Larkin Warren

Walking with My Mother in the Dark

On most weekends, Sundays by five or six, the lake was empty,

boats mostly gone, save ours. A gift, to stay on the water

after others go—floating at anchor

or drifting in the yellow canoe, eating blueberries from a bucket.

Falling light calls us closer in—the white dock glowing,

the loon’s heartbreak call-and-response,

the ping of summer bugs against the screens.

Into the house for gin and tonic, out again to sit in the glimmer,

the halyards clanking after the sun goes down.

 

In daylight, she is sure and steady, straight-backed

as we go up and down the old road.

Her road, after all. His too, once—in winter, the big boots, a shovel,

the snowplow on his truck, his sense, defense, pretense

of guarding her, of guarding everything they had.

At night she holds my arm, leans a little as gravel shifts

beneath our feet. The dogs run ahead or beside,

into and out of the trees, crossing through the flashlight beam.

 

Now she sits in a bright pink room peering through a city window,

certain that the Lady in the harbor is waving back at her.

"Best you hook that screen door," she murmurs.

She'd asked them for a yellow room,

but only pink was left. "Pink!" she says, and waves it away.

 

—Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, August 2005

The Da

In anger, he was thunderous. Not house-burning lightning, not

down-valley floodwaters, just the purpling bruise of a sound wave,

like an old movie smack upside the head, ar thabh an chloginn.

Then silence, heavy as a granite quarry.

In joy, his laughter doubled the open window'd air in any room,

fed the energy field, gathered us all

together, made us co-conspirators in magic and possibility.

In sorrow, his heart dropped to the floor like a dish or a baby.

Bowed beneath the weight and the damage,

the damage of the drop itself, the weight suddenly weightless,

his hands empty of the children he could not save.

In the early days, he seemed to break in half at regular intervals,

matins at night, lauds at dawn.

In latter years, tenderly, he tended the dropped reliquaries, trying

to repair the damage and then, damaged, he straightened himself

right up, sighed, squared his good shoulders, began again.

Larkin Warren writes in a garrett beneath the shadow of a granite ledge.