Steps Apart

by Jeanette Reid

Off coast, gray and purple clouds are clumped and motionless.
Will the day be clear or cloudy, gusty or still?

I sit in a patch of sunlight on the top step to write—
just as years ago I sat on our upstairs step to listen:

the creaking house, my family’s nighttime breathing,
chiming of the mantel clock.

Outside, a random car hums down Main Street,
brief clucks and flutters from the chicken coop,
the startled bark of a neighbor’s dog.

I like to be the only one awake, free, invisible,
nobody calling, fussing, telling me what to do.

My small room was off the stairway landing.
Five steps up was Mother; ten steps down was love.

One I tried to sidestep;
the other, just a quick slide down the bannister, drew me in.

Mamu rocked and rocked me on the porch, sang her old-time songs.
Mother thought to teach and to improve.

All my life she’s looked over my shoulder;
frowns and questions, then shakes her head.

Something in me wants to please her;
something wants to spite.

And something yearns to merge these two staunch women
whose strong pull keeps me stranded on the landing.

Jeanette Reid lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where the fullness of nature invites and supports attention to her inner world.