A Mother With Grown Children Is a Controlled Experiment

"Night of the Living" and "Taxonomy," two poems by Susan Leslie Moore

star trails over a house at night

A Mother With Grown Children Is a Controlled Experiment

 Night of the Living 

 If the constellation of stars 
 above your house looks like
 a woman skating across a lake 
 you could name it that. If someone
 long before you called it warrior with a sword
 or dragon at the gate, it doesn’t matter, 
 it’s your sky now. If you’re lost in the evening 
 fog all your former selves line up by the side 
 of the road to show you the way home. 
 If you want to pry open the moon
 and crawl inside, remember the sky 
 waits like a clock for you to unwind. 
 The planets contain the fur of wooly  
 mammoths and fossilized ferns
 that never got to be trees. Your position 
 relative to them is what you think about 
 when night is a rabbit hole and sleep
 is a coin toss. A hand moves across your face 
 in a dream you are having about being alive. 
 When you wake up the hand disappears 
 along with the way it felt to be dreaming, 
 on the edge of some great adventure. 
 The shadows of owls against the trees 
 are not owls but you can pretend 
 the sound of branches against the window 
 is someone trying to get in. You can breathe 
 and imagine the night breathes with you.  
 A group of mathematicians is an equation.  
 Unless they are at a party and then they are 
 a problem. Two or three architects is a situation. 
 More than that and the building collapses.  
 A subdivision snakes through property 
 that used to be farmland. Part of the field 
 remains and a few rusted tractors linger like men 
 at a grange hall gathering who would rather mumble 
 to each other than dance. My son worries about gentrification  
 in the old neighborhood. He thinks no one will have 
 a place to live.  Neighborhood meetings with city planners 
 are not funerals. No one sings and prayers are offered silently. 
 Pray for the view of the mountain that will soon be obstructed 
 by condominiums. Unless you find tall buildings beautiful. 
 Then rejoice at the way concrete obliterates the field.  
 A group of condo dwellers is the answer to a question 
 posed by developers everywhere, but no one knows the question 
 or how to measure its importance. When I was seven I lived 
 across the street from a horse and fed it apples from a tree nearby. 
 Its mouth scared me. I thought it  might devour my hand 
 if it had the chance, thinking my hand was part of the apple. 
 A horse behind a fence is progress, but only if you’re not the horse.  
 The first time I let my kids walk to school by themselves 
 I went with them to the end of the street and watched 
 until they arrived at the top. They turned and waved at me, 
 standing  at the bottom of the hill. Did I tell them I would 
 stand and wait? Or did they just know. Then they turned 
 the corner, out of my sight, to walk the few remaining blocks  
 to school alone. Now my children are adults. A mother 
 with grown children is a controlled experiment. How long 
 can she go without thinking of them and how she used 
 to hold their entire bodies in the width of her arms.   

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