium for national memory?
The Chinese poet folding his
poems into little boats
and nudging them down river, oblivious to melancholy or regret,
them when they are out of sight.
We can’t wait to get away
from the stranger in the mirror, whose features revolt us. Must
he suck his teeth
that way? Must
she keep bickering and sniffling?
The easy chair he slept in watching
TV, the table she sat at brushing her hair, both of them thinking
The crib in the attic, the home without furniture,
the vacant lot without a house.
The field hacked out of the forest,
the forest covering
the land for as far as birds in the trees and animals snuffling
in the underbrush
beneath the tall ferns could see.
Did the oceans slump, as they
do now, onto one shore and another before their waters, the color
of blood, boiled away?
crimson and yellow, slithering over immeasurable
expanses of black rock.
Thousands of volcanoes, each one capped
by a red cloud.
The world about to be born.