A Mother With Grown Children Is a Controlled Experiment
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
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.