Which Way Is the Past?

I finally replaced our basketball net
with a brand new ultra-white version of hope—
imagined us shooting hoops again soon,
defying the athletic limits of age.

Who knows, I said, the kids might return
and we’d show their children how to play “Horse,”—
who’s first to get a hoop for each letter—
and time could stall like the arc of the ball.

One year later, the net is unused
and still as flat as a spider web.
But look, you said, it isn’t a loss—
a sparrow was busy ripping out fibers

like ribbons on a Mother’s Day gift.
When we weren’t watching she helped herself
to our braided nostalgia thread by thread,
intent on building a family-proof nest.

When we turned our heads our children had packed
their CDs and shoes and left our own nest.
(But our son left behind his dumbbells and bench;
a boy in his room is still pumping iron.)

When I wasn’t looking gravity claimed
my footsteps and sometimes I trip and I fall.
And often I feel that I’ve been betrayed
by time and I search for something that’s lost,

like the baby bird in a children’s book
that pops from his egg when his mother is gone
and wanders across a half-drawn field
and begs of a kitten, a hen, a dog,

“Are you my mother?” But I ask instead,
Please can you show me which way is the past?

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