The night of the warehouse fire, we all
stayed up watching an orange sky twist
flame and shadow, flinching with each
boom as oil drums succumbed.
Maybe we should leave, my mother said.
My father—glowing bright, then dim—
stared out the window. Listen, you can
hear each barrel roll and blow. The way
he talked me through a thunderstorm,
one thousand one, one thousand two—
Five seconds, a mile between the flash
and its slower rumble. Here the gap was
only Kennedy Drive, one street between
our family and the flames—a band of
silence that held the night and the noise
at what seemed like a safe distance.
My Mother Holds Her Great-Granddaughter
In rows of ruffles with a pink medallion pinned
above the hemline, our new Amelia has been placed
across my mother’s lap. First one yawns
and then the other. Both have trouble keeping
focus. My mother nods beneath nine weary
decades, waiting to be guided toward her nap.
Amelia stretches and resumes her newborn sleep.
All the limbs are delicate—in so precarious
a balance that we gasp when one leg shifts
against another and the baby starts to cry.
But it’s only slight, this minor tumble into frailty
How’s it going, my brother asks me later.
Like propping up dust, I say.
I once saw my mother kill a snake
that dared to trespass in her garden.
She never flinched, just thrust the shovel
downward to separate the head from all
the life that thrashed behind it.