"On Mother's Day"          Grace Paley

I went out walking

in the old neighborhood

 

Look! more trees on the block   

forget-me-nots all around them   

ivy   lantana shining

and geraniums in the window

 

Twenty years ago

it was believed that the roots of trees

would insert themselves into gas lines

then fall   poisoned   on houses and children

 

or tap the city’s water pipes   starved   

for nitrogen   obstruct the sewers

 

In those days in the afternoon I floated   

by ferry to Hoboken or Staten Island   

then pushed the babies in their carriages   

along the river wall   observing Manhattan   

See Manhattan I cried   New York!

even at sunset it doesn’t shine

but stands in fire   charcoal to the waist

 

But this Sunday afternoon on Mother’s Day

I walked west   and came to Hudson Street   tricolored flags   

were flying over old oak furniture for sale

brass bedsteads   copper pots and vases

by the pound from India

 

Suddenly before my eyes   twenty-two transvestites   

in joyous parade stuffed pillows under   

their lovely gowns

and entered a restaurant

under a sign which said   All Pregnant Mothers Free

 

I watched them place napkins over their bellies   

and accept coffee and zabaglione

 

I am especially open to sadness and hilarity   

since my father died as a child   

one week ago in this his ninetieth year

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Art Work copyright Rachel A Levine