While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher’s ink.
She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.
But I know
it is because of the way
my mother’s hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.
by Li-Young Lee
What are you thinking of, Mother Dear,
as you clasp your cherubic child before
you and gaze off into the distance
between courses of honeyed tea and buttery toast?
The movements of the moon?
Mycology and mineralogy?
Or the sweet deliciousness of another few minutes of sleep,
so you can dream you live in a world where
mothers are the engineers of their own mornings?