songs from the words of your mother,
mixing what you hear: august barley grief
into a broth sloshing inside its jar
in the basket you carry to Grandmother’s—
Little girl, little girl
I fear a wolf for you
though it says you’ve tamed him
in your skipping, red-shirted song.
Where did I learn this?
Surely I am happy
hearing you beside me
singing as I used to sing
in the backseat of the car
serenading the black trees
at the edge of the road
as the bald astonished moon
flew out of the branches.
We walk down the street
stopping to look at trees.
We turn over leaves. What’s this
One of my mother’s
long sighs, one of her words meaning loss,
that squint in her eyes looking at all
the nothings that might gobble us up.
I wasn’t eaten.
Grandmother lived next door.
Poor though we were
the dog never snarled.
Your kisses were strong
healing each knee.
I never entered a stranger’s car.
For all your worry
don’t you think you were a fine woman
for me to study, to learn by heart?
August august barley grief
and blessings flow. My daughter sings
on and on. My mommy my mommy
my mom-mee-mom. Why should I grieve?
We sit on the steps humming.
The moon rises through trees, lips pursed
in the first quizzical O of a song.
So what if death cruises the block
in his shiny car leaning out the window
calling to you? My daughter
shake your yellow hair at him.
your eyes will wrinkle and blur.
Your voice will crack and fade.
Silence won’t stop it.
From here to your grandmother’s
nothing will happen
that cannot be lilted and hummed.
What’s left of the world
is carried in the tunes of its children.