My parents were fortunate enough to live long lives, my mother, Helen, until 88, my father even longer. For the last eleven years of my mother’s life, after some decades of their wandering and separation, the three children had come together again in the same city. The birds had flocked together once more. Mother and father took wing to join them, and all flew home together – a second family life less complicated than the first, unburdened by grievances, by then let go, lifted aloft by love and joy in relationship. It was the gift of all our lives.
One element in this experience, different from that of friends who lost parents much earlier in life, was the that of persisting in relationship with parents many long years after the original basis of that relationship had passed, even, in many respects by the end, been reversed. This is a poem I wrote about that experience, while my parents were still alive. It was, then, “for my parents, grown old.” It’s for my mother today.
A Geology of Birds
Water has worn us, like more time’s mountain
flow we could ever have seen coming
left us on this present bank like stones
found in near relation on the ground.
The inexorable flood rounds us
apart, our mineral origin
matter only for geologist’s eyes.
Who would have thought
the birth cries, stone’s cries
water forgot, we’d forget?
A mother’s songs of deliverance drift
homeless in the burbling stream
a father’s tillering hand lies idle
and ritual kisses
try to shape from lips
an early, pressing need
like the air we’d gasp for lack of.
like the nested sparrow’s
gaping mouth, wild with hunger
for the seed of all that follows
need departs, a winter’s calling
and we fly, stones into birds
into another hemisphere
so far from any beginning
nearer even the youngest’s end
riding currents we cannot name
feeling, as we seek what calls us
we see a wing we knew.