It is fall, and my mother
has taken me down to the park
by the lake. Swans are playing
statue at the curve of water's edge
where light is mottled
by the currency of stream
among the reeds. I want
to make them swim or fly,
but Mother stops me, saying
we must wait for the swans
to rise and take to air
when they are called
by passing clouds,
the fluffy ones that troll
with shadow-boats for fish.

My mother, heavy with cancer,
lying on the couch beside the piano,
turns to listen for the carillon
from Father's church. She leans
toward a bell I cannot hear.
It is Easter and someone brings
a white cake in the shape
of a lamb. An uncle
gives me a plastic chicken.
When I push its body down
it lays five tiny eggs, one at a time.
Grown-ups talk overhead, and
the small bird clicks like throat-catch.
Someone's fingernail, perhaps my mother's,
traces patterns on the comforter.

A small boy is playing by the
cemetery gate. He is so far away
I cannot say his name. My father
takes a pot of dry geraniums
left beside my mother's grave
and throws it on the pile
of broken things growing
on the other side of the fence.
Whether or not I close my eyes,
the boy by the gate will
stop to watch and birds
will rise from the crown of trees
in a long flurry of dark habits.

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