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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

 

 

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’ve heard the story of the woman

who lifted the car to save her child,

and though it is hard to believe,

 

it happens. Faced with saving a life,

we find the hysterical strength

to do what seemingly can’t be done—

 

I think of those women today,

and I think of my son, trapped beneath

the chassis of teenage torment.

 

It may not be a two-ton car, but it feels

no less urgent. We save a life in seconds

or we save a life in years—

 

of course I’d lift it right away

if such a lift were possible.

I’d hold that Chevy up until

 

he could roll right out from under.

Instead I try lifting other impossible things:

The crush of being misunderstood. The weight

 

of should. The press of daily surviving.

And I think of those mothers who lift cars.

And I bless them, and keep on trying.

 

 

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And usually, at some point

in the tree trimming, when the living room

is covered in twenty-year-old tissues

and my fingers are raw from the needles

and the rest of the family

has long since tired of the project,

around then, I start to wonder

what it’s really for, all this bustle

and embellishment and then,

like today, I’ll pick up an ornament—

say the one my grandmother made

from a metal cookie cutter trimmed

in blue ribbon and angel hair,

and inside it sleep two baby figurines,

a pink one for me, a blue for my brother—

and I am weeping,

remembering how I would stare at this ornament

as a child, how beautiful it was

dangling so high on the tree

where all the more delicate ornaments would go.

I was small then, but I knew

my grandmother made that ornament

with me in mind and I loved her for her thoughtfulness.

She is gone this year, and I marvel

at how present she is in this room

as I sing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”

with Aaron Neville and remember singing

carols with her in the church loft,

her soprano warbling and true.

And I climb the ladder to hang

the ornament high on the tree,

where the more delicate ornaments go.

And suddenly I see it is my son and daughter

sleeping in that ornament,

there where I thought it was my brother and me.

And I think of my mother’s hands

all those years she hung that ornament

reverently, and how the spruce needles

would have pricked her, too, and I

sing with Aaron about peace to men on earth,

and some of that peace slips into me,

so silently, so silently.

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We begin by talking for an hour

about the kids, her church, dad’s health,

and how we both cry when we see acts of goodness.

We clean the kitchen. Address one mess

before starting the next. Then we peel apples,

marvel at their size—how much larger

they must be than in the time of Fanny Farmer,

who thinks we might need eight tart apples

for our nine-inch crust. Fanny, even a hundred years later,

you are still synonymous with precision,

organization and good food. And, as I recall,

you, too, practiced your art in your mother’s kitchen.

As it is, seven apples in 2018 are enough

to fill two generous crusts. Oh Fanny,

some things have changed, for instance

this Granny Smith, large as my fist. But some things

are exactly the same. A level teaspoon

is still a level teaspoon. The simplest recipes

are still often the best. And it’s still so good

to make a pie with your mother, talking

about all of life’s loose ends, measuring sugar,

filling the crusts, then cleaning up the mess

as the scent of sweetness touches everything.

 

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And though he struggles to conjugate estar

and though his adjectives precede the nouns,

he’s doing it. He’s telling me about una foto

and all its themes—and though the words

are like strange spices in his mouth—paprika

y cilantro—and though he insists he hates it,

there is a tender sinceridad in his voice, like

a tree seed, perhaps, una semilla, that has

some vague idea of its potential, but is still

so trapped in its seed-ness that it is intimidated

by trees. And whatever part of me that is todavia

una semilla recognizes itself. How frightening

to see all that we do not know, to stand

beneath it like the shade of a giant tree,

to know ourselves as small and still stand straight.

My son finishes his descripción, then smiles

at me, and in his smile, I somehow see

the roots, the greening leaves, the trunk

as it reaches up doing what trunks are made to do.

 

 

 

 

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after Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell

 

 

And when my daughter

runs to greet me, charges

me with joy, I am like

the great thick sow Saint Francis blessed

with his touch. For though

I look in the mirror

and see only what I wish to change,

my daughter sees differently

and bulldozes me with love,

a ferocious blessing,

reteaching me in a vigorous rush

that there is something

beautiful here, though

she wouldn’t name it as such—

and a small remembering

takes root in me and

vines throughout my thoughts,

and I flower there in blue surprise,

my own soil, again, enough.

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Mom, just relax. Let me take you to a place where there are no bunions, no bruises, no violence, no Donald Trumps, no unhappy thoughts.

            —Vivian Trommer, 10

 

 

Start with the scent of chanterelle cream sauce

still lingering from dinner. Throw in a few stars—

you can’t see them, but you know they are there.

 

Add a tickle. A giggle. A kitten-ish squeal.

Rub tenderly. Then hard. Then forget for a while

to rub. Add a hum, and the dark that can’t enter

 

the room. Add moon. And cocoon. An impending

soon. And the sound of the river never ending.

An inkling of joy. A hunch of perfect. A hint

 

of this can’t last. Choose that. Distill to precisely

this moment. Any sorrow or pain

that might wish to rise, it is only a background

 

flavor that shows up how sweet this magic,

how sometimes the best recipe is the one

that uses exactly what we have on hand.

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as if sweet talk

or threats might make

the rain fall up

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She is across the mesa,

learning to saddle up, mount up

and post the trot.

It’s what we don’t know

that frightens us.

For a time, there is

the death grip. For a time,

there’s forgetting to breathe.

But soon there’s the thrill

of learning to move

with another, the joy

of breathing in rhythm

with the stride.

 

I follow the skyline

to where she is,

wonder what planet

I’m using to triangulate

my wishes good night.

I, too, am learning

to hold on more loosely,

to breathe into these

new rhythms, chin up,

eyes on where we’re going,

a smile insisting on itself.

 

 

 

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