Poems June 1986
Psalm and lament
in memory of my mother (1897-1974)
The clocks are sorry, the clocks are very sad.
One stops; one goes on striking the wrong hours.
And the grass burns terribly in the sun;
The grass turns yellow secretly at the roots.
Now suddenly the yard chairs look empty, the sky looks empty,
The sky looks vast and empty.
Out on Red Road the traffic continues. Everything continues.
Nor does memory sleep. It goes on.
Out spring the butterflies of recollection,
And I think that for the first time I understand
The beautiful ordinary light of the patio
And even perhaps the dark rich earth of a heart.
The bedclothes, they say, had been pulled down.
I will not describe it. I do not want it described.
No, but the sheets were drenched and twisted.
They were the very handkerchiefs of grief.
Now summer comes with its schoolboy trumpets and fountains,
But the years are gone. The years are finally over.
And there is only
This long desolation of flower-bordered sidewalks
That runs to the corner, turns, and goes on,
That disappears and goes on
Into the black oblivion of a neighborhood and a world
Without billboards or yesterdays.
Sometimes a sad moon comes out and waters the roof tiles.
But the years are gone. There are no more years.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 4 Number 10, on page 40
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