Two Memories of Mae Raley

i
She never prayed when Grandpa was at table.
At head of the table his trained voice
(which filled minds with perfected resonance)
softened like a lullaby when invoking God,
to as near a whisper as he could come.

But when Grandpa was gone
need appointed her intercessor.
We gripped her melanomic hands
and were gently spelled into
this single use of ancient tongue
Remember the word unto thy servant
Her voice shook and fought the phlegm of age
Upon which thou hast caused me to hope
Her tiny form beating seemed shrunken in the chair
This is my comfort in my affliction
Her bent frame hunched her head low to the cloth
For thy word hath quickened me
And her eyes clenched themselves closed
as if straining for solace.

ii
For thirty minutes after dinner
we were made to wait before exertion.
The wood-framed television set
guarded the living room’s far wall
like an ugly temple.
In it we saw colorless people
vividly for the things they did,
and distant expressions closely
for the distance they crossed.

After thirty minutes of avoidable nonsense
we could swim.
Our world in water and sun
was the boundary of two mediums:
air and keeping.
Through the power of the one
we were shortly held by the other,
down into compressed silence
and up into gasping laughter.

Grandpa would come back through the iron gate
singing our names as if calling us to awareness.
Only then would we look and see, sitting silent and content,
Mae, where she had always been,
watching us for the narrowest sign of weakness.