Resetting the Aperture
by Gloria Jean Viglione
It was that evening, when I reached for her elbow
to steady her across the icy patch—
when the soft fleshiness of her arm hung sweetly, and
stars pierced the dome of our January night
that I tasted her new frailness, her grandma nature—
the levity in her bones; the gentle way she let herself
be guided. I saw it earlier in her eyes, a vast unfocused gaze
as we stood to capture a photo to mark the evening.
I suppose I’ve sensed her sensing
of the beyond places,
and too soon, the subtle lessons begin,
the ones where I learn to walk beside an aging mother.
Now comes an influx of
early images of mom—tender,
silent moving snapshots that float like backlit leaves
against darkened edges of my memory.
From this precipice, I’m resetting the aperture,
so these pictures are not left to dangle at the dim periphery
because you see—
I never fully noticed the ease with which she drew
the wooden clothespins from the canvas bag,
stretched the damp twin sheets, end to end along the
sagging clotheslines, as my sisters and I ran lost
in the flapping maze, our sticky hands
reading the wet wrinkles like Braille.
And how could I have known at age five that
she was the reason the kitchen remained sunny?
When too cold for sidewalk hopscotch, her pots, bowls,
and rolling pin came to life, like her farm-girl resiliency,
that no words could have explained to a child.
The costume box beneath the basement stairwell gave play—
a silent antidote for shyness; her chiffon bride’s maid gowns,
pillbox hats and heels, her nursing cadet cape and bag—
we couldn’t wait to grow up, to step well into those big girl shoes.
My mother’s button jar with its dented lid
contained a world of mismatched, untold stories where
the anchors joined the ships on my sister’s navy sweater,
and the pearl button found its way to the stuffed giraffe’s missing eye.
Now less incarnated, she retains a timeless presence, her
melodic greeting on the other end of the phone, half-laughing through
the litany, Diane, Gloria Jean, Teresa, Maria, adding Gigi the girl dog of
our youth, before settling upon a name to begin each conversation.
Tonight I witness a new playfulness from across the room
as she uncharacteristically sits on her hands,
lifts her expression into near giggles,
sends glee the way a child’s drawing depicts sunshine.
That grandma nature is irresistible—
I think I’ll finish this poem,
and join her at the table to clip coupons
with the aperture set