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Motherskin : <i> To a Slovak Mother </i>

Born of wheat root and summer rusk, born of rain, sheened gold as hair swirled in the soft comb you rake and truss, you delight in a mirror or a photograph or the touch of any son. When you bale bread one by one with prayer hands, the heart of hair on every child’s arm lingers. You blush at a wedding dance and love counting fingers when I play the boy and promise to die young. All day in the shadow wood of the green martyr, you kneel, your babushka slung high across your shoulders. You can never die; the earth would cease to grow and only know water. The shale beneath the house has claimed your hair possessively, the way spring water fawns moss for breath or the wash of fresh air, the way childskin seeks a bed to smoothly lie across.

From the “Southern California Anthology” (USC Professional Writing Program” 1987). Ragan is the author of “In the Talking Hours” (Eden-Hall, 1979). His second collection of poetry, “Womb-Weary,” was a finalist in the 1987 Walt Whitman Center Book Award Competition and will be published in the spring of 1990. He is currently at work on a new book called “Lusions.” Ragan has been the recipient of such awards as the Emerson Poetry Prize, two Borestone Mountain Poetry Nominations, two MacDowell Colony Writers Fellowships and the Humanitarian Award from the Swan Foundation. Reprinted by permission of James Ragan.


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