By: Ute Carson
Stars in the Night
I remember many delights.
Riding my mare bareback across a meadow.
My naked toes brushing the tips of dew-moistened grass.
Waking up in my lover’s arms,
feeling my heart race.
Cradling our baby,
my breath caressing its fox-red down.
All these precious moments glimmer
in a starless night.
My grandmother’s couch is stuffed with horsehair.
The fabric is faded and threadbare.
The old cushions have been covered
with fresh material on occasion.
Grandmother used to read her Bible
while leaning into the upholstery.
Later on, my mother’s knitting needles
clicked against the wooden armrests.
Still later, children and grandchildren
slurped from their milk bottles
well beyond babyhood and
bounced to the squeaking of the rusted springs.
The experiences of loved ones
are traceable in the seams.
The couch bears the contours of past and present.
More than a cherished piece of furniture
it is a treasured keepsake of a family’s life
woven through with nostalgia
for vanished people and times.
Memory sifts our experiences in unpredictable ways.
Big events may get stuck in the mesh,
while small happenings slip through.
In the spring of 1945 I was four-and-a-half,
helping my mother earn extra food rations
by picking potato bugs
off of fresh green leaves in a farmer’s field.
Because I was quick with my hands, my jar began to fill
with the yellow-and-back striped beetles.
Suddenly, my mother, picking just ahead of me, collapsed.
I rushed to her side, knelt and stroked her sweaty brow.
My grandmother, working an adjacent row, was besides us in an instant.
After my mother was whisked away for an emergency appendectomy,
grandmother took me home and stayed with me.
I clutched my catch tightly so as not to spill the little things
that were crawling halfway up the inside of the jar.
I dumped the tiny creatures onto the kitchen table and tried to count them
but they quickly scattered, so I put them back.
I felt my cheeks flush with joy. I had not lost a single one!