Blue Willow Plates

for A.B.

Those childhood nights I ate at your table,
where life's mysteries were broken and shared—
I studied the blue willow plates you set each night.

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Even during the worst winter,
my fork swept potatoes, gravy, bits of savory meat
and uncovered a story.

Each night I told myself a different tale, cast in the familiar pattern—
there were pagodas, fences, shining waterways
and a boat with a figure searching the horizon.

But what kind of wind made the willow fronds splay so far apart?
Who were the three figures holding lanterns on a bridge?
And why was the pair of birds larger than the strife below?

You fed me from willow-patterned dishes
when I didn't think I could eat—
when my father was dying, and daffodils were frozen under snow.

But always on your plates
flying above the relentless searching—
two birds, facing each other, wings arched in triumph.

That winter, in blue and white patterns,
the Holy Spirit, in its many-feathered glory
descended on each dish you placed before me.

why was the pair of birds larger than the strife below?

Annabelle Moseley is the author of nine books, including the double volume A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette's Ascent (Wiseblood Books). She teaches theology and literature at St. Joseph's Seminary and St. Joseph's College in New York.

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