This is her descending
in a hidden photograph
taken when I was
an infant and Mother held me
at arm’s length. I look back
for her, unsurprised
still questioning why she doesn’t return
my gaze. Her eyes
fix on a spot between
her face and my face. For the infant
there is no distinction.
Her disaffection stains the intimate
objects found years later
among her things of everyday:
a thimble embroidered with a single petal.
a slim gold watch-stopped.
Brushes held to
dry in a bamboo roll. A tiny lime
and fuchsia dress sewn by her
hands for my hundredth day.
His wedding band, scarred
a muted gray. In the gap between us
a vacancy swells and bellies
the air where her eyes avert mine
to slide off where? I wish I could see her
engage and ignite
these traces of the ordinary,
the minutely particular
totems of our daily life: holy.
In an old dream, I plot a little boy’s flight.
Like a fighter pilot, I drop
a homing device back in time to spy
into the landscape of my infancy
before she turned her face away-
before my need was extraordinary.
~Eleanor Chai, Standing Water Poems