An occasional iridescence is what I can offer,
linked and summoned between blessings at dusk.
A diffraction of desire like light through water
spreads wide as a piano shawl from shoulder
to shoulder. Strung hand to hand, my heart a husk,
an occasional iridescence is what I can offer
at my end when our rainbow of family appears,
Rachel shivering between her parents in silk.
Desire diffracts like light through water
past guests, the aisle a path of paper luminaries
we follow to the chupah, the moon a mollusk,
an occasional iridescence. Is what I can offer
beauty or benevolence? Surface or center?
I'm born a serendipitous grain, an asterisk
of desire like light diffracted through water's
veiled depths contained. Each layer a prayer
I'm full of potential: my shell's concentric
occasions of iridescence what I can offer,
desire diffracting light through water.
Blood and Milk Dialogues
Mothers are aging daughters
frying onions too slow
at dinnertime, trying our patience
with caramelize and burn
above blue stove flames
we already know by heart.
Whenever mothers visit
or call they have the same
four bodily complaints:
their ears, their eyes,
their teeth, their bones,
resist doctor appointments
accompanied or alone, either
misconstrue meanings or miss
enough syllables to fill a teakettle,
their self-adjusting state of the art
hearing aids always whistling.
Because their narcissism knows
no bounds they measure their
weight on scales each morning
to the quarter pound, put
their face on before stepping
out into public, get easily
distracted by mirrors everywhere.
They are beautiful bent-spine
widows whose true protectors
turn out to be barky Jack Russell
terrorists that tug at the leash
and bite our tall spaniels and
pointers. They are white haired
and weepy, repeat themselves
endlessly, keep the TV on all day,
get nervous, get sleepy, take too
many pills that make them loopy
and forgetful, interrupt everyone
else's busy schedule to report
all things trivial, including lost
spoons and weather in the forecast.
They dream they can still
drive themselves across town
and beyond in that made to last
Hi Ho Silver station wagon
we finally sold. And who can
blame them feeling grounded
without wheels or roadmaps
for the first time since their teens,
covetous of our space-age
SUVs with built-in GPS.
They wish they could control
the digital world forever
disconnecting and bleeping
at them, circumnavigate
automated systems just
like the rest of us, return
to the good old days of real
human beings. As grown
children we watch our mothers
the way they used to watch
us as kids. We listen, we snap,
we vent over the phone
guiltily or with intent
behind their backs to sisters
or brothers living elsewhere
up against their own
backs worrying, shifting
sides, all of us craving
late into the night
kinder words and tone,
bound as we are by blood
and milk on seats of stone.
A tsunami of fog rolling in from the sea,
they begin to take over the house. There's
Mother in the herb garden, stooping over
the marjoram flowers, picking out the best
ones for salad right after you ve picked them
yourself. There's Father mowing
the same patch of lawn you just mowed, wiping
a band of sweat from his furrowed brow.
They follow you up the steps inside, drink
your slightly weak coffee, eat your soggy toast,
rearrange the couch pillows and sit down.
They thumb through glossy photographs
of where they are now, somewhere off the coast
of Maine, an island whose name they ve forgotten.
Oh, yes, there it is on the front cover of the book.
They seem pretty out of it, so you ask
if they re all right. They nod, drink more coffee,
look at more pictures. Isn't that a lovely
piece of driftwood? What green moss!
Then remarkably Mom approaches the piano
and performs by heart an entire Debussy etude
she's never before been able to play.
Dad stands up and sings amazingly on key
in full tenor glory an aria he's always admired
from The Pearl Fishers. They become the parents
you have always wanted and more. Surely
they belong to someone else. How adoringly
they applaud one another's accomplishments.
How sublimely they've aged. Their visit
almost over, the fog lifting, they move
closer to where you stand by the sliding doors,
keeping their terrible secrets to themselves.
—Kate Sontag, Ripon, WI