for my mother
i. Slow Birth
Weeks late, I strained against the coming light,
through nighttimes pinned with bloodied stars.
You ground the slow days from that pulpy August,
wheezed your echoed fears of endings in beginnings.
Firstborn: spell to make me and a mother’s long
expectancy of grief. I tore you from yourself,
trading your breath for smaller breath. Into that silence,
between cries you heaved a sound: a clock’s small ticking.
And it urged on the world, assured some measure
for this mess of blood and stainless steel, split flesh,
the sting of salt. Thin time paced on, and you turned
me out then climbed back into sunlight on the hour
hand. These clocks, familiar wards, watch on
by bed and cot: a heartbeat now in trio with our own.
ii. The carotid clock
So bookend a decade with hospital bed –
wake again to white linen; your redrawn shape;
disinfectant; the cold stink of loss. I am stung
to my feet at the foot of your sleeping,
recounting the story of this place, my creaking start,
our dance with the hours and days as a fresh wound
grins across your stitched chest.
All this I would unwind. From my schoolbag
I lift a small tin clock which I leave, hesitant,
to count you through this unnameable silence.
On your tight skin, framed by collarbone, a new pulse
recoils as a spring star would break, defiant
of the dusk. That pale surface flutters like a finch’s
wing, confounded by the miracle of glass.