Monochrome

She survives on a badly folded rectangle of paper

In a crisp uniform, sunlight breaking on her shoulder

as she carries the child like an infant christ 

held aloft for the admiration of angels

or a prizewinning vegetable.

The child glows in monochrome.

Lit by god

or the glory of growing,

in a forever moment

burnt black and grey

in the silver halide crystals

I remember her on her bicycle

Front basket heavy with the tackle of maternity, 

a gas & air machine, a pair of scales, 

Steel tools for poking in the softest places….

and dressings, gauze & cotton, lint and sutures, ointments and thermometers,

Steel boxes wrapped in dark blue canvas,

Glass syringes, the smell of surgery and hygiene and hurting,

The rattle and clank of healing…..

I remember her coming over a bridge 

on her bicycle in early morning,

In a blaze of brilliance and black on a rain wet street 

Or l think I remember;

It may have been …..

Something else

Or somewhere other;

Whatever,

The bicycle was there

And my mother aboard

In early winter sun.

There is no photograph.

The memory of light is

Among the dappled floors of dim forests

It is in the mark of the sundial’s gnomon

Creeping across the dial plate toward nightfall

And the slowing down of time,

In the dark patches on the X-Ray:

“Doctor can you hold that up against the window now?”

“Why?”

“I want to see those shadows that you showed me up against the sun. 

Your screen’s a cold white light; 

right now I want the heat….”

It is the crumpled paper wedged beneath a stuck drawer,

The ancient image in a broken frame;

“Mind now the glass you’ll bleed to death!”

A picture of my aunt at her wedding to the man who died.

there are boxes of creased and faded treasures

It is a wash of chemistry

A rinsing away

Of all that’s needless

Leaving only what truly

Is or isn’t, 

this is as good as it gets or as bad as it can be. 

Silver white or

A carbon black

And the grey negotiations between

The smudges and hatchlings and lines and all the edges where light ends and shadows start. 

The memory fades

As the memory of hurting and antiseptic, mopped away 

Like blood & amniotic fluid,

We tiptoe through the sodden towels to take the new arrival in our arms.

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