The neighbor’s mulberry tree spilling its fruit
onto the sidewalk stained the old sneakers
I took from my mother’s closet, but there was no need
to steal, there’s almost nothing you can ask for
that my mother wouldn’t give you, except maybe
the bone from a T-bone steak—
she’s a carnivore, like the coyote in the cemetery
where I walked each day in my mother’s shoes.
It was so hot the asphalt buckled
and the cemetery crows kept their beaks open;
everyone except me was underground, staying cool.
From our respective shades, the solitary coyote
eyed me steadily, as if I belonged to her,
but all I wore was borrowed: the shoes, the skirt,
the clip holding my silver hair above my sweaty neck,
maybe even my sweaty neck. I’m not so dim
not to know you can’t take it with you
and still I wanted to fly in my mother’s shoes
across the miles that usually separate us.
The morning of my departure I left a trail
of red-black mulberry juice that led into
and then out of her front door and down the steps
to the airport scanner where I untied the shoes
and placed them carefully into the tray. By then
my mother may have forgotten I’d been to visit her.
“You’re not leaving tomorrow, are you?” she kept asking,
and for a few days I could say no. We watched the sun go down
just before the solstice. “Sunsets don’t make me sad,” she said
each time we looked away from the Olympic Mountains.
“I’ll be back soon,” I told her.
“Yes,” she said, as she always says.
“Yes, of course, take whatever you like.”