Before dawn our kitchen is awash in such a soft gray
as the world outside relinquishes each minute,
branch by branch tipped by profusions of advancing gold.
I bend to the gas stove’s sanctuary of orange light
to set my teakettle shivering upon it,
clutching the cold cup I will fill
with my second awakening to honey and orange pekoe.
In this house of our three children
soon to awake, greedy for the day,
I have arisen to the habit of this hour
in which the stillness breaks and mends and breaks
only if I speak. Though I won’t call them,
half a continent away my parents, too, are up
at 5:30 in their eighties, occupied,
keeping each other at a whisper. They began this, I imagine,
forty-nine years back at my birth. I’d love to call,
to ask can you sense less clearly or more
with your diminished hearing these mourning doves
I hear my prayers in every morning now?
And will the sun on your kitchen floor
be dazzling soon in instants, too? More dazzling still
as the hours of radiance count themselves down?
from his book The Astonished Hours
Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1992
Used with permission of the poet
Poem for January 24, 2011.