My mother tells me the story of her mother,
the gray, hard-edged world from which
she emerged; how denial became
the common language, silence a bridge
between angry shouts at God
and anyone else who might listen;
tells how her mother’s parents refused her
pleading for a doll to call her own,
and how one day she wandered
past the fields until she found a stone,
round-shouldered and smooth,
wrapped the stone in discarded cloth,
cradling it, calling it her baby.
She tells me also of standing as a child
on the cold train platform,
the long journey north ahead,
shaking with tears while her father —
a cruel man on the best of days —
told her that her beloved ragdoll would
not be allowed on board.
That decision, he spat, was final.
My daughter will know none of this.
The floors here are strewn with
plush toys, action figures,
plastic Lego waiting for the most tender
part of the foot to find them.
We stroll our quiet neighborhood,
collecting twigs, autumn leaves
of burnt sienna and gold,
stones that she assures me have
fallen from the moon, or have been
thrown from angry volcanoes,
stones that still contain the images
of animals from long ago,
imprint of a hand or a small face turning,
grateful to be held so gently,
to whisper their stories once again.
by Greg Watson
Editor’s Note: The narrative of this poem defines its shape and length, and ultimately, the imagery that makes the last several lines so precious.