When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe. —Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
We know these columns, this pediment, angels and sages serene as stone stand at attention, embodiment of past grandeur, for this we’ve come, to see the marble men and maids, the attic shape, the heifer’s march, the ancient truth that met Keats’ gaze and fired his poems that light the dark
knowledge of our mortal being, sing the song of fleeting time, the static creatures we are seeing live and breathe in his sweet lines. The poem endures, though Keats is dust. All remains unchanged but us.
The still pilgrim climbs the Mountain of God. She somehow has not lost her way. Her feet find the prints where they have trod. The sun feels less heavy today. She holds him in her wind-chapped hands. She shoulders him like a child. She hoops him along the basalt sand. She heaves him high against the sky where he gilds the field gold. The pilgrim watches his slow rise— She loves the shadow show he throws— salutes the blue and shades her eyes and turns her back and goes.
Blessed sleep and the long call of light. The morning a mercy of birds. Returned from the black hole of being, she finds all as she left it last night. The chairs askew, the table crumbs, the dishes stacked up in the sink. Yesterday’s dress tossed across the bed. It’s enough to make her think
of how the world just waits for us attending to its nightly song, of how we breathe in time with it and rise again with each new dawn, of how we bear the miracle and find ourselves where we belong.
It’s Mother’s Day and I have no mother. She left and took my daughterhood. It’s hard to lose us both, recover. A double grief. A day to brood.
I dredge the chops. Fry them in oil. I slice the onion, wet as tears. I wear my sackcloth apron, soiled by meals I’ve made for thirty years.
For ashes, flour upon my head. For prayers, the rise of scented smoke. My mother, who is five years dead, lives in this meat, these eggs I broke, this dish she taught me how to make, this wine I drink, this bread I break.