My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
1 When the moon appears and a few wind-stricken barns stand out in the low-domed hills and shine with a light that is veiled and dust-filled and that floats upon the fields, my mother, with her hair in a bun, her face in shadow, and the smoke from her cigarette coiling close to the faint yellow sheen of her dress, stands near the house and watches the seepage of late light down through the sedges, the last gray islands of cloud taken from view, and the wind ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat on the black bay. 2 Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send small carpets of lampglow into the haze and the bay will begin its loud heaving and the pines, frayed finials climbing the hill, will seem to graze the dim cinders of heaven. And my mother will stare into the starlanes, the endless tunnels of nothing, and as she gazes, under the hour's spell, she will think how we yield each night to the soundless storms of decay that tear at the folding flesh, and she will not know why she is here or what she is prisoner of if not the conditions of love that brought her to this. 3 My mother will go indoors and the fields, the bare stones will drift in peace, small creatures -- the mouse and the swift -- will sleep at opposite ends of the house. Only the cricket will be up, repeating its one shrill note to the rotten boards of the porch, to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark, to the sea that keeps to itself. Why should my mother awake? The earth is not yet a garden about to be turned. The stars are not yet bells that ring at night for the lost. It is much too late.
From Mark Strand: Selected Poems, by Mark Strand, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1979 by Mark Strand. Used with permission.