My mother is alive and funny
in the house above the marsh.
I think she does not miss my father much
as he is still alive, though elsewhere.
Now that the men and dogs are gone,
the team of mules separated and sold off
to Iowa and Missouri, now
that we put down the last Labrador—
(a job that also came to me)—
a curly-coated giant stinking in the kitchen
who loved a tennis ball arcing through the air
more than his keeper, more than ducks or food,
more than rolling in some putrefaction—
Now that the yard is quiet
the guns slumbering and locked in their closets,
the wild creatures have returned to the yard—
the fork-horned buck gingers out of the woods
to eat the windfall apples, the woodchuck
undermines the retaining wall, bats, squirrels, a coyote
printing his mute tracks in a loop around the house
which is now locked in a feminine quiet
and where my mother reads, works her puzzles,
clicks her needles as she knits another sweater
for a baby I’ll never meet.
I think she likes being unobserved—
husband gone, boys grown up strange
and long-since moved away. She does as she sees fit.
Now it is just the creatures who watch her
come and go, like the bobcat she startled
when she stepped out onto the porch
who looked up, saw her, then disappeared into the trees.
He left no tracks, no whiff of musk or scat,
and so my mother wonders to no one who will hear
if the cat was ever really there at all.