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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Evolution




We drove seven hours,
and half the time it snowed
so I kept my eyes fixed
to the slushy road, but
there was the moment
when I looked at my girl
in the passenger seat
and fell in love in an instant
and stroked her hair
and she, catching my gaze,
offered me her open hand—
for this the first tetrapods evolved
in shallow and swampy freshwater,
for this the ichthyostega formed
arms and finger bones,
and for this, though it took
thirty-million years
of primate and homo sapien change,
for this we learned how to smile.

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Because

for my mother

Because you are the morning song,

I sing dawn into the sleepy room.

Because you are a prayer,

I have psalms for hands, vespers for feet,

and there is holiness in the spatula,

devotion in the chair,

faith in sirens, in old vases.

If there are cranberries in my thoughts,

it is because you are the sugar

that taught them not to be afraid

of their own sharpness.

And the white and red petunias

that flutter inside my hope

are there because you planted them

decades ago.

I didn’t know all these years

that I was being made—

but because you are the abacus

I am the calculus of possibility.

Because you are the basket

I’ve learned to weave.

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I had imagined we’d see dozens of meteors

   streaming across the sky, streaking,

      flaming, impossibly bright.

         Instead, I lay on the driveway

between my son and daughter

   and we stared into the night,

      laughing and singing and listening

         to the sound of the earth turning,

the pavement hard beneath us—

   and above us, the whole

      starry firmament unfolding.

         Not one shooting star did we see, no, but oh,

how the milky way swirled all around us,

   our eyes wide open, my heart soaring, swarming,

      a small piece of matter burning up,

         glowing, impossibly bright,

never quite touching the earth.

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At seven, I sat on a towel in front of the freezer

with the blow dryer, a sponge and a bucket

to earn money for a new plastic recorder.

Oh, how I wanted that reward.

So for hours, I switched the blow dryer

from one hand to the other, inwardly fussy,

wishing mom would just buy it for me.

How enormous the task seemed then.

When that brown recorder

finally came in a beige vinyl pouch,

I played “Hot Cross Buns” like I meant it.

I blew “Ode to Joy” in bright torture through the house,

and mangled “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”

but oh was I happy.

 

Now, scrubbing my parent’s refrigerator

I see how the tables have turned,

how the work becomes its own reward.

Decades of my parent’s love and sacrifice

bring me to this moment, when,

kneeling in front of the fridge,

sponge in hand, bucket beside me,

I feel like the luckiest woman alive,

Mom going through the cupboards beside me,

humming “Love is Blue,” perhaps a little out tune,

but oh, she is happy, so happy.

 

 

 

 

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My daughter plants nasturtium seeds, 

two per hole, four inches apart. 

 

Meanwhile, two rows away, I drop carrot seeds 

four to the inch, into the soft dark soil.  

 

Oh, the secrets of dirt, this kingdom 

of earth with its cool and damp quiet— 

 

how quickly its finite borders pull me 

into the infinite. What joy to travel here 

 

with my girl, though she is hesitant traveler.  

One could say the main thing we did today  

 

was measuring—how deep, how many seeds, 

how far apart. Perhaps. When we finish, it will look 

 

the same as when we began. But 

I look at my daughter across the rows, 

 

humming with her hands in the dirt 

and I see already in her the fiery petals,  

 

the peltate leaves like green flags  

that know how to play with the wind.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

 

I was five, perhaps,

when my mother and I

would sing duets

in the nursing home,

and though I can’t recall

what I ate for dinner

two nights ago,

I still recall the lyrics

to our song.

Funny what sticks

with us through the years—

like a goofy song

about zebras and penguins,

like the zig zag of the piping

on the dress I wore,

like the certainty

I feel even now

that I was totally loved.

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Quarantine

 

 

This morning, my teenage boy and I

sit quiet on the couch. He does not move

to pick up his phone. I do not rise to work

or rush to make a meal. We sit, leaning

the trunks of our bodies into each other.

We do not say much. I close my eyes

and cherish his sapling weight.

There are so few people I dare now hug—

our hands, our bodies dangerous—

but here in this house so still I can almost

hear him growing, here in these minutes

that fell off the clock, here I remember

how surely we baptize each other with touch.

Such simple blessing. Silence. The metronome

of breath. The leaning in. Infectious love.

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My mother did not forge tech innovation,

didn’t win Olympic medals, didn’t write

a textbook on equal rights.

 

But she did run for office. And won.

She coached the soccer team so girls could play.

At church, she led the people from the pew.

 

And she started a company so my father

could leave his job. I don’t think

she thought of herself as an activist.

 

She’ll be surprised, perhaps, I see her this way—

as a leader, a role model, an example

of a gender equal world. Because of her,

 

I never felt less than. Because of her,

I could see myself as doctor, poet,

model, president. Because of her,

 

I know how to scratch my children’s heads

each night before sleep. How

to make up a song when life is too much.

 

How to cry for beauty and love.

How to notice and praise

what is right with the world.

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Allspice. Basil. Bay. Caraway. There were mornings

my boy and I spent on the floor pulling herbs and spices

from the drawer. We’d open the jars and close our eyes

and gently sniff. Cardamom. Cilantro. Cinnamon. Dill.

I took out the cayenne and red pepper flakes

and put them up high on an uppermost shelf.

Some agonies are easy to prevent.

We focused on Fennel. Fenugreek. Mint.

 

Today, he comes home having breathed in deeply

the scent of heartbreak, a jar I would have hidden if I could,

but all of us know it eventually, feel the burn, the inner sear.

Beyond safety, thyme, turmeric, there is fire, and once inhaled,

it hurts everywhere. Eventually we respect the heat as a gift.

Eventually the heart learns to walk through it.

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The rules are simple. One person chooses

an ornament on the tree. The others ask

yes/no questions until they guess it correctly.

It was my mother who taught me.

I taught my own children. It’s a ritual

as important as the tree itself. Is it red?

Is it round? Is it cloth? Handmade?

 

So many questions we never can answer.

So many questions elude yes or no. But here,

in the soft glow of Christmas tree lights,

we share moments when every question

leads us closer to a treasure, where

the moments are treasures themselves.

 

 

 

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