On Chesapeake Bay

On Chesapeake Bay

In the gray house on Chesapeake Bay
   in summers from long ago
when warm shadows hugged me like a father,
before he went away (I do not know!)
at night I lay in bed, face
   damp against the pillow,
my quilt of patchwork memories
   kicked onto the floor,
thinking of what lay ahead
   and what came before.
The house was silent then,
the doors securely locked,
and the rhythm of my breathing
mimed the ticking of the clock.
   Half awake, half asleep
in a strange familiar place,
lost in the world of time and dreams,
I felt her fingers cool upon my face –
strong hands framing my childhood.

In those hot afternoons
when the waters of the bay touched the sky
and my days stretched empty and bare,
in that gray house where we used to live,
she would sit there drinking tea,
   while I talked and talked,
my voice rising like the wind,
as she searched my eyes for answers
I could not or would not give.

The house is gone now, blown away by time.
My mother has also moved – to a plot by the sea.
I too have gone away, made new friends,
   my life filling out with the years,
until I think I’ve outgrown the past.
But sometimes when the air grows still,
   wind rising from the bay,
softly I lay down my pen,
recalling once more those childish days,
   with faces only I can see
and answers I’ve found at last
   to questions
no one will ever ask again.

– Chidananda Burke.


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