Author’s Note: “First Light” is based on a true story from my own history and my mother’s history. There are moments in our lives when we have glimpses into our parents’ formative experiences and what they might have struggled through as children. The speaker in the poem spends her own night thinking about her mother “as that little girl,” and there is a sense she can relate to her mother’s childhood loss, her worry. The poem opens with dawn and closes with a new sense of dawn, one that strengthens the connection between mother and daughter and touches on a faith that things can “be made right again.”
My mother says her favorite time is dawn.
But she surprised me when she added
she doesn’t like sunset, and then she told me
there was this time when she was nine or ten,
and her parents promised to be back
before dark, but they weren’t,
and the late summer sun went down,
and my mother put her baby brothers
to bed with stories and spent the night
thinking they might never come back.
I spent my own night thinking of my mother
as that little girl, who had already
lost her sister to spina bifida,
who might have felt that loss
was always one night away.
But when her parents were back
at first light, though she never knew
the whole story, she knew that dawn
was when everything
could be made right again.
Diane Thiel is the author of eleven books of poetry and nonfiction, including Echolocations and Resistance Fantasies. Her new book of poetry, Questions from Outer Space, was published in the spring from Red Hen Press. Thiel’s work has appeared widely in journals and anthologies. Her honors include NEA, Fulbright, and PEN Awards. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Brown University. Thiel is a Regents’ Professor at the University of New Mexico and Associate Chair of the Department of English. With her husband and four children, Thiel has traveled and lived in Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia, working on literary and environmental projects. Website: www.dianethiel.net.
Delmarva Review publishes the best of new poetry and prose selected from thousands of submissions annually. Designed to encourage outstanding writing, it is an independent, nonprofit literary publication. Financial support comes from tax-deductible contributions, sales, and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: DelmarvaReview.org.