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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

Four from Chicago

 

 

 

One When My Grandfather was Still Alive

 

 

in the subway tunnel

the arching notes of Danny Boy

on a violin—

I walk slower to meet the train

I arrive twelve years ago

 

One Courage

 

 

hearing the moan on the other side

or is it a low laugh—

still choosing to open the door

 

 

One Near Totality

 

 

eclipse behind the clouds

so much beauty we never see—

sunflower blooming in a distant field

 

 

 

 

One New Time Signature

 

my father a song

I used to think I knew—

this morning, I hear

the same song with new ears,

or is it that the tune has changed—

all day I hum it,

all day I feel lucky

to hear him humming back

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Don’t stop, she says,

and grabs my hand

and pulls it again

to her back. She

rakes it across

her skin and urges the nails

deeper in to scratch

some invisible itch

that she can’t reach herself.

 

In the thin light of vespers,

her face is more shadow

than shape. Still,

as my hand grazes

her skin, I make out

the place where her brow begins,

the jut of her nose, her angle of chin,

 

and she is no longer

nine years old, but some

timeless version of herself—

maybe thirty, or sixty,

or eighty-four, some year

when I am no longer

near to scratch

the unreachable spot.

 

The thought of it

makes me linger longer

than I normally do—

until her breathing changes,

until she is nine again,

her body curling

into her blanket,

her hand opening

into sleep.

.

 

 

 

 

 

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for my father on his birthday

 

 

I learned from my father to be silly,

to speak in strange accents, to make up

odd lyrics, and to hum when I don’t

know the words.

 

He taught me how quickly a car can turn

for a rummage sale sign,

and how easy it is to find treasure.

 

He taught me always to have a plan—

a one-, a five- and a ten-year plan.

You can always change the plan,

he says, but you need at all times

a one-, a five- and a ten-year plan.

 

I learned that even the strongest people

cry and that ice cream can save a day.

 

He taught me to use a chainsaw, shoot a gun,

drive an ATV, and wear dresses.

 

My father’s eyes sparkle, something

no one can teach, but I learned

it was possible for someone to shine

from inside.

 

His poem about his father

would be a very different poem.

There are people who give to the world

what they were not given themselves.

 

My father taught me I could be anything,

then accepted me for who I was.

 

I learned I could fail and still be loved.

In every room I enter, I bring my father—

don’t be surprised when I can’t stop

giggling, when I ask you

about your plans.

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It began as my father cheering for me,

he’d count it off, then chant low and bright,

One, Two, Three, Yay Rox!

 

He used it often—for curtain calls

and piano recitals and catching fish

and semester finals. And he’d use it,

too, when I’d come in blue

with rejection letters or a broken heart,

and he’d say it softer, with a squeeze and a hush,

One, Two, Three, Yay Rox.

His is a heart of sun.

All moments are moments worth honoring.

What does not makes us more wholly ourselves?

 

And then, I don’t remember when,

he changed the rules and made me join in.

Made me say the five words together with him,

whether I wanted to or not,

One, Two, Three, Yay Rox!

 

How my own tongue stumbled, still sometimes does,

but always, his voice is there beneath my own,

steady and confident, tender and clear.

After years decades of cheers, I daily

harvest the wealth.

How wise, the father, who gives

a girl herself.

 

 

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Out the window the world is reassembling itself. The shades of green begin to emerge in the field—so many greens. Some part of me wants to name them all—emerald, sage, Kelly, lime, avocado, moss, spring. I want to name them not to organize them, but to celebrate each one.

 

Last week I did a training on how to assess parental affection. It’s a funny idea, the quantification of affection. It reminds me of the way children will sometimes fling their arms back behind their shoulders in an awkward joy and say, “I love you thiiiiiiiis much.”

 

One of the markers for affection is parental use of endearments—honey, sweetie, pumpkin, darling. As the evaluator, I am asked to mark if this is absent, present or emerging.

 

I don’t think you ever called me honey or sweetie, Dad, in fact, no generic terms of endearment. You always had your own special names for me that emerged out of play—Penelope, Reesmorie, Rosamarinipuscavazini, Roxanne the Foxanne, Rox. I always knew I was special to you, branded by your love of silliness, your love of me. And sometimes, when I was down, I would call you, and just hearing you say your special name for me made life seem just a little bit better.

 

The greens outside the window are brighter now. They seem to suggest an infinite potential inside a finite range. I know it is just the bending of light, but it thrills me.

 

This morning, I would like to give you this sense of infinite possibility, offer it to you while you are far away in a hospital bed and it feels as if the options are closing. Inside that finite window of options, there is an infinite potential for healing. We couldn’t possibly name all the available outcomes, though I suppose we could rate them as absent, emerging and present.

 

What is present is the enormous love I have for you. I’m not interested in measuring it, really, just in giving it to you, letting you know how I celebrate you. As if with love alone I could take away the pain you are in.

 

Who am I kidding? I guess I do wish I could express the extent of love so that you could feel the infinite ways it unfolds in the finite space of my heart. And though the only name I have for you, Dad, is generic, I wish that by saying your name on the other end of the phone, things might feel just a little bit better.

 

Dad, I love you, thiiiiiiiis much,

Roxanne

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Gift

 

 

 

My daughter and I go down to the river

in search of smooth, flat rocks for the garden,

 

and though we have many times

walked to the river in search of smooth, flat rocks,

 

I feel some odd joy today, as if the familiar path

is leading us somewhere we’ve never been,

 

as if anything could happen this afternoon—

and the heart, which likes to think

 

it knows something about loving,

forgets that we are doing chores

 

and finds it can love even more.

Even my hands feel new,

 

seem to revel in lifting

just because they can.

 

 

 

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The girl with her goggles on pouts when the waves end.

You didn’t stay with me, she says. She holds on to my arm,

as we bob in the clear blue water of the pool. You stay with me,

she says. All around us, the high sun of summer makes

everything gleam. We splash and bob until the bell sounds,

and a collective squeal erupts from the crowded pool.

I stay as I have been told. The waves begin, small at first,

and the girl hangs on. And then the man-made surf

thrashes at our bodies, tugs at our suits. I do not

remember her letting go. I remember watching her head

disappear beneath the wave and her smile as she

emerged on the other side before she dove into the next swell.

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