Tracing the Family Aspen « Back

for Marlene Mobley

Choosing carefully where she looks
she points out to me a bird, small and grey,
I look to see it. She hands me the binoculars.
I am so small I have to pull them hard
to get the eyepieces together so I can look out
I struggle with the focus and squint.
Finally, I close my left eye tight so I can see
this bird with one eye. I see what we have been
hearing sing dee dee dee chick ahh dee dee dee.
Walking at Happy Jack, or by the creek at Sunlight
Down by the willows, she traces the family of aspen.
She looks to see who lives in the leaves.
Look at the color of that Western tanager,
see the calliope, the sky, what a beautiful day!
watches for a change in the sky.
Coo coo coo, who cooks for you?
Doves in the trees, over there - hear the sound
Is coo coo coo. She cooks for me - chicken
and noodles - buys hershey bars and sugarless gum
makes Santa out of paper plates, decorates
the Christmas tree with my brother’s partridge from second grade
buys drawing paper 500 sheets at a time, picks gooseberries
scrubs the floor on her hands and knees.
She walks like she’s tall but really she’s small
like a ruby crowned kinglet. You cannot choose your looks.
When the family gets together, everyone says we look alike.
Check the noses. Measure. Compare conformation.
See if I am like my mother. Mom says, I look like Dad.
She says, I look like his side of the family. Looking,
it is as plain as the quake of an aspen, I look like her.
She looks like her mother. As I age, I look more like her,
Fuller in my cheek and hip. I move into her shape and sound.
Look at the color of that red winged black bird, stop the truck,
look, look. She is not a tall tree, but like me, chooses to be.