This Brief Light



My in-laws play Scrabble
at night with their son
while I read in the bedroom,
the door always ajar
like my book
half opened to sounds
of the game.
Small clicks of wood,
now a sigh,
my husband hums
(it’s not his turn).
They ask each other,
“Is n-u-x a word?”
If I would watch
from the doorway,
two grey heads
and a peppered one,
bent low over troughs
of letters
would worry the tiles
dragging from letters
to board and back.
But I will not rise
from this nest of sound.
Here words weigh nothing
and all the players have won.



From our porch we watch
the late June sky pale
in that space between sunset and night.
Days will shorten now,
fans of light closing
one by one,
a celestial tea ceremony
performed by all
the heavenly geishas.
This is the time
I feel least deserving of this life–
its cottonwood fluff, its blossoms,
its vacation photographs,
casual and relaxed as flip-flops.
Whatever prompts
subtraction of the light
will add the dark embroidery of dream
to heavy wool of winter nights.
Porch furniture stacked,
the cushions stored,
you and I will accommodate,
but not without another loss:
a child growing out of the house,
a parent, friend or house pet gone.
In this solstice time
we feel eternal—
an effortless short-sleeved ease
in leafy greens and friendly barbecues.
We own a sweet forgetfulness
that leaves will fall,
that sun will age our skin,
and that this light is ours
so briefly on this uncommon earth.



Our mothers are leaving us.
One by on they flutter through the door
as if we had expected it,
as if we had prepared
for this good-bye.
We can hardly follow their recipes.
Their remedies for flu,
for heartache, are somewhere
in the cupboard;
the names of relatives to be invited
are mixed in with the old Green Stamps.
How can we, their busy daughters,
sew on patches to make things last?
What are we to do
with these old compacts,
these letters, cards and cold creams?
How will we behave
without their disapproving frowns,
their Listen, honey…
their Oh, sweetheart!
We’re standing up straight,
we’re being kind,
and we’ve sent off the thank-you notes,
but they are minding other business
beyond the blue,
leaving us in middle age
to sift through their precious lives
for clues to who we are.


2 Responses to This Brief Light

  1. Tom Zimmerman says:

    Your poems are incredible. I took photos of them at an Art prize exhibit and I read them often.

  2. Susan Guerra says:

    Miriam-what a joy it is to read your poems. As often as I read them they make me ache and weep and feel the joy of the everlasting right-ness that will come. I was so happy to find this site today when I just had a hankering to read your work and my book is all the way at home! Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!

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