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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

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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Before Sleep

 

 

 

I sing to my daughter

in the dark and discover

I am nine again, and

hear the voice of my own

mother, singing

 

from outside the window

the river fills in the spaces

where the song ends

before it begins again, and then

there is only the river

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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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Gift

 

 

 

My daughter and I go down to the river

in search of smooth, flat rocks for the garden,

 

and though we have many times

walked to the river in search of smooth, flat rocks,

 

I feel some odd joy today, as if the familiar path

is leading us somewhere we’ve never been,

 

as if anything could happen this afternoon—

and the heart, which likes to think

 

it knows something about loving,

forgets that we are doing chores

 

and finds it can love even more.

Even my hands feel new,

 

seem to revel in lifting

just because they can.

 

 

 

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Every morning when I was a girl

my mother would wake me

with song, the same lilting lyric

every dawn,

 

It’s going to be such a lovely day,

good morning, good morning I say.

 

It sounds too grand

to call it ceremony,

and she would have appeared

an unlikely celebrant

in her bathrobe and slippers,

but she infused

this daily ritual with prayer

 

and to this day I wake

certain that the world

will have beauty in it

and certain that I will find it—

this the most beautiful gift

any mother could give.

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This year for Mother’s Day, an offering of four poems published in Telluride Inside and Out–one for my mother, one for my son, one for my daughter (that invokes Mother Mary, too), and one about the day I quit motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers–especially my own. I love you, mom!

 

 

 

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The Mother Makes a Request

 

 

 

No, not forever, I don’t

want to live that long.

But another day,

please, another week,

another year, another

decade or four. I don’t

want to be greedy,

but, tell me it’s not my turn

just yet to leave. There

is so much loving left,

so many toys to pick up

off the floor, so many

lunches yet to pack,

so many ghosts to scare

away, so many tears

to wipe, so many lines

yet to draw and erase

and draw again, so

many mistakes waiting

to be made, so much

I still want to give.

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