My Mother at Swan Lake

by Barton Sutter
Sutter. The Reindeer Camps. My Mother at Swan Lake
This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalms 118:24 A maniac for picnicking, She'd pack us up to go The very first thing in the spring; Sometimes we sat in snow! But we were well into the year; The swans had all long gone. We'd shed, like leaves, our nagging fears. The lake went pink and calm. Her hair'd come back; her light, low laugh; Her cancer in "remission," A state that gave us some relief From pain and vain religion. My dad had let me start the fire. I saw my mom was proud Of how the flames kept growing higher; They wouldn't flicker out. I've clutched this day near fifty years But always felt so stupid That it could bring the sting of tears When there was nothing to it: My sister makes a small bouquet Of weeds and faded asters, But I can't hear my mother say What she bends low to ask her. My brother's down beside the shore; I see his silhouette. My father calls out, as before, "Now don't go getting wet!" My mother leans against a tree. She sighs. I hear her say Across the half a century, "It's been a lovely day."