My Mother Going Blind Sees the World

1. Paper Wasp Nest as Creation

A pointillism painting, I tell her, this half-globe of stalk and brood comb I've found with its star points glittering like braille beneath the loft light of a love.

Do you see, she asks me, how like these wasps we too were born in the time of fern, fish creeping one extended fin after another into the unstoppable moment? 

Imagine: birds, winged and flute-boned, traveling past the tight hot cells of our own making, while that tree of paradise 

            (do you see the woman's hand in that garden pulling it down--the lost, ignorant world?)

vanishes like the woody earth masticated into this nest, layers of it like striated wind, the  blind larval ones  murmuring at the wasps'  feet.

Time, then, she says, like the hoar frost that stuns, sent even the Eve of us rooting like a hog into the loamy soil, into the stump black with god's decay, to sleep

            — our human bodies, forsaken, mortal now, circling like chaff through the new raw air.

2. Rock with Barnacles as Grief

I think, my mother says, we are a people alive as if foresaken on a windowsill, our stone hearts like these barnacles—volcanic ruptures—taken from some perfect sea to perish, here.

The glass pane reflects her. I can feel its coolness, the whole blind cliff of my mother's life here.
            Try to cover your shivering shoulders,
the Russian poetRatushinskaya once said.

With what?  I know my mother will ask me.  The salt of seas, the brine of tears? 

She wrote her poems on prison soap, I tell her, each washing of her body proof of the heart's slow return to the visceral world. 

I once rode the wild trees, my mother says, the eye of a distant sea, its storm rains sweeping over me, its salt that hurt me, cast off, shed like a coat I can still push my arms through,

white and pitiful in the dark.

3.  Twine as Loss

We try to seal it in, my mother says, whatever frail vessel loss gives us to bring into stasis--a lost child, an unopened book, an eye that doesn't see.

Before us, Pandora's box trembles its closed mouth—inside, I want to tell her, even hope before the blind beseeching bird, even hope before the pale arm raised as if in flight.

Alone, my mother tells me, I knot in an instance, ride the air like a wild lost river.

4. Origami as Death

A great dusk spirals like black paper over the sun. 
I am the folds of wind   my mother tells me    
the crane         
stepping down the lonely river.

Her wings tip toward the stars
her feet 

(I'll tell her soon)
delicate twigs

sinking into the earth
into the flesh of everything.


(Honorable Mention in the 2008 Joy Harjo Poetry Contest, published in Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Spring 2009)