After Gaston Bachelard
Your mother, reading, on the stairs in light
poured in a wide shaft. At night, shadows,
soft thuds and pleading, clink-clink of his ice
in the glass. Your mother, reading. Light seen
through a chink in a cellar wall. The attic air,
dry and dancing with bright motes. You know
it’s there, at the top of the house, the stairs
you must muster the mind to ascend. But how?
Where is the first step? Your old notebooks,
dust-felted, stacked up somewhere. Your mother,
reading. The sense of another life, inside
and outside the walls. An attic, other upper rooms
in the home. Other homes. You are a mother now
too—so many open mouths, so much to do—
your mother, reading. For herself. Showing you.
The poem owes a large debt to Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, from which it takes (among other things) the idea of a house and its rooms, especially the attic, as evocative of something more abstract, psychological, and universal than the physical structure. I was captivated, for example, by Gaston’s idea of the bird hollowing the shape of its nest—its “house”—by means of the pressure of its own breast. A nest round and hollow because it is the exact inverse reflection of the creature that created it.