Moon Phases: For My Mother as She Turns Sixty
by Leah M. Plath
Rusted train trestles cut a swath of steel throughSecond Place Winner
the grasping branches.
She leads me into blackberries
nestled amid heavy-leaved bushes that reach
tendrils around our ankles.
We wade into the green,
stray from tracks overgrown
with bending dandelions
and pluck the rich black
I see her at my age.
She is the crescent moon, blonde curls and blue jeans,
berries overflowing the milk pail clutched
with purple-stained fingers
that mirror mine.
She is a fine sliver in the sky.
For me she wears yellow
and her belly swells like the moon
as I push relentlessly outward
inexorable as time.
I draw upon her strength to grow
then and now.
She spins cobwebs of lace, body curved as if in prayer
over the cold iron of the sewing machine
whose needle flashes through the rhythmic humming.
I lie awake, listening.
In this way, my First Communion
comes before incense and wooden pews:
I commune here first as my mother sews
salvation and forgiveness into white muslin
and makes angel wings of lace-capped sleeves.
We, her children, burn hot as suns
consuming the embers of time.
At night we slumber in the shadow of our dreams,
and she is the full moon
luminous from our reflected glow,
an oasis from the day's turmoil,
a quenching stillness of cool water.
It is the new moon time.
My mother weaves stories
from the fabric of her life
and wraps them around us.
She is the wise-woman
grown into her skin and her words.
Her wisdom is filtered through time
and alternately sweet and bitter
on our tongues.
I submerge myself in this deep water;
she soaks into my skin.
My mother holds the sons and daughters
of her sons and daughters
with hands that plucked blackberries.
I understand her through the memories
that beat moth-wings against my mind,
scattering the dust of her life and mine.
They blend together.