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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Time Bend

 

 

 

Stepping into my children’s room

it is nine years ago and I almost trip over

the rocking chair that isn’t there,

can almost smell the calendula cream

I used for their bottoms, hear

the drone of the humidifier.

How different those quiet nights,

the amber glow of the night light,

the way their new bodies curled

so easily into the curve of my arm.

Not that I want to go back to those nights,

but how sweet they are now, how long

they were then. I want to tell that younger

version of myself that there will come

a day when she will wish she could

sit in the quiet and hold her children

through the night. But she wouldn’t believe me.

Too tired for belief. She just keeps

humming that lullaby, rocking back

and forth, her eyes closed as if to dream.

 

 

 

Dear friends, I’ll be camping the next few days, so no poems posted for a while … a bouquet when I return. xo

r

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cross-state road trip—

traveling with my daughter

three miles per song

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Shower

 

 

Beside the dirt road

we find a whole bouquet’s worth

of purple penstemon,

 

pink wild roses, orange

globe mallow, and countless

yellow weeds. My daughter

 

picks them, a bride to joy,

and though there is thunder

it doesn’t rain, except for petals,

 

yellow sweet clover, that

she sprinkles along the dirt

to leave a trail behind us,

 

just in case we get lost, Mom.

she says. Sometimes love

seems to rise right out of the dirt

and damned if somehow

 

on that one-way road

I didn’t get wholly, beautifully,

heart breakingly lost.

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I suppose by then I had guessed

that love was not only about happiness,

not only about ease and feeling good.

In fact, it turned out as the newborn boy

continued to cry for month after

inconsolable month, love looked

a lot like misery. It sounded like wailing

through all his waking hours.

It felt like exhaustion. Love looked

like losing a dream. And choosing

to cradle the infant anyway. And soothing

the wailing infant anyway. Love

had little to do with happiness.

 

And eventually the crying stopped. And

the boy learned to laugh. And to

hug. And to love. And happiness came.

And went. And came. And went. But love,

love stayed. Like a jay that comes

to the feeder and refuses to leave,

even if you don’t put out seed.

Like the freckle that stays on the skin

long after the burn from the sun.

Like the scar on your elbow shaped like a heart

that you got from falling in gravel. How it took

so long to heal. How you pray it never fades.

 

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Because I can’t make things better,

I offer you tea. I am grateful when you accept.

The night holds us both

as we sit in the kitchen,

your voice a small boat

in an ocean of ache.

 

Because I can’t fix the problems,

I cover you with a blanket

when I see you are shivering,

though I know your shudders

have little to do with cold.

Still, it feels good when you pull

the white throw around you,

as if for the moment you’re protected.

 

I think of the Queen of Sheba,

how she learned to be grateful

for falling. How, in the dark,

she found her own light within,

then rose up and shared

this pearl with the world.

 

Because you are hurting,

I listen to you, would listen

all night, would listen all week.

I offer my whole attention.

And as you find in yourself

the light that is there,

I marvel as you marvel

at your own wisdom, your

own strength.

I listen. I nod.

I pour you tea.

 

 

 

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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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