America

That was the title of the book
we'd read together, flipping the leaves
until we came to your favourite page,
a painting full of red and lights,
a New England ballroom where
dancers swirling skirts came from
a century ago. You'd always
stop me there and gaze deeply into
that strange, impressionistic room.

I'd be reading the paper
when you'd clamber onto my knee
lugging the great book with you.
It was almost half your size
and a whole continent
large enough to stand on to see
the vast country stretching away,
taut in it's arc and unknown.
We'd open it and become lost.

Why you chose that page among all the
paraphernalia is hard to know.
There were pictures of cowboys and battlesmoke,
lurid panoramas where
Confederate killed Yankee,
brother against brother in blood lust.
Washington and Lincoln, The Great Lakes,
Chicago and California,
The Dust Bowl and Niagara.

Last night when you spoke to me 
from where you've learnt to live
in the Rockies, to survive the snow
and tramp for days in that bright, wild light,
I thought of you still carrying the book
inside you, opening the country
picture by picture as you did
in your pre-word, image filled days,
when the lights of a ballroom
drew you back, time and time
again, to that page; as I am drawn
back, time and time again to that
memory of you on my knee,
leafing through America.