Esther Sadoff

My mother wonders if the rocks are free

We are walking by the lake watching waves of new houses
overtake the old. My mother inspects the siding, the gutters,
the fencing of each new house and I pray that nobody's home.

She knocks on the front steps to check for sturdiness,
leans into a darkened window, hands cupped over squinting eyes.
She follows the line of a buried gutter to where it trickles free and clear.

We go house to house forgetting to look at the smooth surface
of the lake where gulls are scooping hungry mouthfuls,
where the slow tide is rocking a mossy log to shore.

Sitting under an umbrella, we eat sandwiches served
in red baskets and I eat not because I am hungry but because
eating means anchor, a punctuation of gulps between words.

I poke at my sandwich, get up every chance I get to grab my mother
a napkin, a fork, a bottle of water—never able to sit for long.
On the way back we pass a scattered pile of gray stones,

some tumbled in the road, some sparkling in the grass
and my mother wonders if she can have them,
Just a few to sparkle in the yard.

I wouldn't be surprised to see her take a few
but she doesn't and I know these are too perfect
to be a gift from mother nature but I'd like to think

that anything could be my mother's—
a shining ring from a glass case, a silvery white rock,
because why not? In my head my mother can have anything.