Summer Table

by John MacKenna

My mother was sitting on the cemetery wall,
reciting an old poem, not loudly but with the carefulness of one
who knows her discourse might be heard.
Her legs were dangling in the summer air.
The cherry trees had stretched themselves as far as evening would allow.

That’s when she got the news about her son.
I can’t be sure who brought the word that angel of the Lord?
or if it simply blew in on a western breeze
and landed like a small, dead bird there on her aproned lap.
But, anyway, that’s where and when the news arrived.

She dawdled for a moment, the verses hollow now.
Then, finally and silently, traversed the broken ground,
and froze my singing father with her words.
The eldest child is gone. Softly, they set about preparing
a place for him at the table they had laid.