The avenue wakes coated in flower litter,
it is the time in spring when the white trees snow,
a manhole in the street heaves and spits
red clay water, carrying little flat brides
into the sewer, and an unspecial bird covers up
the softer songs of the morning, hiding its half notes
in the boxwoods. Blocks away, a school is sick
with numbers let loose like minutes on vacation time
and I am hoping my sons will not ruin there, that they
will be stain-resistant and mighty in their no-iron pants,
iron hearts. I thought that words said in a particular
order could save all of the children.
I thought I could say the words. I made a list of worries
and a list of thanks, and they were the same.
A day moon is out, like a nick in the sky,
far from full. I like the moon when it’s not super
when it draws back into its place, held up
by telephone wires and evergreens,
when nobody runs out into the street to see it
or calls each other on the phone. That it will be
five o’clock, then six, is too much. At night,
we are a family of co-sleepers, all four in one king,
hot stones under wet leaves, thinking our sons
may fall out of bed straight into a war
and so how softly I pull my children from sleep.
I try to make their pains evenly dosed and time-released.
It never works. I’ve tried mothering things
that can’t be nursed. Snake plants deny me.
I keep believing that I will flower out of some green
branch and be released and carried out over the city,
but I know I am not really a part of the budding
pear trees, I am not even above the ground,
I am down below, and it will have to be the black root
of my own heart that pushes me up out of the dirt
that I’ve thought, all this time, was the air.
Elizabeth Hughey is the author of two poetry collections: Sunday Houses the Sunday House (University of Iowa Press) and Guest Host (National Poetry Review Press). She is the co-founder and programming director at the Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO), a literary arts center in Birmingham, Alabama, where she teaches poetry in the public schools.