by Christine Adams Beckett
Crouching in a dusty attic,
Peeling plastic lids
From bins filled with succulent
History, a mother inspects
An embroidered white cotton dress
Worn by a daughter a decade ago.
A yellowed stain at the hem,
Where a bloodied knee
Brushed the lace and
Stubbornly held on to the memory,
The recognition that no longer
Was she completely protected by
Uterine blood, umbilical pulsations.
She pictured her dismounting
A pony, catching her sandal on
The rope stirrup and the
Answering, collective inhalation:
A fearful suck of oxygen
Gulped by normally laissez-faire
French parents, interrupting their customary
Unaffected, benign neglect.
The American walked alongside
The ambling pony, still
Unable to fight the gravity of
A fast-moving two year-old torso
Angling to try the drawn carriage instead.
The scraping skin against gravel,
The same sympathetic pain
Deep in the gut revisited
Her mother crouched in a dusty attic.
Lemon juice, salt, sun fades the
Yellow scar of a stain, removing evidence
Of the wound where the light entered
An older sister, a wisdom acquired
By pain and unable to be bequeathed
The younger would skin her own knees
On something entirely less romantic
Than a promenade in the Jardin du Luxembourg:
A suburban park path, a driveway,
A sidewalk leading to a copse
Of businesses hugging a train station,
Featuring a uniquely American,
South Asian-run épicerie.
For parents of every culture:
Earth wind and water will deliver
A painful education to our children
Who are subject to elements of light
Until they are returned to it.