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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

 You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.
            —from Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, (May 17, 1939-October 14, 2021) 


How many children went down in that plane, Gary?
How many children fell out of the sky alone
and learned they could live
for months in the woods
with only a hatchet for help?
How many kids learned
that tough conditions were a bidding
to bring their best self?
My daughter was nine or ten
when she first drew your book from the shelf
and found herself stranded in the northern woods.
Then she went there on purpose again and again.

Now, three years later, she wanders a forest of loss,
and in so many ways she’s alone.
Gary, you gave her a story to believe in
in which young people survive, find their way home.
Your story’s a sharp tool my daughter can wield
to make sparks in these darkened days.
I thank you for teaching her
how she might rise from a crash,
how in these woods of sorrow,
though I would build her a fire if I could,
she is the best thing she has.

*In case you are unfamiliar with Gary Paulsen, you can read more here. As he says, “Name the book that made the biggest impression on you. I bet you read it before you hit puberty.”

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At first, I wish my mother
would consider giving them away—
her new apartment is shy on cupboard space.
How many wine glasses do you need?
I ask, trying to sound reasonable.
She responds by saying,
But they’re for red wine,
as if that explains it—
as if of course, she needs eight
beautiful globe-shaped glasses
for serving pinot noir and merlot.
And they’re so hard to find
in this exact shape, she adds,
clearly pleased with these glasses
she has transferred
from home to home to home.
And so, I think, of course,
she needs these glasses
round as grapefruits, clear
as happiness. I imagine her
sipping a fruity red with easy-drinking
tannins and a super-soft finish.
I imagine the smile on her face
as she sips from the larger goblet
designed so the wine can contact
more air and thus open up
so its cherry and raspberry notes
shine through. I imagine the smile
on her face—and I slide
the glasses onto the shelf
and move on to the china,
the measuring cups, the spoons.

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Potica





Sitting in Colorado
I think of my parents sitting
in Illinois,
how tonight in different
kitchens together we savor
the Slovenian sweet bread
of my father’s childhood,
the sweet bread
his mother would make—
savor not just the taste
but the memory of the taste,
the paper thin crust,
the ground walnuts,
the honey.
Savor not just the loaf
but the memory of the hands
that once made the loaf,
the happiness as we ate it,
the communion in the joy.
Tonight, I break the bread
into tiny pieces, eat it slow,
imagine us at the same
loving table now
and years and years ago.
We are alone, not alone.
The bread tastes
like family, like home.



If you are unfamiliar with this Eastern European nutroll delicacy (pronounced puh-TEET-suh),  you can read more about it here.

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If I could do it all again,
I would—every blooming bit of it.
Every bout of pink eye,
every snotty nose, every
late night waking, every
single reading of Good Night Moon,
every fairy house, every
drive to every ballet class,
every singalong to the entire
soundtrack of Hamilton,
every wobble and stumble
and blunder and lapse
to arrive at this very moment
when we lie on her bed
in the dark and talk about
this miracle, this astonishing
life, and watch dumb videos
and curl into each other.
In every moment, a seed.
It surprises me now,
how beautiful the field.

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Happy Birthday Dad!


Into the boxes I slip
my father’s birth certificate,
his high school yearbooks,
his wedding album,
and the diploma for his PhD.
I fold waders and coats,
pack saws and hammers,
wires and electrical things
I can’t name—but he can.
I pack journals filled with notes
of his favorite trips,
crossbow arrows
and feathers for tying flies.
But a life doesn’t fit in boxes.
No way to pack his glittering eyes,
his quick smile, the way he laughs
in recognition as I hold up
an old favorite knife.
No way to pack the hard years,
the wrestling with pain,
his drive to show up anyway,
day after day,
determined to bring his best
to the world, determined
to love life outside
the box.

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In the middle of the city
surrounded by sirens
my daughter and I stand in the dark
on the balcony
of my parents’ small apartment
and watch dozens of tiny fireworks on the horizon
and I am once again a girl of ten
and we are out on the boat
on Pewaukee Lake
and my mother teaches me
to say ooooooh as the firework colors
drizzle down in the sky,
then to clap and say ahhhhh for the next firework
right above us, sparkling as if we’re inside it.
Tonight my daughter and I oooh and ahh,
though the beauty is far away.
Sometimes it’s like that—
it feels as if beauty is a distant thing.
Perhaps even more important, then,
to celebrate it. To let the self
notice how dark it is,
to appreciate the dark,
to appreciate even in the distance a spark.

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reminds me of the day
my dad held me
in front of him
while riding his bike
and fifty years later,
I remember most
the moments before
the bite of the spokes
when we were laughing
in the muggy Wisconsin June,
the sky dark with rain,
the joy of being held by him,
the thrill of going fast,
the wind in our faces.
I remember most
how he picked me up
as I cried and carried me
as if I were precious.
Fifty years later,
though he is the one
in pain, he still picks me up
and carries me every time
we speak. Thousands
of miles away, he holds
me close.

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Will I remember this day with its greening of grass,
its blooming of apple blossom, its stilling of pond?
Will I remember the sweetness of my daughter
not leaving the house for school on a Wednesday
because her classes are all online? Will I remember
how she comes to snuggle on the couch during lunch
and pinches my cheeks and teases me about my ugly feet?
Will I remember the terrible yellow sticky casings
of the cottonwood seeds, how they glue to the hood
of my car that rarely moves from the drive? Or
the lavender in the garden that always looks
grey and dead before it erupts into fragrant life?
Perhaps there is some wave of presence
that will carry such stillness forward, a current
of quiet, a tide of tenderness that will insist
on itself for years to come. How forgettable
it all is—and how cherished—this swooping of swallows,
this opening of iris. How necessary, this holding
my daughter while the dark pool of night curls around us,
this cradling each other as we say nothing at all.  

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            Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


Because I can’t serve you
breakfast in bed, I’ll
serve you a poem,
and knowing how
you like cake for breakfast,
it will be a sweet poem,
with penuche frosting
swirled atop every line.
And because it is a poem,
we can imagine
that the mug with pictures
of your granddaughter
(due to arrive on Monday)
has already arrived
and that it is filled with
Café Vienna, and laced,
why not, with whiskey,
because, hey, it’s a poem,
and you won’t really
get drunk, just happily
tipsy on all the love
served between the lines,
the kind of love that makes you
lean back into the pillows
and close your eyes
and smile like you have
life’s best secret,
the kind of love that makes you
leap out of bed and laugh,
buoyed by joy, a bit of penuche,
creamy and sweet,
still singing on your tongue.

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Missing My Dad

I hate riding in boats,
the way it makes
my body want to turn
inside out, hate the way
my body rocks for hours
after I’m back on land.
But I love the way
my father’s hands
rest on the wheel,
the way his eyes
scan the waves,
the easy slope
of his shoulders.
He’s so himself,
so whole, so someone
who I’m glad to know.
Standing on shore,
I wave at his boat,
as he points it
toward the deep.
He waves back
and smiles
with great love.
There are many
kinds of oceans—
time is one.
I hate the distances
we keep.

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