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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

 

 

Because I cannot fix her heart,

I plant flowers in the two empty pots

on my mother’s high rise patio.

She’s always loved flowers around the house—

peonies and petunias in Wisconsin,

succulents and larkspur in Colorado.

She taught me when I was a girl

how to deadhead the plants

to produce more blooms,

how to make the snapdragon

open its reptilian mouth, how

to tell the story of Cinderella

by carefully dissecting the bleeding heart,

how to make touch me nots spit their seeds,

and how a few flowers around the home

bring immeasurable joy. And so

I pick out white and blue lobelia and

a soft gray vine and a hot pink begonia

and other flowers and vines I can’t name

and we sit on her patio together

in the late afternoon sun

and arrange the potted plants.

There is something about planting flowers

together that changes the way

you see the flowers—the same way

a soup tastes better when made

by someone who loves you—

and I thrill to think of her

looking out the window and seeing

the bright red geraniums surrounded

by purples and blues and greens

and thinking to herself, wow,

that girl really loves me, and

surely, surely, though it won’t

fix her heart, surely it will do some good,

those draping pink petunias

so familiar, so new.

 

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And as my mother steeped toward slumber,

her thin body wired to monitors,

there, surrounded by incessant beeping

and the red and green mountains and valleys

of pulse and pressure and the slow drip

of IV tubes finding her veins, yes,

there as her speech became mumbly and her

eye lids heavied, my father leaned over

the rails of the hospital bed to smooth

her gray hair and kiss her lips and whisper

I love you. And she rallied a smile and

whispered it back. And there, in the sterile room,

with all its instruments of cardiac measurement,

there was nothing, nothing that could chart

how open my heart, how—unable to hold

all the love I felt for them both—it broke

in the most beautiful way. How I prayed

it would stay that open, that broken, that whole.

 

**

Dear friends, thank you for all your good wishes. After having a heart surgery go wrong a few days ago, my mother was released today from the ICU and is now resting at home, and though she is not out of the woods yet, she is not in imminent danger. It’s been very scary and I thank you for all your thoughtful messages and prayers and thoughts. Rosemerry

 

 

*

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I should have raised dogs.

That’s what my father always said

when I did something stupid.

Like when my friend and I were twelve

and we snuck into Raiders of the Lost Ark

with two seventeen-year old boys.

And there was dad, waiting

outside the theater looking like

exactly what he was—a rabid dad

hellbent on scaring the shit out of any boy

who might have unvirtuous thoughts

about his girl. He never said

what kind of dogs—poodles or labs

or mutts. I can just see him

walking the corridor of his kennel,

all the dogs barking. But dogs weren’t

his calling—the crates, the training,

special diets, vets. No,

he was the master of loving me

through my crazy mistakes

and my hormonal angst and my sudden refusal

to eat meat. I still smile thinking of

the way he would sit on the couch

and hold his arm open for me

to come sit beside him then snuggle.

The way he bought me a book

to decode my dreams. The way he took me

to piano lessons every Saturday

morning, then took me out for brunch

so we could talk. The way he still listens

when I’ve done something stupid

and then tells me he loves me.

Never once, despite all his lamentations,

did I think he would exchange me

for a chihuahua or beagle. No, there

was something almost sweet in his wish,

a hint of surrender in it, the sound

of his heart opening just a little bit wider

to let in the world, unleashed as it is.

 

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cross-state road trip—

traveling with my daughter

three miles per song

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Shower

 

 

Beside the dirt road

we find a whole bouquet’s worth

of purple penstemon,

 

pink wild roses, orange

globe mallow, and countless

yellow weeds. My daughter

 

picks them, a bride to joy,

and though there is thunder

it doesn’t rain, except for petals,

 

yellow sweet clover, that

she sprinkles along the dirt

to leave a trail behind us,

 

just in case we get lost, Mom.

she says. Sometimes love

seems to rise right out of the dirt

and damned if somehow

 

on that one-way road

I didn’t get wholly, beautifully,

heart breakingly lost.

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Why do we have to do this,

asks my daughter, hoe in hand,

and I, hoe in hand, reply

that it’s good for the soil

and helps it to breathe.

 

I think about how my own thoughts

crust over, how quickly

they become impenetrable.

 

And then hoe of loss. Hoe of hope.

Hoe of disbelief. Hoe of shock.

 

Again and again,

the world breaks me open,

allows the new to come in.

 

Again and again, I resist

the change. And then marvel

at how essential it is,

the new ideas so green,

so persistent, tender as

a girl asking why.

 

 

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Mom, she said, is it true? And it wasn’t

that I’d tried to keep the truth from her,

it just never came into conversation,

old horses are sometimes used for glue.

 

Yes, I said, wishing I could soften the message. It’s true.

She knew its truth already, but don’t we all

sometimes long to be wrong? New tears dammed

in her eyes before they fell. Is that really

 

the world I belong to? she rued, then buried

her face in the couch. Two hours later,

I thought her same thought as I read the news:

Anti-Semitism. Bribery. Child sexual abuse.

 

I wanted to hear the stories weren’t true.

Oh world, so broken, still, unglued, I choose you.

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By then, the blizzard was strong enough

that we couldn’t see past the chair in front of us—

all was white oblivion. And though I knew

the world, though obscured, was still there,

part of me trusted the illusion.

 

It reminded me of when we were kids

and at slumber parties we’d play the game

“stiff as a board, light as a feather,” in which

one girl would lie in the center of a circle,

and another would tell the spooky story

 

of how the supine girl had died, and how, on her death,

her body was said to be “stiff as a board, light

as a feather,” and the rest of us would slip two fingers

beneath her and carry her about the room.

I knew, of course, that my 100-pound friends

 

were not truly feather light, but we played the game

over and over and swore it was true. There is some thrill

in sharing a myth that defies common sense.

And so today, when I say to my daughter

that we are entering a hidden realm through a veil

 

and she disagrees, I am shocked how disappointed

I am when she doesn’t share the game. In that instant,

the snow is just snow, the day just a day.

There is a joy here, too, in calling things as they are.

A woman. A girl. A storm. A chairlift traveling through.

 

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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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