[32] Liminal [In 3 Strophes,] Bill Griffin

                                 for Mom

You take my hand and lead
me from the porch, leavings
of sticky watermelon rind,
half-eaten hotdogs, out into
the yard where the older kids
whoop in the descent
of darkness almost too deep
to see through; at its edge
grownups in folding chairs,
the orange winks of their cigarettes
like lightning bugs.

Too dark. You feel me hanging back
but here around the corner
real fireflies guide us, cool green,
silent. You catch one
in your hands, Like this . . .
when I was a girl, laughing
in the twilight; you pinch off
its tiny ember and smear
the glowing on your eyelids
so that when you close your eyes
its faint gaze assures
that you still see me.

And the wondrous thing,
besides this moment together while
the luminescence fades
and I am able too to laugh,
is that once you were a girl.

Let’s tube the Brandywine: you
are brilliant, my kids so fractious,
lucky to keep them for an hour
in the same room with Grandmommy
much less engaged.
All the lazy afternoon
watched over by sturdy sycamores
of summer, the splashing,
the dunking, and through smooth
passages you get them talking
about yesterday’s museum, Howard Pyle
and the Wyeths, art, its stories,
how if we can only imagine
something strongly enough
we may make it so.

Imagine: all things flow,
the benevolent stream, its clarity
and everything it collects,
benediction of damp
on our bodies, water and salt,
half-adrift in the dailyness
of life and where
might this meandering take us?

At the takeout toweling off
you touch my shoulder, point:
a tree swallow’s looping masterwork
has knit together river, forest, sky,
metallic blue . . . brilliant.

Every Sunday after church I knock
at your kitchen door then forge on through
to the living room before you can struggle
from your favorite chair, milky tea
half-finished, The Times crossword
and a few spaces you’ve saved me,
78 down, wings, four letters, and today
I’ve brought my grand-daughter,

your great-. We’ve taken to calling her
Sister like your brother and all
the cousins called you,
and while she cuddles your old doll,
almost ninety, and explains
to it the universe of her three years
you settle your pad across your lap,
charcoal on your fingers, capture
the purity of her which is the closest
we will ever come to defining love,
the three of us like a grand alignment

of planets in some untrammeled
system, and although the scratch scratch
on paper binds me to this moment
I see you luminescent, intangible,
the halo of fine white hair that limns
your face, your wings, alae,
strong enough to lift us all.

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