[from Susan Stewart's The Hive, 1987]
If your mother is alive, wear
a red carnation; otherwise, wear
a white one to be banquet.
-- Mother's Day program, 1962
This was the black day in the house of straw,
The frail house built by the north-gone swallows.
All morning they beat sideways against the windows, hollowing
An old ache out of ice and putty, then the slow thaw
Of daylight on the spattered panes. What calls
Them to that spent light must be desire, and desire's own callow
Reflection: the lost wing, the fire gone out, the tallow
Hardening. This, love, is the nest that falls
In the back of the mind forever, where a mother
Is still alive, a song's not quite forgotten, and so turns
Back slowly in strings and twigs. I need a mended curtain,
A battered red carnation, a certain
Accompaniment to the end of winter as this high sun burns
On the glass, the white blanket; an extra wing, a tuck or gather.
The Hive: Poems (Contemporary Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press).)