If reading were comfort, then mother was blessed
By the words of a thousand remembered events.
An old green cloth bag, Marshall Fields on its side,
Carried murderers foul and detectives quite thick
To the buses and trains and pillowed night rest and
the first morning coffee before the day hit.
Like many a habit a child learns from mom,
I carried my books with me, too, all the time.
I studied with Ghandi and watched with some dread
Graustarian villians and sad severed heads of a hero
Who thought that the times they were best.
Forgive me, but noble and dead? Take a rest!
As facts entered in, other facts entered out
Leaving knowledge as parched as a field in a drought.
It wasn't the same with my mother's dear head.
Her mind mirrored mirrors and mirrored again.
Imagine poor Holmes with his stuffed attic drawers
If his mind were a Tardis with everyone home
Saying, "I'll take that fact." and "No, put it here."
And mother conducting in ceaseless good cheer
A mad data dance never meant to refute
That the earth circles sun in unending pursuit.
The hikes that we took, when I was a child,
Wound through canyons and prairies and sweet sylvan nooks
Filled with wildflower storefronts and auto-clogged creeks.
I walked with my mother and saw with her eyes
Carrying all of her years with a ten year old's pride.
She didn't have money, we'd only have tea,
But she stuffed me with cupcakes of sweet memory.
She talked as we walked of her past college days,
Of dating young boys wrapped in old raccoon coats.
Of college professors, she knew each one's name.
Of ways that they spoke and of jokes that they made.
She remembered the girls in green chiffon gowns
Who danced on the Midway near Ida Noyes lawn.
She remembered the statue that stood in the park
Bearing centuries stone upon flat hair-crowned hat.
And each of these facts and small tales she would tell
As a gift to a daughter too young to know well
How the timeless progression of time in its day
Could forget in an instant a moment of play.
She tried to present me these gifts, but in vain,
For my attic-stuffed drawers had a hole
That the names and the places were soon falling through
Till the drawer and the attic and cupboard was bare.
Museums were playgrounds when I was a child
Hanging my heart on jungle gym bars
Of Renoirs and Rodins and even Matisse
While mother explained the curve of the hip
Of the Buddahs and odalesques playing with me
As we swung from 12th century tapestry
Into the sky of Georgia O'Keefe
And back again laughing in such fine company.
It was here that she studied, my mother explained,
Your grandmother, long before grandpa appeared,
At the Institute's classes of art and design
Of the lion and the curve and the stroke of the pen.
She studied with Taft, mother said with some pride
Though the master was gone long before I arrived
In my turn, now it's yours, to take up the brush
For genetics will conquer in gentle ambush.
This wasn't at all what I wanted to hear
Because I was a scientist cool-eyed and clear
From the tips of my fingers that typed
At the keys of computers to firm-planted feet
That walked near eyes of heaven that gazed
At Albireo's eyes blinking back blue and gold
In a canvas of black, crying "I am no artist and I know no
Then I listened to silence that laughed in reverse.
Mother met father in the shadow of time
Cast by permanent stones of cathedral and bells.
The building they met in was wood, thin and cheap.
I know this because I walked in that place
Thirty years from a soldier's chance meeting with fate.
So, I guess, in some sense, I'm a child of them all
Of mother, of father, of the Humanities hall.
She was a journalist trying to find
In the day's small events
Some explaining of why
She was her,
Who she was,
A girl in the prime
Of her green salad days
Seen through sea-green young eyes.
He was a poet explaining himself
In the words of a soldier
To any and all
Who could hear with deaf ears
What it was to be young
To be strong and alive
And in love with a lady
Who saw through your eyes.
I've searched for his poetry through microfiche files
Till the print danced before me and tears filled my eyes.
Will I ever find remnants of the cowboy he played
To remember the child in his chaps and handmade little shirt
And big hat and even the boots?
Or did father ride off into sunset like that?
And leave his small daughter to mourn her sad loss
Of flesh and of blood and even of thoughts.