Sundays after we finished all our homework,
Mother brought up the big wicker basket
filled with the family socks. The rules were simple:
the child who could make the most pairs won—
there were green knee-highs to match our uniforms,
thick white sporty socks, worn by my brother,
Mother’s pink socks with the big cushiony heels,
and then of course there were my father’s socks.
No one could ever match my father’s socks.
His socks were always thin and concert black
and were all made from the same scratchy fabric,
yet somehow seemed to vary in shape and size.
And so each week it was always the same story:
Father’s strays were tossed back into the basket,
which Mother then dumped into his bottom drawer,
with his used handkerchiefs and Vicks inhalers.
One day Mother declared the game was over,
and began pinning her own socks in the wash.
She started attending evening gymnastics classes
and eating yogurt sprinkled with pumpkin seeds.
Father tried his best to make us spaghetti,
but he overcooked the pasta and burnt the sauce.
We kids tried our best to do our own laundry
but we always lost our socks in the dryer.
All this went on until one Saturday evening
the phone rang, and the angry voice of some wife
started screaming and crying at Father into the phone.
At first Father stood there dumbfounded,
and then he began scratching his psoriasis
that you could see creeping up from his shorter sock.
The louder she screamed the harder Father scratched,
until his entire ankle was covered in blood—
at last in a threatening tone the woman declared:
keep that damn loose wife of yours at home.
I should have known I would fnd you here
all locked up inside a rock
one great rock to be exact
a thousand feet tall, and fve miles around
and holding the ancient pain of the Anangu.
Tell me, how long have you been hiding here,
Mother, and you want me to get you out?
I’d somehow have to break this great thing open,
and expose the inner nerve of you inside.
But frst, let me view you as you are—
and consider you now in this new light.
The Anangu have a thousand stories,
and each one somehow makes me think of you:
here you are depicted as an explorer,
yet this image shows your ship’s dark fate;
this picture here shows you as a warrior,
but this is where your army was defeated;
here is the cave where you became a mother,
but these boulders must be your abandoned eggs—
Ah, Mother, it’s funny fnding you at last,
all the way out here in Australia;
yet there’s something so raw about the truth.
You know I met this woman at the base,
she said that the time had come to speak to you:
she paced and paced, kept uttering your name,
So I closed my eyes and fnally called you back:
Then out here in Uluru I spoke to you;
I said what you had done—did you hear me?