A Poet a Day 4: Mari L’Esperance
Day four brings us Mari L’Esperance, with a poem entitled “Finding My Mother” from her first full-length collection, The Darkened Temple (© 2008, University of Nebraska Press). The poem previously appeared in Salamander.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE POEM
If you’ve read the last two installments, you can see we’re definitely following a theme. “Finding My Mother” not only guides us into and through a midnight vision, but the narrative brings us into contact with the apparition that waits. The spookiness reaches a peak at the last image, and Mari balances the entire piece nicely with the methodical, slow descent into this underworld moment.
Finding My Mother
Near dusk I find her in a newly mown field, lying still
and face down in the coarse stubble. Her arms
are splayed out on either side of her body, palms open
and turned upward like two lilies, the slender fingers
gently curling, as if holding onto something. Her legs
are drawn up underneath her, as if she fell asleep there
on her knees, perhaps while praying, perhaps intoxicated
by the sweet liquid odor of sheared grass.
Her small ankles, white and unscarred, are crossed
one on top of the other, as if arranged so in ritual fashion.
Her feet are bare. I cannot see her face, turned
toward the ground as it is,
but her long black hair is lovelier than I remember it,
spilling across her back and down onto the felled stalks
like a pour of glossy tar. Her flesh is smooth
and cool, slightly resistant to my touch.
I begin to look around me for something with which
to carry her back—carry her back, I hear myself say,
as if the words spoken aloud, even in a dream,
will somehow make it possible.
I am alone in a field, at dusk, the light leaving
the way it has to, leaking away the way it has to
behind a ridge of swiftly blackening hills. I lie down
on the ground beside my mother under falling darkness
and draw my coat over our bodies. We sleep there like that.
A Poet a Day is a month-long celebration of poets and poetry, in honor of National Poetry Month. Writers reserve all rights to their work, and all work appears with their permission.