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My Mother at Swan Lake

       This is the day which the Lord has made;

       let us rejoice and be glad in it.

         —Psalms 118:24

A maniac for picnicking,

  She’d pack us up to go

The very first thing in the spring;

  Sometimes we sat in snow!

But we were well into the year;

  The swans had all long gone.

We’d shed, like leaves, our nagging fears.

  The lake went pink and calm.

Her hair’d come back; her light, low laugh;

  Her cancer in “remission,”

A state that gave us some relief

  From pain and vain religion.

My dad had let me start the fire.

  I saw my mom was proud

Of how the flames kept growing higher;

  They wouldn’t flicker out.

I’ve clutched this day near fifty years

  But always felt so stupid

That it could bring the sting of tears

  When there was nothing to it:

My sister makes a small bouquet

  Of weeds and faded asters,

But I can’t hear my mother say

  What she bends low to ask her.

My brother’s down beside the shore;

  I see his silhouette.

My father calls out, as before,

  “Now don’t go getting wet!”

My mother leans against a tree.

  She sighs. I hear her say

Across the half a century,

  “It’s been a lovely day.”

from The Reindeer CampsFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2012
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Barton Sutter Poems

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