Echo Teaches Her Daughter to Sing

Her skin, white as her eyes. Eyes,
dark as her hair. Hair, bursting with flames;
lips, unmistakably red.
Her voice, Echo’s —
I am beautiful. Am beautiful. Beautiful.

He turns away, leaves
no trail. No ripple on the pond. No broken
twigs in the woods. Not even a brush of air.

She is fire with child. She sings in the empty
wood. We are beautiful. We are beautiful.

A generation ago, the women of her village
would pick up their buckets and fill them
at the communal well, carry them
on their heads or shoulders or
by the grip of their fingers
back to their kitchens
for drinking, cooking,
cleaning.

Today, water breaks in the bowels of earth.
She gives birth to flame, her hair
about her face like ashes. She teaches her daughter
to sing, I am beautiful. Beautiful.

Too soon her time to let go, send
her daughter to the city to work in a kitchen.
She warns her — stay away
from the water, the waterfront, the docks, the piers,
boats and ships. Stay away
from the sailors and captains, dock workers, dock
walkers, fishers of men and fishmongers. Go

inland to grow old, live in peace. Go
sing to the trees and to men in the fields
who work the raw earth with nimble fingers.
Teach my grand-daughters and sons to sing,
I am beautiful. I am beautiful. I am beautiful.