My Mother on a Late evening in Summer

  When the moon appears

and a few wind-stricken barns stand out

in the low-domed hills

and shine with a light

that is veiled and dust-filled

and that floats upon the fields,

my mother, with her hair in a bun,

her face in shadow, and the smoke

from her cigarette coiling close

to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,

stands near the house

and watches the seepage of late light

down through the sedges,

the last gray islands of cloud

taken from view, and the wind

ruffling the moon’s ash-colored coat

on the black bay.


Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send

small carpets of lampglow

into the haze and the bay

will begin its loud heaving

and the pines, frayed finials

climbing the hill, will seem to graze

the dim cinders of heaven.

And my mother will stare into the starlanes,

the endless tunnels of nothing,

and as she gazes,

under the hour’s spell,

she will think how we yield each night

to the soundless storms of decay

that tear at the folding flesh,

and she will not know

why she is here

or what she is prisoner of

if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.


My mother will go indoors

and the fields, the bare stones

will drift in peace, small creatures —

the mouse and the swift — will sleep

at opposite ends of the house.

Only the cricket will be up,

repeating its one shrill note

to the rotten boards of the porch,

to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,

to the sea that keeps to itself.

Why should my mother awake?

The earth is not yet a garden

about to be turned. The stars

are not yet bells that ring

at night for the lost.

It is much too late

– Mark Strand

–  From Mark Strand: Selected Poems, by Mark Strand, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1979 by Mark Strand