for my mother


Convinced she had already died,
she awoke confused,

still in this broken frame, nursed
for organs’ failure, wracking thirst.

Why her Lord returned her here,
she could not fathom.

Had she not been raptured?
Why did He not keep her

once she’d surrendered,
transcended pain?

Annealed in His arms,
she’d felt as glorious and strong

as the scent of lilacs
the day she’d been born.

Why endure more,
wasn’t she beyond

the owl’s tremolo?
Wasn’t her breath

already the fleece of the Lamb?



All through our third-story meal
we hear its hoots as darkness falls
into a dazzle of shooting stars,

before the great horned owl
swoops to the balcony rail,
one wing-beat from our table.
Its yellow eyes drill through us.

We barely breathe.
The raptor’s fierce stare
prompts my mother to say

she’s ready to go. Not indoors—
she stops me from picking up plates—
no, our uncanny companion
thrills her, she meant

she misses those
she can no longer call or hold.
I’m just waiting to be taken.

The meteor shower dwindles
to a few stray streaks.
The owl swivels its head
toward a stirring below.

Donald Levering’s seventh full-length poetry book, Coltrane’s God, published by Red Mountain Press, was Runner-Up for the New England Book Festival contest. His previous book, The Water Leveling with Us, placed second in the 2015 National Federation of Press Women Creative Verse Competition. He is a former NEA Fellow and won the 2014 Literal Latté award and the 2017 Tor House Robinson Jeffers Prize.

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Published in the September 22, 2017 issue: View Contents
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