My husband and I raise Morgan horses on a farm in the Susquehanna River valley of upstate New York, where I also tend a large garden of vegetables and perennials. I teach at Binghamton University and in the low-residency MFA at Wilkes University. My poetry and essays have appeared widely and I am the author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently CRAVE from NYQ Press in 2016. For more information please visit my website: http://christinegelineau.com/.
What's it like there, Mother?
Have you been there long enough
to be happy? Have your bones
cleaned off to silver now, holy and exact?
You did so love to dress
in pure lines and simple elegance.
That insistent black elegance
was your signature here, Mother,
but it was Dad and I who chose the dress
that you wore last and we had had enough
of black. We put you in the teal, an exact
gesture; by now, soil-black and moist, your bones
wear only what becomes the bones.
Even the outerwear of mahogany elegance
we gave has softened into exactly
the embrace we had intended. Mother,
that last evening we talked, I remember well enough
the look of you in white: the white dress
the hospital issues; the room dressed
white, white ceiling, white walls, bone-
white bedclothes, your face floating in whiteness enough
to release you; your hand in white air, elegantly
waving goodbye, goodbye; so like you, Mother,
to be, even at that moment, exact.
But it was more than I could imagine you would exact
of me the black sophistication of a funeral dress
while you wore blue and wouldn't leave your box, Mother.
Sucked down with grief to a model's high cheek-boned
look, I came into a sudden, adolescent elegance
but paid for it. Can we ever pay enough?
Even decades have not been time enough
to compensate the cost. The exacting
interweave of you and me, that elegant
embroidery of dreams, demands, losses and redress,
continues to work its intricate details, the bone
needles pulling bright venous threads, Mother.
I wear our crewelwork close to the skin and dress
to camouflage the truth: we each are silver at the bone,
and what you must endow, I must inherit, Mother.
“Endow” was first published under the title "Sestina" in Kansas Quarterly/ Arkansas Review, Vol. 26 No. 1-4 (1996).
©2017 Christine Gelineau
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