The Story After the Story
In bubbles to the elbow, on my knees,
I am washing children. You are laughing,
pleased to observe me at my mysteries.
Antoine & Will giggle as I sluice their backs.
My knees soaked by local tidal splashes
creak as I stand and towel two relaxed
bed-ready boys. I crib them, warm in their
soft shirts, & sit to eat a bruised sweet apple
as I nurse Chris and float on mild air
a story for everyone; Monique & Denis
settle on child-chairs; we are a tangle,
bitch and pups, in the oldest comity.
You like that less, leave us for the kitchen
to finish the fruit and cheese. The ample
story falls short on me. My mind itches.
Sighing & smiling Antoine drops to sleep.
Will lies awake, only his eyes active.
Monique trusts the story somehow to keep
mapping new ways home through more & more world.
Chris drowses. Will's eyelids lift up, lapse back.
Denis' fists lie in his lap, loosely curled.
I am willing them one by one to sleep.
The story wanders in its adjectives.
Chris' mouth clamps down, lets go, breathes deep.
Humming & murmuring I bed them all.
Monique tells a soft story, managing
me into mind with her as she too falls.
I rise in joy, ready, the child-work done.
I find you have gone out. A radical
of loss cancels what we might have become.
From SPRINGING-NEW AND SELECTED POEMS (Knopf, 2002)