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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

 

 

We sat in the pew

furthest back in the church.

My father would hum all the hymns

 

and I’d lean closer to him and hum along,

then lean toward my mother

and sing with her the words—

 

I swayed between them like a metronome,

humming, then singing, then

humming, then singing.

 

How giddy I was, grateful to be the girl

between them. I did not yet know how

difficult it was to be a parent.

 

I only knew how good it felt

to be loved, how safe I felt between them,

how delighted I was to find in myself

 

some part of each of them,

so delighted that even now,

over forty years later

 

and a thousand miles away,

I remember that night

and begin to sway.

 

 

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And after the boy

hugs his sister

and tells her

she did a great job,

 

after he wipes

her tears and holds

her and wraps her

in his awkward arms,

 

after she leans

into him, their

sapling trunks

sloping toward

 

each other,

I want to tell him

how proud I am

of the ways

 

he is growing,

want to affirm

how much depends

on love, want

 

to say I see his tenderness,

but the soil beneath

them is unstable,

precious, and my voice

 

is full of heavy clouds,

so I wait until

they sway apart,

then I walk closer

 

and manage to say

through invisible rain,

It’s time.

Let’s go home.

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We begin by talking for an hour

about the kids, her church, dad’s health,

and how we both cry when we see acts of goodness.

We clean the kitchen. Address one mess

before starting the next. Then we peel apples,

marvel at their size—how much larger

they must be than in the time of Fanny Farmer,

who thinks we might need eight tart apples

for our nine-inch crust. Fanny, even a hundred years later,

you are still synonymous with precision,

organization and good food. And, as I recall,

you, too, practiced your art in your mother’s kitchen.

As it is, seven apples in 2018 are enough

to fill two generous crusts. Oh Fanny,

some things have changed, for instance

this Granny Smith, large as my fist. But some things

are exactly the same. A level teaspoon

is still a level teaspoon. The simplest recipes

are still often the best. And it’s still so good

to make a pie with your mother, talking

about all of life’s loose ends, measuring sugar,

filling the crusts, then cleaning up the mess

as the scent of sweetness touches everything.

 

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after Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell

 

 

And when my daughter

runs to greet me, charges

me with joy, I am like

the great thick sow Saint Francis blessed

with his touch. For though

I look in the mirror

and see only what I wish to change,

my daughter sees differently

and bulldozes me with love,

a ferocious blessing,

reteaching me in a vigorous rush

that there is something

beautiful here, though

she wouldn’t name it as such—

and a small remembering

takes root in me and

vines throughout my thoughts,

and I flower there in blue surprise,

my own soil, again, enough.

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On Point

 

 

 

Sewing the ribbons

onto point shoes for the first time

I again feel clumsy

 

in this art of parenting.

Angle the ribbons,

or stitch them on straight?

 

How far from the back seam

does the elastic go?

How snug the fit?

 

How secure the stitch?

It was not so long ago

I didn’t know how warm

 

the bath. How tight

the swaddle. How

to soothe when the babe

 

was unable to say

what was wrong.

So little has changed,

 

me in the late hours

puzzling over lack

of instructions,

 

wanting so badly

to do it right, wishing

for some elusive grace,

 

astonished by how enormous

the love, the ribbon

running through my fingers.

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Mom, just relax. Let me take you to a place where there are no bunions, no bruises, no violence, no Donald Trumps, no unhappy thoughts.

            —Vivian Trommer, 10

 

 

Start with the scent of chanterelle cream sauce

still lingering from dinner. Throw in a few stars—

you can’t see them, but you know they are there.

 

Add a tickle. A giggle. A kitten-ish squeal.

Rub tenderly. Then hard. Then forget for a while

to rub. Add a hum, and the dark that can’t enter

 

the room. Add moon. And cocoon. An impending

soon. And the sound of the river never ending.

An inkling of joy. A hunch of perfect. A hint

 

of this can’t last. Choose that. Distill to precisely

this moment. Any sorrow or pain

that might wish to rise, it is only a background

 

flavor that shows up how sweet this magic,

how sometimes the best recipe is the one

that uses exactly what we have on hand.

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She is across the mesa,

learning to saddle up, mount up

and post the trot.

It’s what we don’t know

that frightens us.

For a time, there is

the death grip. For a time,

there’s forgetting to breathe.

But soon there’s the thrill

of learning to move

with another, the joy

of breathing in rhythm

with the stride.

 

I follow the skyline

to where she is,

wonder what planet

I’m using to triangulate

my wishes good night.

I, too, am learning

to hold on more loosely,

to breathe into these

new rhythms, chin up,

eyes on where we’re going,

a smile insisting on itself.

 

 

 

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Sitting on the couch

watching a Disney musical

and singing along

with my daughter,

we cackle like the evil queen

and purr with the catty girls,

practicing in cruel registers

we seldom use,

and I think how it is

we are drawn to imitate

that which repulses us,

how strange the words taste

in my mouth, like candy

from a foreign land,

and how our eyes flicker

with playful light

as we scowl and curse

and deride. And my daughter

snuggles in closer to me,

and I kiss her head,

and we watch till the end,

though we’ve seen it

at least five times before

and know exactly what will happen.

There is comfort, perhaps,

in reminding ourselves

how the good prevails.

We are like children who have been

lost in a dark wood while playing games,

then see a wall of sunlight

in the distance

and make a run for it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mom, she says, I don’t know what it was about that book,

but the pages were falling out and it smelled old

and I think it cast a spell on me.

And I recall the first time I read Emily,

an old cloth book with the text debossed,

how I ran my fingers over the words

and felt them as I read them:

“As imperceptibly as Grief

The Summer lapsed away—”

Mom, she says, I didn’t even understand

a single word I read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

And now, I think that book is haunting me.

We are making her bed just before she sleeps,

and I tug on the covers to straighten them.

Yes, I say, her words are like spells.

I memorized that poem, though I was

too young to know of “courteous

and harrowing grace.” I knew only

that when I said the words, they gave

me such an openness, a wideness, a delight,

as if morning found its way into my chest,

and now, thirty years later, the early light

still touches me, still thralls.

The bed remade, she slips beneath

and I lay at her feet and for a time we read.

I want to talk more about Emily,

but the spell is her own and I don’t

want to trespass her magic,

the wonder she feels.

Perhaps someday she, too,

will read these lines,

“Our Summer made her light escape

into the beautiful.”

and know herself more beautiful

for having let them touch her.

 

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for Shawnee

 

 

This time the goodbye is in the kitchen,

me running off to the next thing,

you at the counter with morning tea

before you drive away.

I give you a hug from behind

and a kiss on your cheek and thank you

for coming to visit.

 

I want to tell you I love you,

but the words have never

tumbled out easily, not because

they aren’t true, but because

I don’t want to frighten you.

Strange to feel I must hold you at a distance

in order to keep you close,

like a mother bird

who monitors her nestling

from a neighboring tree.

 

I never was one of the mothers

who worry about fatal things:

car crashes, avalanche, infectious disease.

I worry more about the most

terrible thing that could happen,

that you could be alive and not know how

much I love you, fiercely, unfoldingly,

worry my longing

to keep you at ease could

make you feel pushed away.

 

Driving from the house,

it is not the sun in my eyes

that makes them leak,

it’s this knowing that I

have made for you a nest

in my heart where I hold you,

but perhaps what you needed all these years

was for me to hold your real hand,

to wrap my real arms around

where your wings would be.

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