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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

 

 

Come, she says, let me show you

my secret place in the woods,

and she grabs my hand

 

and walks me past the pond through

the forest and along a ditch

until we arrive in a small clearing

 

rung with birch and old spruce.

It’s secret, she says, but not

too far away. Will you help me

 

get it ready? We return with

loppers and a small hand saw

and clear away what is dead. The sun

 

discovers new ways to touch the ground.

When we leave, the clearing

comes with us. All day, I feel it,

 

the light as it finds its way in.

 

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my mother began my mornings

by singing to me “it’s going to be

such a lovely day”—

over thirty years later

I still believe her

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Out the kitchen window, my daughter

scales the cottonwood tree, winds

her way up the inner branches.

 

Feeling my eyes, she turns to smile at me,

her gaze entered by light.

The tree is bare, the buds in gray hoods,

 

though soon there will be a riot of quivering green.

So much in us still waits to arrive,

though in moments such as this,

 

there are no other moments, only this one

fluttering wild in our breast, not even trying

to balance the emptiness, with our hearts so full.

 

 

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If you could come back, I say, as anyone else

in the world—say you just stepped out of time

for a moment and then came back in—would

you come back as yourself or as someone else?

 

We are driving in the dark, but I know from experience

that we have just crossed the Dallas Divide

and there are mountains just south of us, and

Leopard Creek to our left, already slightly swollen with spring.

 

Well, she says, after some consideration, could

I change parts of myself? And I say, No.

You get to come back exactly as yourself.

The car in the oncoming lane forgets to lower its brights.

 

Then I would come back as myself, she says,

and I feel a flood of fragrant joy in her answer,

a perfume that fills the car with the heady

scent of self-awareness. I think of the infinite

 

choices and events that conspired to make her

exactly this girl who in this exact moment

chooses to be exactly herself. Except, she says.

I wish I could be better organized.

 

All around us, the world unbraids itself,

melting and charged with mud and change.

All around us, a fine and untamable chaos.

Inside us, the exact person to meet it.

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my daughter and I

recite all our favorite lines—

snapdragons no less beautiful

for blooming in the same place

every year

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Fencing 101

 

 

 

It starts as tag. The instructor

tapes off a strip in the room—

the piste—and my son and I,

confined by the long bounds,

chase and reach for each other.

But the person who’s it

keeps changing. “Left,”

says the teacher, and I am it.

I lunge for my son’s arm, and

“Right,” says the teacher, and

I retreat as fast as I can,

my son now charging for me.

“Left.” “Right.” “Left.” “Right.”

We learn quickly to hold

our weight low, to keep

one foot forward, to allow

distance enough to tag

and not enough that we might

be tagged back.

The game is familiar. I flush

with young joy. Later

we learn to extend

our arms before we lunge,

to advance, to retreat,

to allow just the right distance

to strike, to not be struck.

The instructor gives us

a string to hold between us—

our goal is to keep the curve in it,

not to let it go too slack, too taught.

My son and I dance

forward and back, keeping

step with each other.

both of us smiling, both of us

serious as steel. When it’s done,

we shake what would be

our ungloved hands.

We have learned just enough

to know there’s so much more

to learn. As we leave, I feel

it still between us,

an invisible string, linking us

in this odd game of love,

the world our piste,

one hand always ready to battle,

the other hand, ever vulnerable,

ready to open, to reach,

to meet the other

with devastatingly effective

tenderness.

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empty space

at the dinner table—

a flower without its petals

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Don’t stop, she says,

and grabs my hand

and pulls it again

to her back. She

rakes it across

her skin and urges the nails

deeper in to scratch

some invisible itch

that she can’t reach herself.

 

In the thin light of vespers,

her face is more shadow

than shape. Still,

as my hand grazes

her skin, I make out

the place where her brow begins,

the jut of her nose, her angle of chin,

 

and she is no longer

nine years old, but some

timeless version of herself—

maybe thirty, or sixty,

or eighty-four, some year

when I am no longer

near to scratch

the unreachable spot.

 

The thought of it

makes me linger longer

than I normally do—

until her breathing changes,

until she is nine again,

her body curling

into her blanket,

her hand opening

into sleep.

.

 

 

 

 

 

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I know it’s your job, to monitor the heart rate as it rises, the blood pressure as it falls. I know the gray-haired woman in the bed is another set of numbers with a name you’ll forget. She’s my mother. She grows tomatoes on her porch and has a song to sing for every occasion. She loves side stroke and chocolate and Japanese art. She makes the best poached eggs, and she knows exactly how to scratch my head to lull me to sleep. I know it’s your job to find the clot. To bathe the wound. To ease the pain. Thank you. Thank you for your hands as they slip the needle into her arms, the arms that gather me when frightened or cold. Thank you for your feet as they run down the halls to examine her heart, her heart that holds so many. Thank you for your art as you puzzle the why of her body, her body that knows itself as a vessel for love and prayer. She is praying for you, even now, as I do, and though you are just doing your job, thank you.

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To all of you who are mothers and all of you who have mothers, here are three poems to celebrate the most rewarding, incredible, challenging and primary relationship of our lives. I am super lucky to have an amazing mom, and Mom, I am continually in awe of you. The older my kids get, the more I wonder how you managed to parent with so much grace and joy and confidence.

These poems were previously published in Telluride Inside and Out a few years ago … I missed the deadline to send new poems this year! Thanks Sus, for finding some to print!

 

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