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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Motherhood


            —with thanks to the wise Rebecca Mullen
 
 
Today, again, I praise the beaver
who spends her life building,
rebuilding, rebuilding
her lodge where her young will live.
With small sticks and big sticks
and tall solid trunks,
with logs and rocks and mud,
with her teeth she builds a home,
builds it on moving water.
 
Because rain, because snow,
because warm, because cold,
because flow, because flow, because flow,
her home is forever in need of repair.
 
And so on a day when a surprise storm
has flooded the stream
and washed much of my lodge away,
I honor the beaver,
stalwart, resilient, habitual.
I notice the longing to move to land,
then I gather new sticks of courage.
Stones of forgiveness.
Logs of compassion
and the deep sticky mud of love.
I wade to the middle
of the current.
I, like all the other mothers,
I build this home again.

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I try not to take it personally.
The country is not for everyone—
lazy stream and open field
and airy glades of cottonwood.
I walk out in the dead grass
and realize how much I love
the dead grass. How much
I love the red stained willows,
bright squawk of jay and scent of mud
and lack of pavement, lack of horns,
lack of benches and stores and street lamps.
I prefer the bustle of birds at the feeder
to any human throng.
 
It isn’t wrong for him to love something else,
the heart loves what it loves,
though I long to defend the smooth flat stones,
the hawk that even now circles the field,
the mice making arteries through snow.
I wish he were happy here, says the heart,
unable to reconcile the rift.
Across the river, snow sifts in thin white wisps,
escapes through dark red cliffs.
 

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Strange Balance


 
 
When the boy is sneering
or the glass is breaking
or the woman is weeping
or the streets are crowded
with anger and rage,
it is hard to believe
a small joy
has any real value,
hard to believe
a single red gerber daisy
or a cup of grapefruit-scented tea
might have any relevance,
could bear any weight on the scale
that measures what it is to be alive,
but last night, while I was steeping
in worry, aching with injustice,
my daughter created a stage
between the threadbare couches
and hummed herself a soundtrack
as she leapt and spun
and shuffled and flapped,
and oh, how her brief flare of joy
changed the flavor of the night,
an improbable balance,
the way even the smallest amount of sugar
transforms the bitter sauce,
the way just one note
resolves a minor chord,
the way the barest hint of rain
makes the whole desert
erupt into bloom.
 
 

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Dessert


 
Tonight it is cocoa powder,
flour, sugar and vanilla
that bring me and my daughter
together. The kitchen our mixing bowl,
time our whisk. The more we’re together
the more we laugh. How easily
distinct ingredients become a whole.
Easy as following a recipe
for chocolate cake, we slip
into the familiar banter,
the joyful two-step, the sweetness
we’ve been distilling since she
could first hold her own spoon.
In the air, hum of the oven preheating,
sound of us teasing, clang of the whisk
against the glass bowl. The cake,
it’s basically a delicious artifact,
a testament to this scent
of intimacy, like chocolate cake,
only much, much richer.

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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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We turn off the music. Practice left turns

onto the highway. Park on the bias.

Park on the street. We get gas.

Drive backwards. Use the median.

Change lanes. Use the blinker.

Slow down. Full stop.

There’s a rule for everything

and a comfort in knowing the rules.

“And you can practice everywhere,”

notes our DMV guidelines, “so have at it!”

Imagine if we all practiced everywhere.

If we all signaled before every turn—

turn of heart, turn of mind, turn of plans.

Imagine if we all agreed, no matter where

we’re going and no matter where we’ve been,

that we are all travelers on the same side,

knowing we’re on this road together.

Imagine if we agreed to stop in an orderly way—

no drama, no shaming, no blame,

so that someone else might take their turn to go.

Imagine, getting along with others,

no matter what they believe,

could be as simple as keeping it steady,

looking over your shoulder,

making eye contact in a crossing,

giving each other some space.

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I meet her at the Peace Garden gathering

where she’s singing and dancing for peace.

It’s September 11, and her belly is round

and moon-ish. She has no wrinkles yet,

no flashes of gray in her hair.

She is so sincere as she recites poems,

as if with right words and right songs

and right moves she could help

create a peaceful world that her baby will enter.

She’s a month away from her due date

and I don’t tell her those cramps she’s feeling

are contractions. I don’t tell her

he’ll cry for a year. I don’t tell her

about how they’ll laugh too loud together

how they’ll both thrive in the small night hours,

how sixteen years later she’ll marvel

at how love rules her life

in the fiercest and most tender ways,

how the boy will have grown to six foot four,

how he will teach her about fast cars and graphic cards

and forgiveness and humility and apps.

Sixteen years later, she will be less herself

and more something larger, more

driven by love than ever, though it

is nothing she could have imagined.

No, I just say, Nice to meet you. You look familiar,

like a woman I used to know well.

And she smiles in a dreamy far off way.

She thinks she knows what will happen.

Yes, I remember that well.

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And so I pull the purple comb

through my son’s thick hair,

the same way I’ve seen

the stylists do at Great Clips.

Wet the hair. Comb it through.

Part it. Hold it between

two fingers. Cut vertically. Snip,

and his hair falls to the floor.

Comb it through. Snip. Snip.

 

We both know that I

have no clue what I’m doing.

So we laugh as the hair

piles up on the floor.

We chatter, the way

a stylist and customer would,

talking of school and his friends

and his unruly cowlicks. Snip.

 

I remember that time

I was trapped underwater

by the river’s hydraulics,

how I stared up at the light

shining through the surface

and thought, I don’t think

it’s my time yet to die.

And the river spit me out

and I swam hard as I could

through the rapid toward shore.

 

I don’t think it’s my time yet

to die. Nor my son’s. Though

all around us the news of dying—

the numbers increasing every day,

stories of beloveds who are gone.

 

We ask ourselves, how do we

go on? And meanwhile, we do.

We go on. And because my son’s hair

is too long for his taste,

I learn how to cut it by cutting it.

How much more will we learn

as this goes on? How to share?

How to grieve? How to let go? How to live?

 

And meanwhile, life spits us out

into sunlight, and we come up

spluttering, gasping, surprised

we’re alive, and we swim, what a gift

to find we’re still swimming.

 

 

 

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turnovers

 

 

My own fault for not reading all the directions

on how to make puff pastry from scratch—

how after the shaggy dough phase, you shape

and then chill. And then roll and fold and roll

and shape the dough. And chill. And then roll

and fold and roll and fold. And chill. Then roll

and slice. And chill. And fill. And chill. So often,

mid project, I find myself thinking I would never

have started this project had I known

how long it would take. Flour on my pants,

on the floor, on the table.

 

Six hours later, nearly midnight, my daughter

and I baste the chilled triangles with water,

sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar,

then put them in the oven at last. We are tired,

but the house fills with the sweet scent

of baking apple, the home-rich scent of crust.

 

What is life, but a big project we are in the middle of?

A project I’m in no hurry to finish.

In fact, these days are like puff pastry dough,

guiding me to take it slow, slower, to rest

between steps. I haven’t read all the directions.

For now I am laughing. It’s so much more

than I thought I was in for. But I’m here,

hands ready. I’m willing to work, to clean up the mess.

 

 

  • photo by Finn Trommer

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The Inner Cupboard

 

 

 

No one else knows, as they eat the bread,

what’s been slipped into it,

how in with the flour, the yeast, the salt,

 

a stubborn devotion has slipped in.

It hides in an inner cupboard. Even the baker

doesn’t have the key. But when

 

she would rather not be loving—

because she is tired, because

she feels wronged, because she’s distracted—

 

that’s when the cupboard opens itself

and mixes into her the kind of devotion

that cannot be manufactured, the kind

 

of devotion that rises up not out of duty

but from some mysterious, infinite source

that guides her hands as they knead

 

the soft dough. It infuses her with a longing

to be big-hearted, a longing to love, even when love

feels unreasonable. She can smell it

 

as it fills the whole house with its generous

scent. Even now, as they sit and eat the bread,

it astonishes her, how ferocious

 

this drive to nourish, to love.

They pass the butter, the jam. She smiles

as they eat it together, slice after slice.

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