For Our Mothers

(Published in The New Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 4)

when I was,   say
my mother, thinking I
should share in the accumulated
wisdom of ancient minds,
taught me that the earth is round
not knowing
I would test her theory
being curious

at the edge of a cliff
I slid to the valley floor below
landing face downwards in snow
frightened but unhurt, I
scrambled back up to the top

she kept me inside all that day
I could not go to
the movies as promised
tales of warriors and lost lands
perhaps fearing I would test
another of her theories
of time and three dimensions
vanishing off-screen
amid reports by astonished patrons
that a small boy was last seen
wearing a scabbard, dried skins
fighting off dinosaurs
running across horizons, wild
a cry tearing from his throat

mothers change slowly
they are like the face of the earth
worlds revolve around them
while they remain
more or less the same
for eons
the last time I saw her
she had not changed:
                       hair like frost
                       skin cracking like dried earth
                       her eyes sharp as stars
and the vast universe of her being
swallowing me with
dinosaurs and mountain peaks

at thirty              I am
the      age she was
when I was born
the earth has moved round her
twice thirty
but here she is still:
               house gone, children grown
modern apartment crystallizing round her
populated with small white-haired gnomes
a mythic race, fair and slow-moving
remembered from some film I had seen
when I was      five

at the gate we meet
wandering onto the grounds
of her fabled, her lost lands
scarf tied round neat wisps of grey
hands, cool dress
flowering in the breeze
we wander out across fields
laughing as the wheat
grows up round our waists
              not far from here
is the cliff I have fallen from
the valley I discovered
with my fall
the dinosaurs must be very near, I know
so I am not far off after all

we part, as mother and child do
I leave her standing on the grounds
and move off, away
from this new found land
so quickly, so easily
after having discovered it
as I walk away, I turn
to call her name, perhaps
but the wind catches my breath
and I hold it
like a lark turning

I look for her turning
a signal, some sign
I will be with her
when she walks off-screen
across the horizon to the dinosaurs
from where I stand I
cannot distinguish her among tall
white stalks of flowers
head bowed, cool dress blowing

in the wind
now standing still
now moving
slowly, toward the edge


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