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Posts Tagged ‘family’




I am so glad to be it,
even if my role as chaser
lasts over an hour.
I want these boys
to  know I will run
for them forever,
will chase them up
and down stairwells,
will follow them
through halls and alleys,
through exhaustion,
through decades
to find them.
I want them to be certain
I will show up for them,
especially when they least expect it,
leaping toward them
shouting “got you,”
and meaning
I will be there for you
if you let me,
meaning, You are
beloved to me,
meaning I choose you,
then wrapping my arms
around them and whispering,
you’re it.

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from our birth … to our death … the wonderment …
             —Dr. Charles Henry Wahtola, Jr., November 19, 2021


And so as the priest leads us
in the litany for the time of death,
and though we are sincere
as we pray, Have mercy on your servant,
we laugh as my father tells Father Keith
the sermon can only be as long
as the pole at the entrance to the building.
We pray, Grant him your peace,
and I weep for the impending loss,
and then we laugh as I tell Dad
for the first time he has a front-row seat
for the service (he strongly
prefers the back row).
And mom delivers an impromptu sermon
and the priest steps back and listens.
And we fondly remember how my childhood priest
would sing the longest rite in the book,
and my brother and I look at each other
and recite in unison, this fragile earth our island home,
and we break into irrational joy.
We pray The Sursum Corda, The Sanctus,
The Lord’s Prayer, my voice
barely a whisper through tears,
then we’re laughing again as we remember
how Dad and my brother would escape
the service as fast as they could to go cast
in the river behind the church, and
there in the hospice room, we keep the feast,
Alleluia, alleluia. And all day long,
though perhaps we speak of football
or grilling or ducks, with every word, every tear,
every laugh, we are saying, Peace be with you.
With every hug, every kiss, every
touch, every breath, we respond,
And also with you.

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walking in chill air
beside the frozen creek
warm words

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The first year I won the Slush Mush contest
I was shocked as my grandfather read a long, official letter
to everyone else around the Christmas tree
about how my entry into the Slush Mush Breakfast Cereal contest
had been the best one received that year.
I didn’t remember entering.
In fact, I was sure I had not.
Yet I won a puzzle.
Another year my brother won.
Or my mother. Or my cousin.
And each Christmas morning, my grandfather read
the long official letter
which always ended “Eat more Slush Mush.”
It was many years before I understood
how the contest worked.
And for the last twenty years
since he’s been gone,
I carry on, buying puzzles, writing letters,
appointing unsuspecting winners.
Part of me thrills in this annual ruse
because it reminds me of him.
Part of me thrills in remembering
how strange and wonderful it felt
to be chosen not because of how hard
I had tried, but because I was part
of a circle of love. It’s a malnourished world,
he would write every year. Thank you, Papa,
for the Slush Mush.

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Playing Family

for Grace

I’m too grown up now to play family,

says the six-year-old girl. But I hear

in her voice that part of her

still loves the game.

I long to tell her that now,

at fifty, playing family is still

one of my favorites.

I’m less wild about the version

where I’m the mom telling the kid

no, they can’t get the toy they want.

But I like the game when I sit on the couch

and say to my son or daughter,

Hey, come snuggle in, and they do.

I like it when we stand around the kitchen counter

laughing at whatever we’re laughing at.

I like when we’re driving in the car

and I say, Hey, sweetie, how was your day?

Sometimes, I play dress up in my own clothes

and wear what a mother would wear.

I even make breakfasts and lunches

and hide the M&Ms.

And I laugh to hear my own voice say

what a mother might say:

Clean up your room, please.

Time for bed now. Now.

You have got to be kidding me.

I love you. Oh my, how you’ve grown.

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Family Woman

Such awkward dance partners,

this longing to follow my own pursuits,

this longing to be ever available to you.

Both want to lead.

They step on each other’s feet.

One waltzes, though the other

has put on rock and roll.

One loves eye contact, the other

loves closed eyes to better feel the music.

And yet they whirl and two step every day,

taking turns swinging and dipping and bowing.

I used to think they were rivals.

Now I know neither wants to dance alone.

Even now, they’re pushing back the furniture,

rolling up the rug. There’s gonna be a real

fine hoedown tonight.

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We ride on the rusty old bikes

in the swelter of June,

legs pumping, waving at strangers,

the wind making a kite

of our laughter—

 

The eight-year-old version of me

would never believe

about how happy we are—

she’s still ratting her brother out

to the recess guard.

 

But here we are, like two

young kids, playing in summer—

sticky hands and suntanned arms,

the years an ocean,

our love a boat.

 

 

 

 

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One Wild Ride

 

 

the ticket stub

I’ll cherish forever—

admission into this family

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And again tonight, despite injustice and hatred,

Jean Valjean learns to love. And again tonight,

in the face of fear and prejudice, he finds kindness.

And again tonight, I weep as he nears his death.

I couldn’t say for whom I am weeping—for him,

for the girl he adopted, for the mother who died,

for the empty chairs, for the whole cast

who remind me too much of the world we live in.

For myself, of course, and my longing to do

what is right. But more than anything, I weep

with the memory of watching this very same scene

thirty years ago, sitting beside my brother,

both of us baptized in tears as Fontine and Eponine

sing behind Valjean, reminding him it is no small miracle

to love someone. I couldn’t have known then

how this would be the memory I’d return to again

and again when I think of my brother. There we are,

young and full of competing ideals, holding each other,

laughing through our crying, ready to meet the world

and each other tear-stained and open to news of grace.

 

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We sat around the oval kitchen table

and made hats out of ribbons

and paper plates, and we piled them high

with golden grapes and fake flowers.

I remember thinking how great, how magic it was

that something we’d use for dinner

transformed into something so elegant.

 

Today I stared hard at a paper plate,

as if I could return to that state of delight

and easy grace. Was this how Cinderella felt

when she gazed at the pumpkin the day

after the ball? Wondering if the magic

happened at all? Weighing the shape

of reality against her dream?

 

Yes, I tell myself, it was real,

the glittering fruit, the beauty I felt,

the laughter around the table.

And it was a dream, the way my parents

made it seem as if we had it all.

And when the clock struck midnight,

none of the magic left at all.

 

 

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