Mother Stone

Selima Hill

My father was a tall man who approved of beating,
but my mother, like a mother stone,
preferred us to be sitting in a small room
lined with damson-coloured velvet
thinking quietly to ourselves, undisturbed;
everything was slow and beautiful
when we were being punished: all we had to do
was watch the dark-red petals’ roses
press against each other in a slight breeze
on the window pane, and blossoms fall
in silence from the cherry-tree;

and now my son is lying in a long white shirt
across our eiderdown, trying to stay awake,
and fingering my spine’s shell pink as if I was a beach
and he was blades of marram grass in drifts of sand.
I dab my face with cream that smells of cucumber
and whisper in a distant milky voice
Of course I’ll wake you up when he comes;
and then his eyelids close,
and in his self-created darkness he is following
a big car on a motorway at night,
it turns into the driveway to the house,
and presently the driver gets out:
it is only a bear in the moonlight,
walking on the lavender beds.