Silence is what I first notice
within my mother’s silence,
like the far-flung hush of a galloping horse,
serene in the effort, almost eternal;
every bygone moment of her life
now stacked in the lop-sided layout of solitaire,
blue-backed playing cards clouding the beige Formica
of the kitchen table.
The aura around her sags
like a four-day-old balloon;
fume of time on her vein-braided hands,
the enamel milk bucket dumb
as the field minus the black cow—
ragwort the next episode in our cottage acre.
With every second or third milk bottle
washed, she mops vapour from her eyes, using the hem
of her apron; holds each bottle up to the window
that looks out on a way of life
shuffled into a backyard of
wind-addled nettles,
his grey socks drying on the iron gate’s rattle.
Red queen, she says to me, across the roaring room,
always under a black king.