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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

One with my Son

 

passing it between us

like laughter, like freedom, like joy

the red frisbee

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I should have raised dogs.

That’s what my father always said

when I did something stupid.

Like when my friend and I were twelve

and we snuck into Raiders of the Lost Ark

with two seventeen-year old boys.

And there was dad, waiting

outside the theater looking like

exactly what he was—a rabid dad

hellbent on scaring the shit out of any boy

who might have unvirtuous thoughts

about his girl. He never said

what kind of dogs—poodles or labs

or mutts. I can just see him

walking the corridor of his kennel,

all the dogs barking. But dogs weren’t

his calling—the crates, the training,

special diets, vets. No,

he was the master of loving me

through my crazy mistakes

and my hormonal angst and my sudden refusal

to eat meat. I still smile thinking of

the way he would sit on the couch

and hold his arm open for me

to come sit beside him then snuggle.

The way he bought me a book

to decode my dreams. The way he took me

to piano lessons every Saturday

morning, then took me out for brunch

so we could talk. The way he still listens

when I’ve done something stupid

and then tells me he loves me.

Never once, despite all his lamentations,

did I think he would exchange me

for a chihuahua or beagle. No, there

was something almost sweet in his wish,

a hint of surrender in it, the sound

of his heart opening just a little bit wider

to let in the world, unleashed as it is.

 

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Time Bend

 

 

 

Stepping into my children’s room

it is nine years ago and I almost trip over

the rocking chair that isn’t there,

can almost smell the calendula cream

I used for their bottoms, hear

the drone of the humidifier.

How different those quiet nights,

the amber glow of the night light,

the way their new bodies curled

so easily into the curve of my arm.

Not that I want to go back to those nights,

but how sweet they are now, how long

they were then. I want to tell that younger

version of myself that there will come

a day when she will wish she could

sit in the quiet and hold her children

through the night. But she wouldn’t believe me.

Too tired for belief. She just keeps

humming that lullaby, rocking back

and forth, her eyes closed as if to dream.

 

 

 

Dear friends, I’ll be camping the next few days, so no poems posted for a while … a bouquet when I return. xo

r

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I suppose by then I had guessed

that love was not only about happiness,

not only about ease and feeling good.

In fact, it turned out as the newborn boy

continued to cry for month after

inconsolable month, love looked

a lot like misery. It sounded like wailing

through all his waking hours.

It felt like exhaustion. Love looked

like losing a dream. And choosing

to cradle the infant anyway. And soothing

the wailing infant anyway. Love

had little to do with happiness.

 

And eventually the crying stopped. And

the boy learned to laugh. And to

hug. And to love. And happiness came.

And went. And came. And went. But love,

love stayed. Like a jay that comes

to the feeder and refuses to leave,

even if you don’t put out seed.

Like the freckle that stays on the skin

long after the burn from the sun.

Like the scar on your elbow shaped like a heart

that you got from falling in gravel. How it took

so long to heal. How you pray it never fades.

 

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Why do we have to do this,

asks my daughter, hoe in hand,

and I, hoe in hand, reply

that it’s good for the soil

and helps it to breathe.

 

I think about how my own thoughts

crust over, how quickly

they become impenetrable.

 

And then hoe of loss. Hoe of hope.

Hoe of disbelief. Hoe of shock.

 

Again and again,

the world breaks me open,

allows the new to come in.

 

Again and again, I resist

the change. And then marvel

at how essential it is,

the new ideas so green,

so persistent, tender as

a girl asking why.

 

 

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The Truth and What-I-Want-to-Hear

sidle up to me like two old drunks,

one wearing a heavy coat and the other

stark naked.

 

“You know,” says the one,

leaning in to whisper,

“You know you are doing thish

perfectly. You are the besht mother

there ever was. Your children

are sho lucky to have you ash their mom.

You desherve a medal. Really. A medal.”

She hiccups at the end.

 

“Don’t lishen to her,”

says the other, grabbing

my arm and tugging me strong.

“You get it wrong a lot. And even

when you do your besht,

there’sh always more to do.

You fuck it up even when you’re trying

to get it right. It’s jusht what mothersh do.”

 

And we walk like that through the alley.

And we walk like that through the store.

And we walk like that through the living room.

And we walk like that to the car.

 

And the naked one laughs like a maniac

as she tugs on my arm again.

“But you love them, don’t you,

You love them chillens. Love is never

enough. And it’s all we have.”

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First Lie

 

 

 

inside the lie

was a beautiful truth

that grew a white beard

and a giant belly

and though it preferred

to go barefoot

it stepped into shiny black boots

and moved north—

so far north that no one

could find it—

and buried itself

in snow and surrounded

itself with elves and candy

and increasingly elaborate stories,

stories so lovely that for a while

the lie began to believe itself,

until one day

a girl walked right up to it

and said to it,

Tell me the truth

and the snow melted

and the beard fell out

and the elves turned back

into evergreen trees

and the boots did their best

to erase their tracks,

and the truth stood there

naked and said,

There is so much joy

in giving,

and the girl cried

and cried,

longing for the lie.

I just want there to be real magic,

she said.

And the truth

held out its

beautiful hand

and said,

This, too, is magic.

It was years

before the girl

could listen.

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some flowers bloom

only at night,

 

so it is with certain conversations,

that open in the dark,

 

the whole room

blessed with sweetness

 

 

 

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The way the spruce tree

holds the wet snow—how

 

in a blizzard its branches

will bend and bend

 

and bend until they release—

that is the way I want to love you,

 

want to trust that I can hold

the weight of you as you fall,

 

as you continue to fall,

hold you until it seems I will break

 

and then, just when I’m sure

I can’t take any more,

 

release you back into yourself—

not in anger, not in fear,

 

not with guilt—release you

with green resilience

 

so that come the next storm

I am prepared

 

to catch you again, again,

and let you go.

 

 

 

 

 

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for Amy Irvine

 

 

I didn’t know then we were lucky,

that day when we rode down the hill

on the sleds with our kids. They were cold

 

and crying and reluctant, and the hill

was small, and the thrill was mostly

missing. And I remember you saying,

 

“There will be a day we look back on this,

and think how easy we had it, how

silly we were to think this is hard.”

 

And I remember not quite believing you

as our children continued to scream and

whine, as we dragged them inside and

 

removed their soggy mittens and boots

and socks that had fallen around their arches,

as we made them hot chocolate and

 

talked in the kitchen about sleepless nights

and two-hour tantrums and the loss

of time to ourselves. How could I have known

 

that twelve years later, how sweet that looks,

how innocent, how fun, the kids banging

on the piano, their hands sticky, their faces bright.

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