This is your mother—at two in the morning from London
I’m calling—just back from Rome—Thought I’d quick
try to catch you—Mayhe a little later—again I’ll try—
’til seven they still charge less to talk—But
I don’t want you should depend on me staying up…
It does me strange justice, this voice my daughter saved,
taping it off her message machine
so she can store it away for her children.
Was it the rain those months in London that made me speak
like that—washing off outer layers so you heard
the Yiddish flavors of my Lower East Side grandparents?
And the rain that Roman Easter as I stood outside
St. Peter’s—bells tolling in the downpour
the resurrection of the spirit—
of grandmothers Kate and Leah who kept urging
the next day on my return to London—
I should go—pick up a phone—and give a call
to the children scattered in Denver, Philadelphia,
Boston. And early morning when I connected
not with a daughter but with her message machine
(one beep at my back and another about to silence me),
did the grandmothers purse their lips and whisper
about this latest tyranny, did they roll up
their sleeves and show me how to work against time
with dignity: starting slow, like an update
on weather, reporting my foreign movements at some
crazy hour; yet at the canny moment,
tying loose ends up with a flourish:
. . . read your letter, read your card (kiss)
love you darling (kiss), and as if shutting a door
for a brief turn round the block, bye-bye.
Betty Buchsbaum is a professor and academic Vice President at Massachusetts State College Art in Boston. She has been published in the Anlioch Review. Sojourner. Rhion, and Connecticut Poetry Review.