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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

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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