The Fostering

A twilight like quicksilver spilled out
On the Sound resembles more old pewter
Near the end, and the conversation
Following darkens by degrees, giving up

Its feints of sparkle to the evening’s
Alcohol. Children of time, my brother
And I remember how, in the summer
Of his sixteenth year, my fourteenth

That September, our mother moved back
Into the house she’d only three months earlier
Labored through one long afternoon
To empty of all its belongings, of everything,

That is, except for a black-and-white
Television set, two mattresses, and a rose-
Wood Belvedere armoire she had found
So loveless she’d left it out one winter

As a feeder for the birds. And just
As she had left that day, she reappeared,
Summoned back through the twilight by
A conjurer’s wand, our father away

On a business trip, the moving van in tow.
In a day-and-a-half, the willowware
Uncrated, the paintings re-hung
At the same nail holes, she sat down

Finally on the couch and waited,
And readied herself, steadied her nerves
With a sigh she never quite let go …
For what? For nothing less than a miracle,

Some self-displacing sleight-of-hand
Whereby we’d all take up again the life
That she’d abandoned. I leaned close to her
And started to ask, but then said (senselessly),

’You look sad.’ Well past my understanding,
She smiled at me, switched on and off
An unplugged lamp, then setting her gaze
On some dream deferred to the swirling

Fan-blades overhead, she began
Aloud to imagine herself, to imagine
Us too, in a future we soon realized was
As inescapable as it was unreal.

A cough. A glass refilled. Outside,

The watery dark has risen like a sea, a sea
In which the mind unbuoyed descends
In slurring channels through a silted deep
No memory stirs. But in the dark inside,

That moment flares, a brimming waterdrop,
Lucent, formless, heavy with the failure
Still to come, and then, like a star,
Slides down the blue ether pane of her face.