The day was a goldfinch
against a dirty cotton sky.
The sky swung low on the line.
My mother came to me,
an offering of her body. She
wasn't one to make such gestures.
My mother came to me, holding out
her left arm turned over,
soft underside, talcum-white.
She could have been a child. Look
she said, Look. But I was boxing
remembrances, worrying over what
I'd need, and nothing was here
in the scented damp around her.
The days were emptying,
self after self from her hands,
daughter, mother, wife, her fingerprints
slipped in someone else's milk after
years handling chemicals in the dairy lab.
Germs are everywhere, she'd say--
incubating in the ice cream, lurking
in lids and glasses. How could she sleep
through the furious racket
in my father's lungs, the merciless labor.
She came to me late that unquiet
summer when windowpanes screeched
and weeds withered at her glances.
I was the fruit that would not fall,
the sapling meant to stay faithful
to its roots, branch for branch.
For the settling of her fragile bones,
for the window-light stroking the bend
of her arm, for the warm blue pulse,
I would leave to find her in her father's
cornfield, the beautiful creases,
my mother's body filled with dirt.
Two girls, light, impossible,
roll through the furrows lengthwise,
close their eyes laughing,
pillow-feathers on a sheet
shaken out wave after solid wave
to the robust sky, like that forever.