Sometimes, when I was her child, we took
the tunnel underneath the river,
or better, from the high arch of the bridge
she pointed out to me two countries.
Either way she’d stashed a pound of butter
beneath the seat or something small
in Royal Doulton in her girdle, tilting
her chin at the customs man,
calling him Officer, cheeky as hell.
Now she grows slight within my arms,
asking, “What day is this? Am I
in Florida? When am I going home?”
and to the puzzled salesman at the door,
“No, we don’t live here. We’re Canadians
down for the winter.” It is May.
The grocery money hidden in her pillow slip
or under the rug, she plans escape,
packing her suitcase, then forgetting why.
Somehow the tunnel has reclaimed her,
muffling her voice like whispery echoes
of tires in that deep cylinder
where we dare not sound the horn
for fear collapse would seal us helpless
as water climbed the windows of our car.
If I could find our way back to the bridge,
geography and time might then come clear
and she could show me here and there,
then and now, while two flags thud
against the sky, and on the river far below
small boats skip and wobble in the sun.
—from Rattle #36, Winter 2011