You said me, mother, a word you warded,
a plaid-skirted word-girl, church-schooled.
You told me rosary beads of rules —
skip sidewalk cracks; throw salt shoulder-over ward;
save pennies found; make luck. Worrier,
you shaped me as worries shaped your world.
The nine good angel-kinds, the stars that shined
through constellated window panes at night,
“Hail Mary’s,” “Our Father’s,” my girl scout
oath, my tables of allegiances — words
girded and guarded my world like household
gods. Words were all my plight. You shaped me
mother, like a word you loved and mouthed —
I, the bell of syllables, I, the smooth-
sided labials. Words were all my troth.
So I rode the air like flying does, like sound.
No wonder falling woke me. I’d lie
spread-eagled, face up, under the wheel
of ceiling, its hub, the light-bulb’s pear-
shaped egg — a whirligig of a girl
the bed had thrown. I was thud and bone,
a stone on the world’s flat center. I heard
air’s white noise, the just missed cloud sigh after
birds pass through, the lisp of space. No wonder
the round-sided vowels could not buoy me.
I was a mote, but not of dust or earth.
You said me, mother, oath who’s vowed to earth,
word you schooled in words. Now I say you.