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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

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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And because she is wise

in the ways the young are,

my daughter, frightened and weeping,

asked between sobs

for a happy story.

 

There are times when a story

is the best remedy—

not because it takes us away

from the truth but because

it leads us closer in.

 

I told her the story of her birth,

and we laughed until

it was my turn to cry as I realized

no matter how scary the world,

what a miracle, the birth of a child.

 

Then, as fear made a sneaky return,

we whispered a list of things we

were grateful for, falling asleep with these

words on our breaths: cats, books, rivers,

home, family, soft blankets, music.

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My mother did not forge tech innovation,

didn’t win Olympic medals, didn’t write

a textbook on equal rights.

 

But she did run for office. And won.

She coached the soccer team so girls could play.

At church, she led the people from the pew.

 

And she started a company so my father

could leave his job. I don’t think

she thought of herself as an activist.

 

She’ll be surprised, perhaps, I see her this way—

as a leader, a role model, an example

of a gender equal world. Because of her,

 

I never felt less than. Because of her,

I could see myself as doctor, poet,

model, president. Because of her,

 

I know how to scratch my children’s heads

each night before sleep. How

to make up a song when life is too much.

 

How to cry for beauty and love.

How to notice and praise

what is right with the world.

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One Recipe

 

 

 

making my mother’s cookies

with my mother—

the same recipe, sweeter

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Hundreds of smooth red stones—

we gathered them that summer

and spent days carefully laying them out

into a wide and winding red path.

It had no real starting point, no destination.

We tucked white daisies between the rocks.

We said it was for the fairies.

I wouldn’t have said it then, in fact,

I hesitate today to say we didn’t believe in them.

They gave us so much purpose.

Even now, I’m following that path.

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