“Think Back”

Surrounded by memories, I’m sitting with my tea.

Broad morning light fills the familiar room,
and the wall clock’s second hand sighs repeatedly,
“think back, think back, think back.”

On the old formica sill above the sink,
one clear vase holds a single stem of quince;
its blossoms stand quietly
in pink relief against the smudged and water-spotted kitchen window.

I can see, from this spot indoors,
that the outer world is contemplating springtime:
a cloudless, cold, bluebird March sky, the neighbor’s quiet house, and
an old pine tree are framed precisely by the sunlit plate-glass
– like a private landscape exhibit.

“think back, think back, think back” – thrums on…

….to this same view, nearly 25 years ago.
But it’s now November, past sunset, and the fluorescents overhead are humming.

I’m standing in front of the sink, and the chilly sheet of glass above it
is streaked with steam and soap splash.
And with rolled shirt sleeves and wet hands, I protectively grip my new son.

He’s round and tiny in the enamel basin, and his skin
is softly quince-colored against the milky bathwater.

Over the top of his small head, I gaze out the inky window toward
an equally bright kitchen across the street.
It blinks through the blackness surrounding our homes (“think back”), and I notice
my neighbor, back-lit,
peering out into the autumn night.

We exchange a wave – connected now, and she pauses
to watch as I lift my boy from the water.

I hold him up – high above the window’s sill – so she can see
his small steamy body
glowing through the dark….

“think back, think back, think back”

© martha lee phelps

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