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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

 

for parents of teenagers everywhere

 

 

planting flowers

all along the fence—

the fence is no less sturdy

 

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Mom, she says, I don’t know what it was about that book,

but the pages were falling out and it smelled old

and I think it cast a spell on me.

And I recall the first time I read Emily,

an old cloth book with the text debossed,

how I ran my fingers over the words

and felt them as I read them:

“As imperceptibly as Grief

The Summer lapsed away—”

Mom, she says, I didn’t even understand

a single word I read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

And now, I think that book is haunting me.

We are making her bed just before she sleeps,

and I tug on the covers to straighten them.

Yes, I say, her words are like spells.

I memorized that poem, though I was

too young to know of “courteous

and harrowing grace.” I knew only

that when I said the words, they gave

me such an openness, a wideness, a delight,

as if morning found its way into my chest,

and now, thirty years later, the early light

still touches me, still thralls.

The bed remade, she slips beneath

and I lay at her feet and for a time we read.

I want to talk more about Emily,

but the spell is her own and I don’t

want to trespass her magic,

the wonder she feels.

Perhaps someday she, too,

will read these lines,

“Our Summer made her light escape

into the beautiful.”

and know herself more beautiful

for having let them touch her.

 

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when I was young and read Lord of the Flies,

and when I read the part where Piggy dies,

I screamed out loud, You got it wrong. No!

As if Golding could hear me through the spine.

Perhaps because I also was a geek.

Perhaps because I didn’t want to know

how cruel the world can be. How kids like me

could choose, in fearful times, to kill our friends.

 

My son detests the book, but not because

the boys are cruel, because it moves too slow.

I try to reconcile his callousness, his good

and tender heart. He’s grown up in an age

where killing is a part of weekly life.

How strange for me to grieve the loss of grief.

 

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for Shawnee

 

 

This time the goodbye is in the kitchen,

me running off to the next thing,

you at the counter with morning tea

before you drive away.

I give you a hug from behind

and a kiss on your cheek and thank you

for coming to visit.

 

I want to tell you I love you,

but the words have never

tumbled out easily, not because

they aren’t true, but because

I don’t want to frighten you.

Strange to feel I must hold you at a distance

in order to keep you close,

like a mother bird

who monitors her nestling

from a neighboring tree.

 

I never was one of the mothers

who worry about fatal things:

car crashes, avalanche, infectious disease.

I worry more about the most

terrible thing that could happen,

that you could be alive and not know how

much I love you, fiercely, unfoldingly,

worry my longing

to keep you at ease could

make you feel pushed away.

 

Driving from the house,

it is not the sun in my eyes

that makes them leak,

it’s this knowing that I

have made for you a nest

in my heart where I hold you,

but perhaps what you needed all these years

was for me to hold your real hand,

to wrap my real arms around

where your wings would be.

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There are many kinds of love, and I have lived some of them.

—Katherine Gallagher, Distances

 

 

You’re too restrictive,

he shouts at you,

and the fist of his voice

connects with your most tender parts.

There was a time

when loving him looked

like holding him, letting

the small question of his body

soften into yours. There

was a time when loving him

looked like kissing a knee

or playing Monopoly

a third time or singing

to him in the dark. How

easy it was to love then.

Now, love is a war

with no winners,

ammo without a gun,

a wall you wish you could

tear down. That’s right,

you say. I’m restrictive.

That’s my job.

He stomps away

and slams his bedroom door,

leaving you standing

alone with your horrible,

fierce love.

 

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She looks so happy with her new baby, all coo

and smile and jiggle and swing.

 

I smile at her, and think of everything

I do not tell her. How the child will grow up

 

to break her heart over and over. How

she will give him more love

 

than she knew she had, and it will not

be enough. How he will hate her

 

for holding a line. How she must hold it,

still. How she will come to doubt herself.

 

How all of us are broken, no

matter how hard we’ve worked to be

 

whole, and how none of us can

carry the other, no matter how

 

much we long to. How she will

beg her own heart, Stay open,

 

stay open. And how some wise friend

may someday say to her,

 

Shut down your big heart

at many a time. It needs to rest

 

while you are awake.

And she will know perhaps by then

 

the truth of love, how it is never

what we imagined. How

 

big a risk it is to love. How

everything depends on this. And how

 

she will weep, someday, watching

another young mother in the park,

 

cooing at her baby, remembering

how simple it seemed, and how

 

perhaps it is still that simple,

a mother, a child, a big world to explore.

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My daughter walks up the drive to meet me.

Mom, she says, I have a pet.

She is dragging an old pump

attached to a long black electrical cord.

Meet Pumpy, she says.

Hello Pumpy, I say. She pulls

the red and black cylinder into her arms.

I am trying to prove to you

that I am ready to be a dog owner, Mom.

I am going to take Pumpy for walks

every night and every morning

and give him a bath in the river. Come.

She puts the pump back on the ground

and yanks it up the drive, calling,

Come boy. Good Pumpy.

When we get to the top of the drive,

she picks up Pumpy to cross the street.

You know, she says, the street

is a dangerous place.

And then we walk up the dirt hillside.

There, she finds an old deer bone

and helps Pumpy to bury it.

Mom, she says, what do you think?

I think my heart is breaking

with the purity of her desire.

I think the evening light

makes everything more beautiful.

I think it is hard to say no

to something our loves really want.

No, I say. We can’t get a dog.

But you will be a great dog owner someday.

She knew this would be the answer,

and says, Come, Pumpy,

there’s more to explore.

And though it’s getting dark,

we walk deeper into the woods.

 

 

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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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