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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

Small Things

Small things aren’t just important,

says my father. They’re everything.

And I think of how,

night after night, he’d lie

on his back on the floor

and bench press me

as I stood with one foot

in each of his hands.

Years later, every morning

he’d lift me with a phone call—

This is the Broadmoor. This is your

morning wake up call.

He’d say it in his snootiest,

haughtiest British butler voice.

And years later,

when we hold hands

he rubs his thumb across my thumb,

a small, familiar gesture of love.

Now, wishing I could hold

his hand while we sit

in different rooms together

a thousand miles away,

I can almost feel

the pad of his thumb

move across my knuckles

the way wind moves over water

and creates the weather.

It lifts me.

It’s everything.

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Like Tonight

After wrapping the present,

mom would pull ribbon from a roll

and wrap it around the gift.

She’d tie a knot at the top,

then ask for my finger

to hold the ribbon in place

while she fashioned the double knot.

Eventually I learned what Mom knew—

it’s not hard to tie a ribbon alone.

Still, the loan of a finger is lovely.

Lovelier still, partnership.

This is what you do for me.

Though you’re far away,

sometimes when I find myself trying

to, oh, wrap things up,

I feel, perhaps, an invisible hand

reaching in to help where I most need it.

How much easier the work is then,

such a gift, to meet the present together.

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Because

for my mother

Because you are the morning song,

I sing dawn into the sleepy room.

Because you are a prayer,

I have psalms for hands, vespers for feet,

and there is holiness in the spatula,

devotion in the chair,

faith in sirens, in old vases.

If there are cranberries in my thoughts,

it is because you are the sugar

that taught them not to be afraid

of their own sharpness.

And the white and red petunias

that flutter inside my hope

are there because you planted them

decades ago.

I didn’t know all these years

that I was being made—

but because you are the abacus

I am the calculus of possibility.

Because you are the basket

I’ve learned to weave.

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I had imagined we’d see dozens of meteors

   streaming across the sky, streaking,

      flaming, impossibly bright.

         Instead, I lay on the driveway

between my son and daughter

   and we stared into the night,

      laughing and singing and listening

         to the sound of the earth turning,

the pavement hard beneath us—

   and above us, the whole

      starry firmament unfolding.

         Not one shooting star did we see, no, but oh,

how the milky way swirled all around us,

   our eyes wide open, my heart soaring, swarming,

      a small piece of matter burning up,

         glowing, impossibly bright,

never quite touching the earth.

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Already he’s lived a dozen years longer

than any other man in his bloodline.

One died of malaria. The rest of heart attacks.

Not one of them knew how to show love.

Sometimes a river changes its course—

perhaps slowly, eroding over centuries.

Perhaps all at once in a mighty flush,

as after a flood or an ice-floe.

I want to ask him how change happened in him—

how the impulse toward anger

rechanneled into tenderness,

into patience, into a willingness to be vulnerable.

I want to believe the same might happen for the world—

that by tending our hearts more carefully,

we might jump the banks of what seemed possible.

We are all of us here to be changed.

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At seven, I sat on a towel in front of the freezer

with the blow dryer, a sponge and a bucket

to earn money for a new plastic recorder.

Oh, how I wanted that reward.

So for hours, I switched the blow dryer

from one hand to the other, inwardly fussy,

wishing mom would just buy it for me.

How enormous the task seemed then.

When that brown recorder

finally came in a beige vinyl pouch,

I played “Hot Cross Buns” like I meant it.

I blew “Ode to Joy” in bright torture through the house,

and mangled “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”

but oh was I happy.

 

Now, scrubbing my parent’s refrigerator

I see how the tables have turned,

how the work becomes its own reward.

Decades of my parent’s love and sacrifice

bring me to this moment, when,

kneeling in front of the fridge,

sponge in hand, bucket beside me,

I feel like the luckiest woman alive,

Mom going through the cupboards beside me,

humming “Love is Blue,” perhaps a little out tune,

but oh, she is happy, so happy.

 

 

 

 

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Lights Out

 

 

We would be tucked into our twin beds,

and dad would sit in the door way.

Every night, he’d tell us a story about a boy

and a girl who were very much

like my brother and me, only they lived

amongst the dinosaurs. I don’t remember

how the stories went, but I remember

how I loved them, how my father’s voice

became part of the night, how everything

always turned out right for the kids

in the story. How much I wanted

to be that girl who rode on a pterodactyl,

and how grateful I felt to be the girl I was,

snug under the thin blue blanket,

our small room a cave where anything

could happen, the low tones of my father

quietly cradling me toward sleep.

 

 

 

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Because I cannot be there to hold my father’s hand, 

I walk into my children’s room and hold my daughter and son 

as if love in one room emits a wave strong enough  

to be felt many states away. Because I am afraid, 

I don’t try to pretend I am not. Tears run hot 

down my face and I don’t dam them.   

When they dry, I let them dry. 

Because I am helpless to fix my father’s kidneys, 

I tell him I love him, as if words could help 

filter his blood before returning it to his heart, 

his tender heart.  

Because the helicopter is flying him to Miami, 

the blades of my worry begin to spin. 

Because I can’t stop them, I turn them 

into a giant wing that carries prayers 

into the rooms where I’m not allowed to go. 

And though I’m not there, I hold his hand, 

imagine it heavy in my own. Because maybe 

he can feel it. Because I don’t want him to be alone.  

 

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My daughter plants nasturtium seeds, 

two per hole, four inches apart. 

 

Meanwhile, two rows away, I drop carrot seeds 

four to the inch, into the soft dark soil.  

 

Oh, the secrets of dirt, this kingdom 

of earth with its cool and damp quiet— 

 

how quickly its finite borders pull me 

into the infinite. What joy to travel here 

 

with my girl, though she is hesitant traveler.  

One could say the main thing we did today  

 

was measuring—how deep, how many seeds, 

how far apart. Perhaps. When we finish, it will look 

 

the same as when we began. But 

I look at my daughter across the rows, 

 

humming with her hands in the dirt 

and I see already in her the fiery petals,  

 

the peltate leaves like green flags  

that know how to play with the wind.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

 

I was five, perhaps,

when my mother and I

would sing duets

in the nursing home,

and though I can’t recall

what I ate for dinner

two nights ago,

I still recall the lyrics

to our song.

Funny what sticks

with us through the years—

like a goofy song

about zebras and penguins,

like the zig zag of the piping

on the dress I wore,

like the certainty

I feel even now

that I was totally loved.

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