by Anna Citrino
We are people of the grasslands.
Except for being six feet tall, my mother
was ordinary as grama grass, buffalo grass—
low to the ground and rarely noticed. Without grass,
soil flies loose, wind carries away what sustains life.
Like the grass here in Wyoming, bowed by wind,
my mother rooted her life on the plains,
her straight back inclining to its needs.
Every action a prayer of submission to necessary work:
my mother bent over a stove stirring a pot, bent over
newborn sisters and brothers, bent over a pail, milking sheep;
her tall frame pacing slowly between sheets
as she hung them on a line to dry. Her body present,
then disappearing between the sheets’ stretched lengths,
light breathed through sun’s long curve into cloth’s
warp and weft, fabric swelling and flapping in wind’s funnel.
Her body visible, going about work, then invisible.
The strength it took to bend and lift their wet weight.
Now I bend
over her on her deathbed, on this day full of wind,
as she lies between sheets she washed so often.
I see her body’s weft
giving itself breath by breath to the light,
evaporating from her, lifting its weight.
Her efforts, like the effort of ten thousand blades
of ordinary grass—all us ordinary, commonplace people,
and the labor we give ourselves to, that holds together
the soil of life. I see what you did, Mother. I remember.
Anna Citrino taught abroad in six countries. Her work has appeared in Bellowing Ark, Canary, Evening Street Review, Indelible, and Paterson Literary Review, among other journals. She is the author of two books, A Space Between (Bordighera Press) and Buoyant (Bellowing Ark Press), and two chapbooks, Saudade and To Find a River. She lives in Sonoma County. Read more of her writing at annacitrino.com.