Letter to My Mother; Fall Sequence

Letter to My Mother

November already, and the last brilliant leaves
you saw from the ambulance have dwindled down
to almost none. Summer kept hanging on
all through October, giving us something
to talk about as we stood there at
your graveside, feeling stunned
the way you must have felt
that last night, seeing the lamplight
narrow and the voices all
around you in the shadows growing dumb.

Today, between bouts of weeping, I’ve been sorting
through your things. I would have liked the quill
sewing box, but Dad’s afraid he’ll need
needles and thread to sew his buttons on.
I took your ivory afghan
and the crystal bowl with the gaily scalloped
rim—it must have been Grandma’s—
and your antique baby spoons
with the curved handles meant for a child to hold.
And then I couldn’t bear to set them out
in their glass-topped curio box when I got home.

One thing I wish I’d asked:
last spring when you said you wanted me to wear
your diamond ring, I couldn’t speak
for grief, although you were talking only
about a distant time. Now I’d like to have the
stone reset as a necklace, and I wonder if
you’d mind. Last night when I tried your ring
it fit perfectly, but you know how I am, always
rummaging in the garden without gloves.

And it felt strange—whenever I looked down
at my hand, it was your hand holding
a favorite Trollope novel, or smoothing your knitting
pattern, or patting me on my shoulder, gently,
making me turn around.

Fall Sequence

On the last morning of summer
my garden revives, flaunting
its golds, crimsons, and yellows—
one dance before disappearing.


A damp chill near the woodpile.
Now only the cedar waxwings
stop by the feeder, excited
acquaintances here for a morning,
breakfasting, hurrying south.


Mice move to the cellar, spill
seeds in the storeroom, die
in the mouse traps. I toss them
into the pine grove. Nothing
stirs on the forest floor.


Leaves fall to the porch, litter
the lawn under the maples.
Raking this morning I find
my grandmother’s locket, buried
for thirty years under the moss.


The leaf pile goes up
in smoke, sending
its sparks into the branches.
For a few seconds they float there
under the other stars.