My mother taught me how to dream.
Together we would page through albums
brown with age, where stern-faced strangers
sat stiffly in their tall-backed chairs.
The women wore the burdens
in their faces. The men
in their slumped shoulders.
In the background, a gaunt cow
leaned against the fence.
Silver birches shivered in the snow.
Driven by hunger and their neighbors’
hatred, they fled familiarity
A century and a half a world away,
we would walk the avenue
stopping to buy a multi-colored ice
suspended in its paper cone,
a loaf of rye bread, book of stamps,
and time would slow. Our shadows
stretched behind us,
the past we’d never shake.
Last stop, the library
where I knew every book.
Leather spines embossed with gold
would arch to meet my hand,
to welcome me.
These printed pages were my mode.
I made a world within
this world and slipped away.
The pages rustled with the sound
of leaves in wind. A full moon
silvered the walls
in slivers as though someone
had sliced it with a knife until
the sky would empty, fill again,
and all the time I sat, enchanted.
While I was elsewhere
shadows pooled under the oaks.
Where have they gone
the neighbor with his little dog?
Red rosebush in the yard?
In my memory, my mother smiles,
her dark curls bound by a kerchief.
A gold ring glows on her finger
the ring I left, forgotten, on her hand.
How heavy that urn, those ashes
bearing all the weight