MY MOTHER IN A DREAM

Where were we
When your voice surprised me with song?
At the picnic table in the park?
In windbreakers with birthday candles glowing,
A photographic image of autumn,
The colors thin- grown hand-tinted with time-
Or were we in the sun?
On the sand- wet and free and young-
You were a beauty then,
You voice like that: bright
And as clear as an eight-year-old’s morning.

You had never sang before
Like a bird on a hill,
A capella,
With the voice of a long blonde flower
In bare feet,
With a lilt of all that’s Irish in me.

And the words- well, they melted with morning
When I awakened.
It was a ballad just the same,
Something slow and sweet,
And not too sad.
Are you then an angel,
Before your time,
Come to sing in my ear
While in your own house still?

Am I so sad in my way
That I need you to hum lullabies in the night
And whisper the words:
‘It will be different with the dawn.’
As you have throughout.

Our people were not singers,
And taught quiet if they taught at all.
Your father, at sixty, still undressed
In the parlor and stumbled
Through silent darkness
To his bed.

So where were we
When you gave me the song?
Like a broken shell retrieved from a beach,
It must have been something found;
A feather in the grass, perhaps;
Or a rock which never shines
Once taken inside.
I can’t put it away
As a boy with a cigar box might,
It should be left for another small hand,
Somewhere outside in the sun.