Incunabula Descending the Stairs

Somewhere between the first move and
the last, my mother orders a chandelier online

but doesn’t know how to install it.
It’s sometime late November: early dark,

the day going out, barbeque in the oven
starting to fill the house with an odor my brothers

wrestling in the basement will soon smell,
bringing them pounding up the stairs.

On a ladder in the foyer, she’s replacing just the crystals
from the old wrought-iron chandelier,

stringing each new tear-shaped gem
into the curve of a black hook,

so its empty weight dangles there for dusk
to scatter through it, slanting from the windows

into flecks of bleached rainbow sent
slowing across the walls like a song fading

into the memory of a song.
Perched on a high rung, she looks a moment

at me descending the stairs, my gangling body
wrapped in a blanket, hair like a mop,

and for a brief time, our gazes cross
at the same height, eye level and speechless, looking

into someone else’s life that is also our own life.
I don’t know what keeps her mind stiff

but spinning like a weather vane in a storm.
It’s unclear if she feels—quiet as she is, watching those jewels

suspend—the strange intrigue
of seeing through them her own body as it might look

afterwards: a shadow, distorted,
spilling its shape across the floor.