for my grandmother Winnifred Sweeting
You were an embryo nine decades old.
Whenever night fell you fell back into the womb
calm and cool as the Gully Hole.
You saw me through veils
of pink sand and wild seagrapes growing
in the shadow of the house with the shuttered windows.
Placing a mask of your own choosing over my face
you hid the evidence of loss too hard to bear.
You said you are my mother
living on the cusp of both my worlds.
You are midwife to my second birth and your face
contorts with the pain of my coming.
They say you went mad when
after 45 years of teaching the children
your brain grew tired of keeping things straight.
From your bedroom window you saw
Harbor Island, 1922:
Brilliant blue of the Sound and sloops
listing in an East wind,
the road, a ribbon of white limestone
wrapping up the village
like some zemi’s gift.
You knew yourself as child bride,
walking Princess Street Hill
on your father’s sun-scarred arm,
white wedding dress trailing
through rivers of Hibiscus.
You knew yourself as Mother,
birthing your sons in the same bed
where they were conceived,
the crook in your womb uncoiling
in the wake of their passages
Isis’s totem in your belly
though you never heard her name.
Your heart was a red sun shining
in somber confessional chambers.
Your fingers were flocks of White Winged Doves
ascending stairways of old ivory.
Your voice was the cry of the dolphin
alive beyond a thousand shorelines.
Your eyes were two torches burning
in the path of an ebbing tide.
Your bed slips away
into the bones of a schooner
waiting all these years
in the shelter
of The Devil’s Backbone
for the resurrection.
You take the wheel strongly,
pull in the jib and point
the bowsprit into the wind
coming east along the Banks,
you sail on home
to where Rock Beauties ride
the final following sea
and Summer Swallows leave
footprints in a canopy of sky.
You are a forest of magenta seafans
Copyright © Lynn Sweeting