from Immortality


A Message from My Mother

You may think I watch you constantly now,

the way I'd lifeguard you when you were swimming,

but remember, you’ve already lived longer than I have,

so how can I advise you?  Think of me as fading

like a photo on the refrigerator the sun bleaches. 

When I do observe you––and my coverage is spotty––

I’m concerned only that you worry too much.

I can tell you from up here, above time,

that it’s just the way Chaucer describes it

at the end of  his Troilus.  Remember how small

his earthly pains seemed in the light of the stars?

Once you know you have a fate you can relax

in making decisions.  And maybe that happens eventually.

Never to me.  Now the birds fly through me

effortlessly, as if I’m the air, and the love I felt

has thinned like smoke.  I’m glad you can feel it

if I can’t––I who once cried for Keats

in the Protestant Cemetery.  I cry that way

for myself now when I remember how I swam

floating on my back in the sea and watching

wispy clouds.  I’m one of those clouds,

so how can I insist?  Do what you will.

The sun is on the water, and the breeze is flying.

Stay in or go out.  If you round the point

later this evening you’ll see fireworks over the harbor.

Or stay in and don’t.  Once you’ve lost it,

you’ll know the world was bigger than your life

from Immortality, published by University of Wisconsin Press 2015

artwork:  Nan Hass Feldman, Birds in Paradise