Nights

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From the years I lived in my parents’ house
I remember a habit my mother kept;
After dinner, past eight, while my sisters slept
And my father, dreaming, read in bed,
Only half-awake my mother would sit
Late into night’s obscure phase.
Slumped on a creaking kitchen chair
She’d rub her feet, or rise to shift
The drying crockery into place,
While crooked lines of thin unease
Would draw and cramp within her face.

Nights when we were very young
Pulsed away with comforting sound;
Tight inside with sight turned down,
While in the yard the dark took tongue.

I sometimes watched her waiting there;
She’d move about, plump her hair,
Then head bent, she’d lock her hands
Over her stomach like banana-skins
As if convinced that she was meant
To much there for centuries.

And all the while the night took stock
Showing neither black nor light.
Beetles moved within the ground,
And the house ticked audibly like a heating clock.

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