Playing Cards in My Mother’s Hands

Shuffling steps and sick cough
A heart murmur in the cards
Cards changing hands and faces
Palms on the table levitate hope
Fingers open empty hands
Letters to the dead never end
Shoe boxes and photo albums
And closets full of clothes
End of life affairs papers and chairs
An oxygen machine shuffles air
My deal your card this spade
This force my blood God’s clubs
Love at face value wins the hand
Count winnings count losses
Mix in the dust of names
Mix in the suits of lunar phases
Cut the deck and the sums
Have a probability density
Half the distance to the sun
Deal a magnetic north and go
Wild cards are the gift of the void



I buy those scratch lotteries for my mother
They license the hope of prizewinning
Every next moment means cash for life
Every next moment doubles the bonus
Find three of the same and you’re saved
Uncover your symbol and win the jackpot
Scratch a gold crossword and find all the words
Under the sun live the same astrology
It doesn’t matter to me that I am in the hole
All the tickets in the world could run out
Before I’d let her gamble on hope alone

Mother Son Song

Tell me a story mother
All the hospital windows
Are black with snow

Tell me a story mother
Nurses are gathering fire
Doctors are measuring wire

Tell me a story mother
When does our care
For what is ours wear

Tell me a story mother
What we lose in time
We receive in kind

Tell me a story mother
Memory is a medicine
Exceeding what has been

Tell me a story mother
Soil is buried in soil
And grief in toil

Tell me a story woman
Death is the meaning
Of mother in my flesh

Tell me a story mother
The sick are waking
It is night and it is morning


When I picture my mother in her thirties in a red dress
Swooning to Mario Lanza’s Granada
On 78rpm, my memories sound
With forgotten revolutions per minute
Turning to roses and laughter and dance steps,
Turning to Europe in the vast sunset of war
And the static of questions childhood could not form,
As history ate through the grooves
With crackles and bomb blasts
And the beauty that cannot last, but does.