Posts Tagged ‘mother’

            with a nod to Basho
my teenage girl
slips her hand into mine—
from the hand, I learn about hands

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for Finn (9/11/04-8/14/21)

I threw rocks in the river today.
Not because I thrill to throw rocks,
but because I love to remember
how you thrilled to throw rocks.
How you squealed at the spray
and clapped your hands at the sound
of the quiescent surface being broken.

Your joy was the pure joy of life itself,
life that knows itself through tossing,
through splattering, through squealing,
life that longs to stand on the bank
and throw rock after rock after rock.
Joy was never in the rock itself,
it wasn’t even in the splash,

nor is there joy in the rocks today.
But there is joy in feeling close to you here.
Joy in the memory of you being so alive.
Joy in remembering your smile,
your hands flying up in delight.
Joy, even, in the longing for you.
I throw rock after rock. I remember.

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We measure the afternoon in wild raspberries,
pulling to our mouths the abundant ripe fruits
like the feral beings we are.

Fingers stained red and lips stained red
and the moments stained red as love.
If it is not smart to speak of love,

then let me not be smart.
Let me speak of love that flourishes
like wild raspberries in a rainy summer.

Let me live into love as undomesticated
as these brambles that line the creeks.
Let me remember today

by the sweet and tart taste of wild berries,
how softly they fell into our palms.
Let me be eager for love

as the look on my daughter’s face
when she dragged me by the hand
back to the raspberry patch saying more, more.

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The mother walked
in a deep river gorge
forged by water and time.
She knew herself alone.
She moved with no urgency.
She stepped as if she’d forgotten
what time was.
She paused at the wild currants
and pulled the small red fruits
into her mouth.
She paused on the bridge
and watched the water
continue its forging.
She paused on a flat rock,
removed her shoes
and slipped her feet
into the cold water.
She did not mind
the hem of her black dress
spilling into the stream.
She sat.
She didn’t weep until she did.
She wept until she didn’t.
She sat until she forgot
she was sitting.
She sat until
there was a clearing in her
the way the river will eventually clear
after it’s been muddied by the rain.
There’s no magic number
for how many minutes
or hours or years
it takes to clear.
It is, perhaps, sufficient to know
clearing happens.
At some point, she rose
and walked toward home.
She was not alone.
There was nothing that was not beautiful.

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After hours of weeping and laughing
and hearing stories that make me fall
even more deeply in love with my boy,
after flower bouquets and tear-stained words
and full body hugs and cello and viola and Country Roads
and leaning deeply into grief and grace,
I sit alone in my car and discover
with a quick glance at my phone
someone has given my address
to internationalcupid.com,
and in the last few hours of heartbreak
and breaking wide open, I have amassed
dozens of likes and letters of nascent love
from people around the world.
And part of me is annoyed and part of me
thinks my son must have coordinated this prank
from beyond the veil, perhaps
as retribution for me coordinating a sing along
at his memorial. I can hear him.
Mom, you’re embarrassing me. Mom.
Really? Mom. What are you doing?
Mom, stop right now or else … or else …
But I can’t regret I shared the song
I wrote for him before he was born,
shared the song I sang to him
when first they laid him on my chest,
shared the song I sang him almost
every night of his life, shared the song
I sang to his body before they rolled it away.
And the hundreds of people who gathered today,
they sang it back, true and full of love.
It was worth it, Finn. It was worth it
to hear the air ring with your song.
Could you hear it? I think so,
based on the quick retribution. I’m not sorry.
You are the song I’m still listening for,
the song I’m still learning to sing.
You are the song I will continue to share,
the song I can’t help but singing along.

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The Unheard

I do not hear his shrieks of laughter
escaping from his room.
I don’t hear his hand beating time against the table.
I don’t hear the luff of his breath
as I stand beside him while he sleeps.
I don’t hear the fear in his voice
when he begs me, please mom, please.

I hear the rain on the rooftop,
a morse code of love I don’t know how to translate
except in shades of green.
I hear cars on the highway,
and remember life is moving.
I hear the whir of the hummingbird wings
and the black notes of crows
and the silence where the boy
no longer grows.

If you ask me do I hear his voice,
I would tell you no.
But that is only partly true.
I do not hear his voice in words.
I don’t hear it the way perhaps I wish to.
But I hear him inside me, not a whisper,
but a voice that sounds startlingly like my own,
a voice that sounds like rain on the roof,
like cars on the highway, like hummingbird wings,
like crows, like the silence
where my love for the boy still grows.

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A bookmark is a kind of promise.
You can go back, it says,
I will mark this place
where you have been,
this place where you
will want to return.

I want a bookmark
for every moment of your life.
Want to mark, for instance,  
the day when we walked the streets
and listened to music.
The day when you held your sister
as she cried. The countless nights
when I sat at your bed and sang.
Days picking cherries.
Hours swimming the river.
Lighting fireworks year after year.

I notice what a bookmark is not.
Not eraser. Not pen.
Not a chance to change the story
or to live it again.
It simply invites us to resee
how not one bit of life is ordinary,
invites us to look back and marvel
at the treasure of each moment,
even as the pages keep turning.

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My heart races like a plane
traveling 575 miles per hour
to a country beset with flooding
landslides and significant damage
to roads, homes and buildings.
I watch myself rise from the table
and start to pace the house.
Are you really going to freak out?
I ask myself. I watch myself act out the answer.
Anxiety rushes in, bringing with it
the detritus of recent trauma.
I can’t lose another child, I think.
The idea floats atop wave after wave of fear.
You’re not being rational, says the mind,
but the adrenal medullas above my kidneys
start pumping hormones into the bloodstream,
And I pace the rooms of the house
as panic rises in me like tropical rainwater
gushing over riverbanks.
I hear an inner voice that says,
Even if she is not okay,
you will be able to meet whatever comes.  
But I do not want to.
My lungs can’t get enough air.
I want promises she will be safe.
I want guarantees she will be protected
from harm. I want her wrapped in my arms.
My friends says, There are a lot of other mothers
in the world for our babies,
And I think of how I trust
the woman my daughter is with.
I think how I trust my daughter.
But the world, can I trust the world?
My friend listens when I tell her
I have never been a worrier,
but now I know too well the stakes.
She says to me,
You are not the same woman you were.
In that moment, I sit in the lap
of the truth, and though I don’t like it,
it comforts me, holds me
the way I wish I could hold my daughter.
I am a woman who knows
what it is to lose a child.
And I am a woman who
has been carried by love
when I could not carry myself.
I notice the panic and do not wish it away.
Of course it is here.
I feel cradled by my humanness.
I breathe out and in, out and in.
find the current in my breath—
sometimes a torrent, sometimes a stream.
I let myself ride on it.

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Because I can, I carry the box with your ashes
around the house as if you’re a baby on my hip.
I point out things and explain them,
just as I did when you were young and alive.
There, I say, there is where you practiced piano.
Here, I say, is where you sat at the counter
and wept when I told you the story
of Cinderella. And here is the wall
where we hung all your artwork.
And here is the room where you slept.
Here’s the plant you gave me last year—
see how it’s doubled in size?
And here’s the new couch in the place
where the old couch once was,
the one on which we snuggled each morning
before school. I walk the floor as I did
when you were young and fussy and needed
touch and movement to calm you.
Now I am the one who is calmed by the walking.
So familiar, these steps around the kitchen island,
these steps around the table.
So familiar, this weight on my hip.
Soon we will place this small wooden box
in the ground, so while I still can, I carry you.
Oh sweetheart, how is it I’m thriving amidst this gravity?
It is, I am sure, because I, too, am deeply companioned,
carried from moment to moment, from space to space.
And though I don’t hear it, there is perhaps a voice
that says to me, Here is where you lit
a candle every day. Here is where you practiced
to love in new ways. And here is where
you did not judge yourself as you wept.
Here is the place where you did nothing but breathe.
And here is where you thought of all the people
who have carried you.
And here is where you said thank you.

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The day you died, I remember thinking
how much it felt like your birth.
All the blood. The way they swaddled
your body in white. How I sang to you
the same song I sang on your first day:
a howl of pain,
then a chant that called on the pure light
within you to guide your way on.
Most of all, I remember thinking
I didn’t know how to live in this altered world—
the only way to learn was by doing.
Just as a new mother learns minute by minute
how to nurse, to comfort, to sleep,
how to change her life to meet the new child,
so this old mother learned minute by minute
to let go, to grieve, to breathe, to sleep,
how to change my life to meet a day without you.
It’s been forty-one weeks since you died.
It takes forty weeks to form a child.
It feels as if I’ve been pregnant
with the loss of you. So embodied.
So aware of great change. Is it strange
to feel I’ve been birthed by your death?
Just like when you were born, I’ve been
transformed by an overwhelming love.
It is not at all the same. It’s the same.
I am no longer the woman I was.

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