"Mother and Child"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 9 2010 6:46 AM

"Mother and Child"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Rosanna Warren read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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A basket of scones swaddled in blue-checked cloth,
slanting floorboards, brass bedsteads, lace curtains to soften
the narrow, 19th-century view of neighboring shingles—
we had paid for quaint. The sea, three streets away,
like a giant quilt an invalid had shoved down:
low tide. We turned from the heave-ho dunes
back to the boutiques, their improbable lingerie,
leather halters, handcuffs, whips, and paper roses.
Cafes proffered espresso and Portuguese soup.
Wind sawed at chimneys, sleet buckshot the panes.
I drew you as you slept, your marred della Robbia calm,
too late for a mother to keep you from further breakage.
Next morning you drew me reading: your pencil probed
crevasses round my eyes, grooves at my mouth,
a geological survey of a glacier's retreat—
we are dying at different rates, in different lights
in a temporary décorof oak and chintz.
As I settled the bill, you melted away—to smoke,
to breathe, and appeared three brick-lined blocks up the hill
talking with a spindly stranger about his plan
to end his life, and his illness, six months hence.
A soot-bellied cloud was lifting. Did you say, "Good luck"?
Clamped in the car, we turned our backs, for now,
on the edge of that continent.

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Rosanna Warren's most recent book of poems isDeparture.

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