Excerpts from Where She Always Was


Ladybug

During the night she had clenched
between a field green and a crouton.
I brought her out of the fridge
stuck by a dot of parmesan dressing
upside down in limp salad; her tiny legs,
except the one flicking, lashed damp
against her ebony belly; her red saran wings
smeared shut. So when you came into the kitchen
thuddingly happy, wanting
to make our sandwiches, I had already
grazed her off of a corner of dry paper towel
onto the brick we used to wedge the window ajar
the day, despite wrenching storms,
that our love began to glide in
by itself. And I lay her there on the gritty clay
amazed by the science of tenderness, and
how, without harm, the sun stilled her.



Respects

I haven't been to my mother's vault
except to bring a handful of tense young roses
the street vendor gave me for free

the day we locked her heavy ashes in. But I know
how patient the sun on the Persian rug is there
from its years of lifting the pigments, and how

each sparrow outside the diamond-shaped window
knows his place, perched on a wrist
of bare forsythia, gazing into the crypt

with all his weight and not taking wing
when the first fatigued petals flare all the way back
long after I leave.



Mother's Goldfish

My mother cannot remember
the end of the Great War, except,
as she tells us at dinner,
she had, in 1918,

two goldfish: King George
and the Kaiser, who died overfed
on soda crackers.

She brings her words to the surface
slowly, as if she had rolled up her frock sleeves
and cupped her small hands
in the cool of a prayer,

lifting two goldfish
out of her damask napkin to pass around
the table until the person beside her

places them back in her glass bowl heart
with no words, no splash
and we go on eating.

first appeared in Folio





Personal Effects

1

For once not arguing,
we divide among ourselves
the things she left: her mother's mother's
swan brooch, her pilled and odorless
brown coat, sturdy Timex,
the night shirt she mended
with clashing thread.

2

The morning before, I sat
by my mother's bed
to ask her what she would like
the paper to say about her
life. It was like being read a story
backwards, the reader becoming
the child afraid to fall asleep.

3

With the shift nurse helping
and some baby oil, and trembling
the way he did the day he slipped it on,
my father bends over
the quieted body I thought I saw breathe,
and slides off her wedding ring.


reprinted by permission in A Writer's Almanac, August 31, 2004





Urn

Her brow and knees,
her brain

and womb and ruined heart,
her bowing arm,

and breasts that fed
no one, the foot that hurt,

the cheek
her father struck,

all burned
together: soot, light snow

the spring that she
was born.

first appeared in Salamander





Nowhere Near Bethlehem

Two thousand years from this dawn,
tell them not one faint grain of starlight
singled me out: this wind-burned pregnant girl
leaning into her donkey's neck
for heat. Tell them

nothing remained of the rugged mirage
God kept for us but bones of real teak
and wayward strands of hay
the wings of skittering angels left,
no matter what

the texts and the carols
throw in: the chorus of comfort,
the listening snow.



Blessing at the End of Time

Right in the midst of the camels and carts of dry
sour cherries, a man is unrolling
his bristly prayer rug.

He doesn't see the hand white as mine
touch his shoulder. Not one cloud
has grazed this village for weeks

yet in less than an hour
enemy fire will strike
his wife and newborn at home behind

sealed windows. He kneels before buying grain
for the bread she promised to make tonight,
and prays for me.

 © Frannie Lindsay.

 

photo by Meg Birnbaum