'Mother, tell me again about the sun.'
She pauses scraping the stretched hide,
thinks. So many images she could give, in words
he wouldn't understand – golden, sunrise, light.
Her son was born to cold darkness, has never seen
the sun, animals in clouds, gods in the midnight sky.
Some days, what she misses most is the sky,
more than electricity, than fresh tomatoes, than sun-
shine. The white tails of planes created scenes
of foreign adventure, when only thunderheads could hide
the horizon and the day produced its own light.
Now the horizon chokes on ash and she on useless words.
She never lets him see her cry when her words
become ghosts, unable to puncture the thick sky
and rest peacefully. She has nightmares about the light
from each subatomic explosion that burnt out the sun,
and she's haunted by a notion that there's nowhere to hide,
nowhere to run from the nuclear eyes of God and not be seen.
Before the years of winter, she and his father had seen
mankind linked with hopeful smiles, singing words
of peace against rumors of war. But then Jekyll died and Hyde
screamed on TV for righteous fire to drop from the sky
on adversaries. So once she knew she carried their son,
they left the city's fluorescents for dusty forest light.
The boy was born in dark blue night, during the last light
rain before embers clogged the clouds. She hadn't seen
the smoke from distant fires, still pictured the sun
in his world. She cried later, realizing she had no words
for this life she'd given him – seven years of darkened sky,
barren earth, and a baby blanket made of animal hide.
She will tell the story of apocalypse – it can't hide
forever – but he's only five now, his pale body still light
enough to carry, amused by her accounts of the starry sky.
One day his father will show him skeletal cities he has never seen
and she will use new stories to teach him the words
of their past, his legacy. For now, she will tell him of the sun.
'Nothing could hide it; it was the biggest fire you've ever seen
times one-hundred. Its light touched everything. There are many words
you will understand when it returns to the sky: Golden defines sun.'