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 …..
Or somewhere other;
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?”
“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.