Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

I could live here, says my daughter;
and staring into the generous green
and the time-softened hills,
she sees an open door in the landscape,
a door she could walk through
and call the new place home—
and I watch as she becomes
the hero of her own story,
watch as in the passenger seat
she grows wings, listen as she hums
like a tuning fork suddenly come alive,
struck by her own dreams,
and mygod, its beautiful watching
as aspiration slips itself into her body
and whispers possibilities
and bids her keep her eyes open.

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for my daughter
I want to give you what I could not give you,
a world where there is no hurt or grief.
a world where you don’t know
ravaged and sleepless nights,
don’t know mornings too quiet
or the color of dirt in the cemetery.
Because I cannot give you this,
I want to give you the certainty
that you can live fully in a world
where there is hurt and grief,
that you can meet what is most painful
and at the same time
turn toward what is beautiful.
I want to give you a love so safe
that you grow into yourself
certain that there is nothing
you can do or not do
that could keep me from loving you.
I have been loved like this, too,
and did not know the enormity of the gift
until I longed to give it to you.
I want you to take it for granted
that love is so vast, so unshakeable,
so true. I want to give you the belief
in your resilience, want you to know yourself
as a flower that grows more vigorously
after it’s been cut back.
I would keep the hands from cutting you,
but since I can’t do that,
I want to be the soil, the rain, the sun.
I want to give you what cannot be given,
want to give you what you have given me—
the astonishment of living with you
in a time of hurt and grief
and the miracle of watching you grow.

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Dear Heather,

on William’s birthday

There was a time before we lost our sons,
a time before the long walks in the frozen woods,
a full-bellied time when we cherished how they grew.

Today the snow came again, at last,
though it was more sifting than deep drift.
I notice I want more.

It’s so human to want more, I tell myself.
More snow, more time, more love,
more memories of making fires in winter,

tasting summer s’mores, feeding hummingbirds,
making cookies, speaking silly languages,
skinny dipping in the river, singing to Rusted Root.

It feels right their birthdays should feel heavy—
heavy as the snow that didn’t fall today,
heavy as the bodies they didn’t grow into.

Oh, the weight of love—light as the sunshine
that slanted through the room between squalls,
substantial as the tractors our boys are not driving.

I think of how much we’ve grown in their absence—
which is to say how much we’ve grown
in the company of heartache, the company of love,

how powerfully loss has stretched us.
Somehow, these boys linger in our being.
They arrive through song, through silence.

In this after time, we feed them with memories—
some true, some more than true.
Each time we say their names, they grow.

It’s so human to want more, no matter
how reconciled we are to what is. Oh,
for more time, somehow, between forever and now.

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inspired by “First Steps” (after Millet) by Vincent Van Gogh and a song by the same name by Kayleen Asbo

Precious as the first pale green of spring
those first awkward steps of a child.
How we cheer their innocent tottering.
How we celebrate the very thing
that will lead our child away
from the safety of our arms.
Memory is like a Dutch painter
who insists on portraying
a child’s first steps
in only the loveliest hues,
and the frame contains
only lyrical hope,
and each brush stroke
is dipped in tenderness,
and we don’t yet know
how hard it will be to let go,
how the sweetest songs end
long before the heart is ready.

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Moon broken, my son said
when he was two,
and he pointed east
to the quarter moon.
Mommy fix it.

He believed I could.
I wanted to believe it, too,
wanted to believe
I could fix any broken thing—

the loose button on a doll,
the ripped page in a book,
a scraped up knee,
a tattered dream.

Tonight I gaze
at the low crescent moon.
I have lost my belief
in fixing.

Count me among
the broken things.
And my son is gone.
And my son is gone.
And the beautiful moon slips lower
into the almost dark.

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Dear friends, 

It has been seven weeks since I sent you a poem–seven weeks since my son chose to take his life. Thank you for all the ways you’ve supported me in this time–prayers, emails, letters, gifts. Though I have been unable to respond to all your kindness with personal notes, please accept my enormous gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for all the love and kindness I have felt surrounding and infusing me–I have never felt alone. I am so grateful for you. 

I think I am ready to continue the daily sharing. We’ll see how it goes. 

with love, 

Digging Potatoes, 2021

I am not the woman I was
a year ago when my son and I
harvested potatoes. Today
I must look like her—
bare hands in the dirt,
sunhat on. But she did not know
the deep loss of losing a son.
Perhaps she’d imagined it.
That is why she did everything
she could to keep such a loss
from happening. But the woman
I am today knows all too well
what I cannot control.
I plunge my fingers
into the cold earth
and talk to my son
as if he can hear me.
I miss you, I say. And I reminisce
about all the other years
we did this together. I ooh
at the size of the potatoes,
hold them up as if he can see.
What does love care of absence?
Love grows, despite death—
it roots in each cell and insists
on tendrilling, touching everything.
In the middle of the night,
a voice commanded me to remember:
Life needs us to live it.
All day I puzzle over the message.
All day I lean into the words.
I say them out loud as I pull out
potatoes, ask my son what he thinks
it might mean. No reply. He has become
one with life now in a way
I cannot yet understand.
And so I breathe into it, this chapter
of loss, this life needing me to live it.
All around me, inside me,
I notice how so much is changing, notice
in each moment, a new invitation.

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When in Rome

What a loss it would be
to not have born so I
would have missed a
Thursday night like this
in which my son and I
walk the dark streets
in Georgia and watch
the lightning transform
the sky into pink flares
and smell some sweet
unnamable flower and
talk about Dodge Chargers
and knees and roaches—
I swear it has all been
worth it, every second
of fifty-one years, for this
hour in which there
are no bells, no shoulds,
no other tugs except
to take the next step
down the centerline
while in the distance,
raps another clap
of thunder.

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If I could do it all again,
I would—every blooming bit of it.
Every bout of pink eye,
every snotty nose, every
late night waking, every
single reading of Good Night Moon,
every fairy house, every
drive to every ballet class,
every singalong to the entire
soundtrack of Hamilton,
every wobble and stumble
and blunder and lapse
to arrive at this very moment
when we lie on her bed
in the dark and talk about
this miracle, this astonishing
life, and watch dumb videos
and curl into each other.
In every moment, a seed.
It surprises me now,
how beautiful the field.

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One day, I will walk into the quiet,
calm of the empty home. No TV.
No pinging of phones.
No one asking what there is to eat.
No one wondering if I can drive them.
No one telling me their dreams.
I will hear only the sound
of rain, of thunder,
of the wind rattling the inner doors.
Perhaps I will hear my own pounding heart,
the heart I thought belonged to me.
But there, in the dim light of the storm,
I might at last know for certain
the heart is made for giving away.
There are many ways to love.
Some of them are clearest
when I am most alone.

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I would like to go inside your pillow, hear
your breath and know you are okay, catch
the tears you cry when no one else is looking.
Today, you told me you don’t want to be held,
but I still want to hold you—want to meet you
with gentleness, support. How many years
have I been the one to comfort you, the one
you would run to, the one who could make
things feel better with a kiss and a shhh
and slow rocking of our bodies.
A pillow wouldn’t take it personally
if you didn’t use it. A pillow wouldn’t wonder
what it did wrong or wrestle with letting you go.
I try to invite that softness into myself,
try to transform my woundedness into feathery
acceptance. There is some unlikely magic in this—
a downy inner quiet that doesn’t try to fix anything,
that is content with being soft. And nothing changes,
and everything changes, oh terrible surrender,
oh beautiful tenderness that appears inside this loss.

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