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    dishes stacked on a drainer

    Poem: Echelon Swimming

    My Mother and I on the Night of Her Grandmother’s Death

    By Susan Mettes

    February 12, 2022
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    In a downward view of the four of us,
    Each body would have become
    An arm on a separate compass,
    Our feet all toward the central stairs,
    Unlit, but still some pale light wobbled
    On the walls of that aquarium
    Of sleep, in that museum-cold,
    Quiet house. I fumbled for the thermostat,
    Found instead the splay-legged chairs,
    Poured some milk, and sat
    Next to where you must have been
    Not half an hour before –
    I found your cup by the sink when
    I was rinsing mine;
    If we’d met there, we couldn’t have said more
    Than those glasses on the counter like a sign,
    Like votives with the wicks burned through:
    As she left, someday so will you.
    From your bed, you probably heard
    The bolt you’d turned, turning again
    As I re-closed the blinds and checked the lock
    For no good reason – nothing wanted in,
    Not the pod of clouds in the waves
    Of breeze, not the bushes flocked
    White with frost, gathered
    By the door. I turned the heat up, although I knew
    You’d been up to turn it down –
    Was it just something to do, one of the ways
    You made your own thin current?
    I was anxious to catch up with you,
    To sleep, to shed what dragged me then.
    Around, inside, I felt the darkness
    Thicken, and I drank it in. I could have drowned
    In our own element,
    But felt instead the mattress
    Curving to my shape. Clock needles spun
    North and south again;
    I watched the changing glow
    On the ceiling of a night indoors.
    It passed; magenta slid from sky to wall,
    Then morning washed my room in yellow,
    I pushed out as from a shore
    Through the doorway that shone
    White as flame around a wick
    And came down
    Because I thought I heard your call;
    I thought I heard low music.

    dishes stacked on a drainer

    Photograph by Nathan Dumlao


    This poem was shortlisted for the Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award in 2021. Find out more details and how to enter your poems.

    Contributed By

    Susan Mettes is an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine and has written dozens of articles for Christianity Today and other publications.

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