Posts Tagged ‘play’

Once Upon a Night

In the living room after dinner, my daughter
plays Tchaikovsky on Alexa
and dances every character in Sleeping Beauty
Aurora, the prince, the evil fairy,
the lilac fairy, the bluebird, the jewels—
she leaps and lifts, she jumps
and twirls and raises her arms
with a delicate twist of each wrist.
She is more wing than limb,
more song than blood,
more frolic than bone.
To watch her is holy business
 as she learns to make each step beautiful.

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The Autumn Morning

Perhaps a red-tailed hawk
calls to you through closed windows,
and curious, you leave your work
and step out into the morning.
The air smells of rain and autumn leaves,
and the hawk makes wide circles above the yard
as if showing you how it’s done—
this is how you play with the day.  

Everything glitters as the sun emerges.
Everything, even your thoughts.
Even your greatest loss.
The hawk disappears up canyon.
You breathe as if you’ve just remembered how.
When you go back in, you’re careful to fold in your wings.

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When the going gets tough, it’s just started.
A bite’s always worse than a bark.
It’s darkest before it gets darker,
Absence makes the heart.

Speak softly and carry a life rope.
Out of sight, in the prayers.
Good things come to those who love.
All that glitters is meant to be shared.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way to be tested.
Get a taste of your own disaster.
The squeaky wheel is also a song.
Loss is the art of being mastered.

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No Way to Anchor

While our bodies curl
into each other on the couch,
Vivian grabs my resting hand
and begins to smack it
into my chin.
Why are you hitting yourself?
she asks as my limp hand
repeatedly hits my jaw.
Why are you hitting yourself?
And we’re laughing and
I squirm and squeak
and she grins as she keeps up
her one-line interrogation.

I want to hold this giggling moment,
want to linger here
where the truth
that we hurt ourselves
becomes play,
where the trust
that we will do our best
to not hurt each other
runs deep, deep as the current
that drags this moment
with it through time,
even as I squeal Stop,
knowing how it goes on.

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Unlikely Inspiration

We used to play with the scum
in the river’s slack water for hours—
sat there with our sticks pulling up
thick green layers from the water,
flinging it against the rocks where it stuck.
A simple game, perfect for a four-year-old boy
and his mother. Scoop and thwack,
scoop and thwack. Joy in the act.
Not once did I consider
the resilience of algae. How it floats free.
Not once did I admire how, despite its lack
of roots or stems or leaves, it still harvests sunlight,
still brings green and oxygen to the world.
Now, feeling rootless, feeling stemless, feeling bare,
I think of that algae, how it thrives.

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for Michelle

Today I feel too clean to play,
but oh there was that day
when you and I
walked past the mud puddle,
all slick and ooze, a miresome mess,
and we reached our fingers into the sludge
and smeared the muck
onto each other’s faces—
thick mud, gray mud, slippery
and unctuous mud,
wide swaths of heavy mud
that slashed our cheeks,
bedecked our foreheads, mocked
our love of spotlessness.
Not war paint, but joy paint,
cool liquid earth on our skin.
Besmudged and besmirched,
we baptized each other
in the dirtiest of water,
a murky blessing,
our laughter blossoming
between us in the air,
a many-petalled prayer,
a jubilant lotus
startlingly (how?) so pure.

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The first year I won the Slush Mush contest
I was shocked as my grandfather read a long, official letter
to everyone else around the Christmas tree
about how my entry into the Slush Mush Breakfast Cereal contest
had been the best one received that year.
I didn’t remember entering.
In fact, I was sure I had not.
Yet I won a puzzle.
Another year my brother won.
Or my mother. Or my cousin.
And each Christmas morning, my grandfather read
the long official letter
which always ended “Eat more Slush Mush.”
It was many years before I understood
how the contest worked.
And for the last twenty years
since he’s been gone,
I carry on, buying puzzles, writing letters,
appointing unsuspecting winners.
Part of me thrills in this annual ruse
because it reminds me of him.
Part of me thrills in remembering
how strange and wonderful it felt
to be chosen not because of how hard
I had tried, but because I was part
of a circle of love. It’s a malnourished world,
he would write every year. Thank you, Papa,
for the Slush Mush.

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Building the Snow People

We rolled them out of backyard snow.

How quickly snow balls the size of a heart

become snow boulders the size of a man.

We gave them features

to make them more like us.

Dark brown stems and leaves of dried mint?

Those became hair. Carrots for noses,

of course. Small gray rocks for eyes.

Plus knobby sticks. Rust-colored leaves.

Thin icicles from the eaves.

The wail of a siren going by—

that went into them, too.

Plus a prayer for those in pain.

And a slip of blue Colorado sky.

We walked among them,

these rare guests in a time of quarantine,

and perhaps we felt our loneliness lift.

What is a snow man but a temporary cairn,

a dolled up trail marker that leads us

back to ourselves, back to our own backyard.  

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This grave day when it seems

I cannot play, I do.

I go to the graveyard and find

someone who died on my birthday.

I sit at the small metal marker

and read poems about birth and death.

I sing “Another One Bites the Dust”

and dance in my bare feet.

And when the dog starts to scratch at the earth

and flings dirt all over my legs and lap,

I laugh at her great idea

and rub the dirt into my skin,

then cover myself in big handfuls of red dirt,

marking myself as dust.

Here, in the autumn sun

surrounded by tombstones

that have long since lost their names,

it’s so easy to remember

how short this life—

what a gift to be alive,

what a gift to be wrestled by chaos

and find myself still thirsty

for another day, another day.

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Inner Menagerie

In me, there is a mountain lion

who prowls the streets of town

with her powerful legs and fierce teeth.

She’s the one who smiles at everyone,

and why shouldn’t she?

But inside the big cat is a gopher

who knows best how to hide,

who is grateful no one seems

to have noticed her.

And inside the gopher is an elephant

who has been watching her mother

and grandmothers, aunts and cousins,

for centuries to learn from them

how to survive.

But inside the elephant is a sea squirt

who, attached to one spot,

has begun to eat her own brain

so she won’t have to use it anymore.

And inside the sea squirt is an otter.

She wonders how the rest of them have forgotten

the great joy of running and sliding

on their stomachs, playing tag and chase,

rolling in the water, feeling the sun

warm and generous on their backs.

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