Anna Hempstead Branch: Songs for my Mother

Songs for my Mother

Anna Hempstead Branch

Her Hands

My mother's hands are cool and fair,  They can do anything. Delicate mercies hide them there  Like flowers in the spring.
When I was small and could not sleep,  She used to come to me, And with my cheek upon her hand  How sure my rest would be.
For everything she ever touched  Of beautiful or fine, Their memories living in her hands  Would warm that sleep of mine.
Her hands remember how they played  One time in meadow streams, — And all the flickering song and shade  Of water took my dreams.
Swift through her haunted fingers pass  Memories of garden things; — I dipped my face in flowers and grass  And sounds of hidden wings.
One time she touched the cloud that kissed  Brown pastures bleak and far; — I leaned my cheek into a mist  And thought I was a star.
All this was very long ago  And I am grown; but yet The hand that lured my slumber so  I never can forget.
For still when drowsiness comes on  It seems so soft and cool, Shaped happily beneath my cheek,  Hollow and beautiful.

Her Words

My mother has the prettiest tricks  Of words and words and words. Her talk comes out as smooth and sleek  As breasts of singing birds.
She shapes her speech all silver fine  Because she loves it so. And her own eyes begin to shine  To hear her stories grow.
And if she goes to make a call  Or out to take a walk We leave our work when she returns  And run to hear her talk.
We had not dreamed these things were so  Of sorrow and of mirth. Her speech is as a thousand eyes  Through which we see the earth.
God wove a web of loveliness,  Of clouds and stars and birds, But made not any thing at all  So beautiful as words.
They shine around our simple earth  With golden shadowings, And every common thing they touch  Is exquisite with wings.
There's nothing poor and nothing small  But is made fair with them. They are the hands of living faith  That touch the garment's hem.
They are as fair as bloom or air,  They shine like any star, And I am rich who learned from her  How beautiful they are.