The wide riverbed is bank-to-bank beauty of red, white,
green stones, black and yellow, veined and ribbed
quartz and sandstone, basalt and granite,
all tumbled smooth by the long time of the world.
I find a few treasures and my daughter, who is five,
comes and stands under my stoop, pounces
on stones at my feet, her eyes scanning, scanning.
If I move sideways, she moves sideways. If I turn, she turns.
All this space and she stands right here,
shadowing my shadow, seeking treasure
at her mother’s feet, seeing through
her mother’s eyes, stealing her mother’s vision.
It’s what our children do. It’s what
we give the world — their greed
for life and it’s ok that they
look through our eyes for a while.
But Daughter, in that far off story of snow
and sadness, the little match-girl died.
She was fiddling with flames, dreaming of mother
when she could have been collecting wood.
Daughter, I am only a dreamt mother. I can’t save you.
I can’t give you the world, though I’d give
each stone in this riverbed, I’d give enough beauty
to sustain you in your ever-after life.
But in the end, I’m as impotent as the match-girl’s mother.
And you can steal from me, my eyes, my very breath,
but sooner or later, you will have to find
your own stones to whisper your secrets to.