She asks him to take pictures
of nesting kestrels in Yeats' tower.
He turns by the spiral stairs and drops
his camera from its zipper case--
the back broken, film exposed.
He damns the tower and her.
She stays in that narrow space,
watches a fledgling tear apart a mouse--
her thoughts on the stone staircase,
high and winding, without handrails,
the need to climb back down.
She sees him pace beside the bridge,
he in an elsewhere she cannot enter--
a son lost a dozen summers ago.
She hears his cries. Brown-orange water
flows by, drowns birdsong.
From all sides she looks out.
When Walking with Your Mother, Who Has Died
It’s best to oil her bones before the stroll.
Understand her ways:
she may turn her skull to the questioning
owl. She may reach for fog and damp,
for skulking bug.
If you come to a pool or a lake
let her soak her parched
limbs in the cool
water for as long as she wishes.
Sing to your mother. Rub the bone soles
of her feet. Hold her moss-hands
without wincing or clinging.
Do not brag about good food
or fabulous sex. Do not mention
new cures for the illness
that killed her.
Give gifts. Perfumed oils.
Silk sheets. Books on tape.
Know that she will turn from you
when it’s time to leave. Point her home
to urn or earth.
Child, you may lament.
The co-winners of the 2010 Princemere Poetry Prize are Ellen LaFleche of Northampton, Massachusetts, for her poem “When Walking with Your Mother, Who Has Died,” and Wanda S. Praisner of Bedminster, New Jersey, for her poem “Thoor Ballylee.” Each was awarded $200.
Runners-up are Barbara Tomaine of Scranton, Pennsylvania (“The Hundred Steps”), Adrian S. Potter of Minnetonka, Minnesota (“Excerpts from the Guide to Modern Survival”), and Claire Keyes of Marblehead, Massachusetts (“The Winter of the Australian Crawl”).