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thank you, Mom


And though she is now late for church
and though she is still getting dressed
and though we had already said goodbye
and had nearly hung up,
my mother sits in her rocker
and gives me her full attention
as I cry. This, she says, is exactly
what Mother’s Day is for.
And part of me wants to let her go,
and part of me is so grateful
she stays with me, holding me
with her being. For though
there are no words that bring comfort,
her silence and presence do,
and though I am no longer
a little girl who can curl into her lap,
that’s what I do. I feel myself cradled
and fall all the way into her love
and it feels good to be a daughter
on this day when it’s not easy
to be a mother. It feels good
for a moment to not be the one
doing the holding. To not be the one
who is strong. To be the one
who nestles deeper in,
so deep
I can meet the unmeetable.

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with gratitude for all who have gone before


Now I know there is a circle of love—
a circle formed not only by the great remaking of self
when a child is born
but also by the great remaking of self
when a child dies.  
It doesn’t matter how old the child
or how they died. It doesn’t matter
if the loss happens today or seventy years ago.
It doesn’t matter if they live next door
or Peru or Israel or South Africa.
Now I know there is a circle
of women who have died themselves
and found a way to keep living.
They are among us at the grocery store,
in restaurants, on the street.   
They look like our sister, our boss,
our lover, our student, our friend.
They find us. They say, “I am here.”
They offer to climb into bed with us
on the days we can’t get out.
They know to say the name of our child.
They speak in the present tense.
Perhaps they light candles.
Perhaps they make meals.
Perhaps they pray for us without telling us so.
Now I know there’s a circle of love
that surrounds this circle—
a circle of others who carry us
whether we ask them to or not,
who hold us as if we are treasure,
who remind us we are deeply connected,
who weave us back into the greater cloth.
Now I know the broken heart
can be a heart that expands, a heart that widens,
a heart that meets suffering and stays open.
Now I know the broken heart will do whatever it does.
And grief is a bond
not only to the one who is gone,
but to those who remain.
I know love grows in the deepest wounds.
We go on. I meet your heart with mine.

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3.14.22

   Tonight, instead of serving pie,
 I serve the memory of pie—
    serve the memory of pumpkins
 we grew in the garden
     then processed into custard.
         Serve the memory of years
  we made gluten-free crusts.
      Serve the memory of your rhubarb plant
     that will rise more robust this spring,
   memory of thinly sliced apples,
     key limes, lemon merengue,
        and all those tart cherries
         we harvested together.
       I serve the joy we shared
         in celebrating a constant
   necessary to the geometry of the world.
  I serve the thrill in knowing
   there is something
        both transcendental and infinite,
    something death can never touch,
      something ubiquitous that defines
  the world we inhabit.
      And though it is math,
    it is no less love,
   something that helps us
   understand our universe,
        something that hints
   at the grand design
  that amidst great catastrophe
       continues to hold it all together.

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You are the movie
I hope never
reaches the credits,
the only reality show
I want to watch.
You are the star
in this cinema—
and the script writer,
the choreographer,
the costume designer.
Every day, I love watching
the unfolding plot of you,
marvel at your character arc.
You, the hero I cheer for
when life does its worst.  
You, the stunt girl
for whom I hold my breath.
You, the creator of your own sound track
in which you play jazz for dinner,
in which we sing along
in the car to Arctic Monkeys
and Taylor Swift and Wham!
I love your laugh track
when you hang out in your room
reading or watching
someone else’s movie.
You may not hear me clapping,
but I’m in a constant state
of standing ovation
as you meet whatever
your role brings you,
my heart pounding as you move
with such integrity
into the next frame.

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*How I let myself be carried
for over eight years through rows of peaches,
into playgrounds and preschools
hotel rooms and cars.
*How almost seventeen years
I let myself be drooled on
and scrunched up, sat on, and tossed.
*How I went weeks,
sometimes months,
without being washed.
*How once I was left behind
and thought I’d be lost forever.
*How later, the boy would spread me
across his pillow, carefully tucking
my ends underneath.
*How some nights
when he thought no one else could hear,
he’d cry, and I would hold his tears.
*How I watched as they took almost all
his other things from his room and gave them away.
*How I sat, patiently, on the boy’s mother’s shelf,
for six months without touch.
*How, one day, when the mother
began sleeping with me herself,
I molded myself to her cheek.
*How I received her tears.
*How I tried to summon
his scent for her nose.
*How I let her think it was her holding me
when it was I who was holding her.

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Lucid

He was taller, having grown since his death,
and his hair needed to be washed, but here
he was, in my dream, my son, so at ease
in his body, so warm in his speech,
as if he had come for the sole purpose
of letting me know he is thriving.
We talked about what he wanted
to pass on to his children,
and I melted with relief to learn
he was looking forward to his life.
When we said goodbye, he took me in his arms
and hugged me so long, by morning,
and long after lunch, I forgot
it was a dream.

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The Softening




I carry it with me now, everywhere I go,
this softness, this limp unstuffed toy, a puppy
with a thin square body made for snuggling.
I carry it in my purse where it mingles
with my wallet, my glasses, my lipstick,
my loss. When I’m walking, I reach in
and let my fingers rub its soft, worn fleece.
When I’m watching a movie, once it’s dark,
I pull it out and let Skinny Puppy settle in my lap,
as if its brown embroidered eyes could see.
I know it’s just an object, but it’s a well-loved object,
some small proof that my boy was here,
that he loved, loved hard, loved long.
I remember how he carried Skinny to school,
clutching the small brown scrap to his belly
when we would say goodbye. I remember
how long after the toy trains and model tractors
and even the complicated Legos had gone away,
Skinny still slept on his pillow.
It’s been worn down by love, this old friend,
and made even softer by the loving—
like me, an old woman who has become
frayed, sentimental, slightly tattered,
distressed, but so shaped by love, and softened,
yes, softened. Even more myself, only softer.

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Impossible Change



for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing
            —Galway Kinnell, “Saint Francis and the Sow”


Body that held the bloom of the child
as it grew inside, grew from one cell
to two trillion cells, body that stretched
and leaked and ached and tore, body
that was on board for a miracle, thank
you. Thank you for stooping, for chasing,
for bending and cuddling, for creating milk
and spilling tears and falling asleep as you must.

How empty the arms now, how slow the pulse,
how tight the throat, how strong this urge
to curl into what is not here. How hard it is
to open, to meet the world anew.
And yet every day, you turn to what is real
and, how is it possible, the heart, it blossoms.

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All Is Water



One river gives
its journey to the next.
            —Alberto Ríos, “When Giving Is All We Have”


I thought it was I giving the journey to you.
You gave your journey to me.

I thought I was the head waters,
but I have become your tributary.

Now I carry your turbulence. I carry your calm.
I carry the waters of my own breaking.

A river follows the same changing course,
but the water moving through is always new.

Let’s name this river the river of sorrows.
Let’s name it the river of love.

New, is it any wonder I am startled by this journey?
Old, is it any wonder I am still longing to give?

Traveling these shores, there are moments
when I feel every other wave that has ever passed and

feel every wave that will ever be, and know
myself a share of something greater, something

generous that is always giving, something
ever borrowing from the current of the world.





*Title is a quote from Thaleus of Miletus

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I Bless Every Yes I Said




There were nights when my son
would come to me late, like midnight,
and say, Mom, come on, let’s go drive.
And though I was tired, and though I knew
the canyon roads would make my stomach turn,
I’d say yes, because I was glad he’d ask,
and we’d get in the Ford and I’d feel the thrill
as it flooded him each time he’d sit at the wheel.
The night was our cathedral.
And we’d talk, or we wouldn’t, and he’d drive
us up to the top of the Dallas Divide.
I’d feel like heaving my guts every time. But damn,
how I loved those nights. The hymn of the wheels.
His smile. His laugh. The quiet canticle of breath.
No matter what choices came later,
I have those times he steered toward joy,
Those nights when we were so alive
and we’d drive, just drive.

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