A SPLIT SECOND OF LIGHT
Winner, Honorable Mention, San Francisco Book Festival
Mother's Favorite Drawing
I am with her when she sees the drawing
at the gift shop after I drag her through the Met—
a 12-year-old teaching his mother about the great things
in New York besides Ellis Island.
It’s the Käthe Kollwitz of a woman clutching
her child—my mother interrogating the child’s eyes
for something familiar: the shadow of an old man just before
the dreamer awakens, pattern of a favorite school dress,
the arc of a uniformed arm before it smacks her in the head,
color of the suitcase her father lifts off the floor.
Mother never buys on impulse but doesn’t hesitate—
she even gets it matted and framed in brass
and we carry it home on the #4 bus, Mother gripping the bar
with one hand, the picture secured between her legs.
Back in our building, the elevator broken as usual,
we carry the picture up four floors
past other apartments also filled with survivors,
walls bare as ours, and before we take off our coats
Mother wants to hang it over her bed in a spot
framed now by the shadow of the fire escape,
the steps and ladder imposed over mother and child
bracing them forever in flight.