After Darkness
By Charles Fishman


Today, mother, you have become
most vulnerable: shaved    scrubbed
opened to the knife     and to the knowledge
of your surgeon, you are lost
in a drugged haze a field of opium poppies
can not equal

While you withdraw from your damaged
body that lies in false sunlight
under the cutter's hand,
I recall the thousand afternoons
I found you washing dishes
or folding clothes or setting our small
kitchen table for dinner: always
you'd be dancing from one needy thing
to another     always you'd be singing,
at least the melody of a song

Mother, we were so young and innocent
only the afternoon shade seemed dark
to us


Later, I grew away from you
and knew what it was to be lonely;
after the dream of your body,
where could I live so well?
where would the sun rise and set
in me the way it lived and died in you?

Now, the earth in me stops spinning . . .
light bleeds from the evening sky
I think even you will darken a little now
that sunlight will dim in you


After you've been stitched, washed,
and slowly wakened     I will you
to be strong     to heal quickly   and to be
young     but then you whisper, Daddy
needs to rest
   and it's clear, mother,
how tired you've grown

I try to remember you as you were
nearly sixty years ago, before I was
your son: your long brown hair brushed
with a reddish fire   slim waist
and slender legs   always one step
from dancing       The photos I have of you
darken and grow old


When I learn that you will live
that life flows back into each cell
each bone     and when you tell me, My heart
is set on dancing—

ten thousand sunsets shift from black
to rose      Words hold me again in their sweet
and fiery embrace

Dr. Charles Fishman is the Director of the Distinguished Speakers Program at SUNY Farmingdale and the author of many poetry collection including the soon-to-be-released Time Travel Reports.


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