Childhood

No, I cannot stand.
Cannot begin again, cannot return
to where I left off:
Dishes unwashed,
letters unwritten,
five or six of my shirts,
grey underwear, white socks
– like things that lived –
hung in my small bathroom, drying
while it rains outside,
and there I am, remembering, almost,
as though this rain had fallen before,
or in the knowledge that it will fall again.

I turn the hourglass by the sink
and measure out three good minutes
of tooth-brushing.
A chore that I’ll be thankful for in later years.
Tonight the ground will be soft
and I’ll fall asleep to the milling throats
of toads, the sound

 

childhood was
playtime, but also other memories:
on my knees, for example,
mumbling at the dark.
At what was out there, listening.
And still others
which I could name or describe
but won’t.
Enough to say my mother
gave me an hourglass
and also a pocket-sized portrait
of a man who looked nothing like Christ,
which I kept because what else could have been done?

More importantly,
who will bring me water from the dark
beyond this quiet land,
or hold my hand?

 

In the tiny bathroom, beside
the one cake-bristled toothbrush
that remained, in its place,
was the hourglass.
I was surprised to see it there – at first –
then not surprised,
that time that my mother had been keeping.
I spun it in my strangely untrembling hand
and set it down
to watch three minutes trickle irrevocably away,

and decided this too was prayer.