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     by Rebecca Henry Lowndes



Midnight tripped an hour ago

          and fell into the small hours.

Roused from dozing to the slap and howl

          of nightshift winds my dreamy

sail-bright craft is bucked and flipped

and runs aground


          abruptly, canvas catching

          breath from


                               a life


my mother, wine-remote and mournful,                   

          launches into song.



She and her sorrow have

          spilled over

                    into a third

                              glass tonight

-- or so I

          surmise as,

from my leggy sprawl flung idly

          in the pillowed, twilit room                   

next the tideless, drydock kitchen,

          dimly candled,

                    ticking tears,


I and my wicking youth, all ears,                             

                    all ears abrim

          and baffled,





          for the same two songs she’s

                              always sung

my spooling lifetime’s skein along --

          murky, folksy, in that plain,

pitch-careful, voice-of-angels way

                        she has.



Bedtimes, back in tuck-in years,                   

          she’d kneel by my anchored bed;

her hands would trace the contours

          of my head, and she would sing,


reedy but near-as-can-be true,

          and always (as if secretly)

          layered, spun of runes.



I am not schooled in matters of the soul.


tonight, my brother’s gone, a moth

          to the guttering collegiate flame;

and our father lies asleep,                                       

          unwell, a tossing raft poling him

          supine beyond the reach of dreams.                   


It’s quiet here. And for her voice’s tracery         

          through tiers of pendant light


          grants herself a third

          (translucent green) and lo!

the lullabies emerge antique,

                        intact, custodial.



Does she think she’s singing to the

          soaring, storebought lily? or my

                              absent brother’s mapless

                    fume-and-flare intensity?


No matter. In this spinning hour,

          these twinned and rising airs are mine                   

when, from a room -- a world -- away,

with something more than words entwined,


                              my mother sings.



Copyright © Rebecca Henry Lowndes, 2001.
All rights reserved.