March 31, 2012

Terry Ann Thaxton

WHAT REMAINS
—for Russ

I find oranges just beyond
my dining room window,
fallen from the tree, some halfeaten

by squirrels in the shape
of my mother’s memory.
Sometimes I pick up the whole ones,

take my arm, as I did when
I was a girl on first base,
wind up, and throw the orange

through bushes and shrubs until it
plops into the pond. The sound
reminds me that there is

an ocean somewhere beyond
the pests in my yard. Sometimes,
only part of the skin

remains, the rest gone,
disappeared, like my mother’s
voice hanging on the clothes line.

Sometimes I’m sure I’m almost
there, but she made her escape
like an angel or an orchid

on my back porch, having
remained in bloom longer
than anyone in our house expected.

Some people say Florida
looks like a flower. I say, come, trace
my foot—I’ll show you

how to live
after your mother leaves you,
as if we, the living, were something

more solid than antique china
on a shelf in a woman’s
pantry. The story is never

over. I, too, have hungered
for my mother to criticize
the way my hair hangs in my face.

I’ve wanted her voice to call me
in for a home-cooked meal.
Yours was a grandmother

to two boys, now laid out in her
best dress—a wife your father lost
on his way to happiness.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006