Posts Tagged ‘son’

I Bless Every Yes I Said

There were nights when my son
would come to me late, like midnight,
and say, Mom, come on, let’s go drive.
And though I was tired, and though I knew
the canyon roads would make my stomach turn,
I’d say yes, because I was glad he’d ask,
and we’d get in the Ford and I’d feel the thrill
as it flooded him each time he’d sit at the wheel.
The night was our cathedral.
And we’d talk, or we wouldn’t, and he’d drive
us up to the top of the Dallas Divide.
I’d feel like heaving my guts every time. But damn,
how I loved those nights. The hymn of the wheels.
His smile. His laugh. The quiet canticle of breath.
No matter what choices came later,
I have those times he steered toward joy,
Those nights when we were so alive
and we’d drive, just drive.

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In Those Quiet Hours

For two weeks after he died,
I’d fall asleep exhausted
only to wake just past midnight.
Desperate, I’d claw at sleep,
frantic to catch it and clutch it,
but always it slipped my grasp
and I’d lie awake till morning.

My friend suggested
I reframe those sleepless hours
as a sacred time, an intimate,
personal quiet time. Not a problem.
Not something to be treated.
Not something to be feared.
That night, as I emerged from sleep,
dreams dripping from me like water,
I did not resist the waking.
Instead, eyes closed, heart open,
still lying in bed, I said,
I love you, Finn. I miss you, sweetheart.
And woke on the shore of morning.
Ever since, it happens just like this—
when I slip from sleep,
I tell my son I love him
and slide unknowingly
back into the tide of dreams.

How many hundreds of times
when he was young, did I go to him
when he cried out in the night?
I’d press my palms against his chest  
until his breath was a skiff for dreams.

Years later, though I can’t feel his hands,
though I don’t hear the lullaby of his breath,
somehow he arrives to comfort me.
And though I don’t hear him say
the words I’d always say to him,
I feel them float above me like a blanket,
warm in the cool night air—
Shhh. I’m here. It’s okay. I’m here.

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Tonight I stare at the photo
of you and me and the cat
and the wooden train tracks
and I can’t stop marveling how
your head angles so neatly
into my shoulder, how my
body angles so easily into
yours. And I see how, even
now, after you’re gone,
I am still angling toward you,
my whole self somehow
defined by the space
where you’ve been. Today,
someone asked if it
was too hard to think
of the happy memories.
No. I love them. And I love,
impossibly, the hardest
of memories, too. It is
so easy now to love
the all of you. Remember
how many times we built
those wooden tracks?
And then pulled them apart,
only to build them again?
What isn’t a teacher for love?
Even then we were learning
about dead ends. Even then
we were learning how things
circle, how things change.

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The day your son died, the person you were died, too.
            —Mirabai Starr

Death came to her
as a blue sky day,
as a feral scream,
as an ambulance
with no need
for its siren.
Death came to her
saying, “Ma’am,
you don’t want
to see your son
this way.” Death
knew what it
was doing when
it erased everything
she’d thought
about how to meet
a day, when it scraped
her of who
she had been
and left her barren.
It was habit
that made her
brush her teeth,
routine that helped
her drive the car.
But it was life itself
that inspirited
her, slipping
 like starlight
into her every
dark cell, life itself
that whispered
to her death-bent heart,
You are not done
yet with your

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Tonight your absence
is a long-haired cat—
circling me, nudging me,
curling in my lap
and deciding to stay.

Is it strange to say
I love the presence
of your absence—
not the fact you are gone,
but the way it reminds me
I have made a life
of loving you—a choice
I will again and again make.

This is what I want:
To be awed by how
you still teach me
to love;
to be inspired
by how you still insist
I meet life as it is,
not life the way
I wish it would be.

I want to hold out my arms
and lean into the spaces
you’ve left behind.
I want to be as close
to your memory
as this cat in my lap—
how it molds to my shape,
how it makes of my body
a home.

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Ode to the Saltine Cracker

Oh, salty square,
oh, bite that turns
to savory paste,
oh, flaky wafers
stacked in long
white plastic sleeves,
you fed the boy
who could never
eat enough,
attended him
through online school,
travelled with him
in his book-laden backpack,
fueled him as he
researched twin-
turbocharged V-8 engines
and fawned over
Italian luxury cars.
Finding you today
out of place
on the shelf beside
my thesaurus,
an unopened box,
I crumpled,
longing for the boy
who would have opened you.
I’d love to clean
your stupid crumbs
from the couch.
All afternoon, I taste it,
this daily salt
that falls to my lips.

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But I found myself
rigid in the room where my son
took his life. And I sat
on the floor in the doorway
where he had last sat,
where his blood had pooled
and the air had briefly smelled
of burning. I sat there
beneath the wall
where the bullet had made
its narrow hole. I sat there
with my coil of sorrow.
I didn’t want to meet it.
I desperately wanted to meet it.
I wanted to give sorrow space.
I wanted to crawl inside it.
I wanted to be anywhere
but there on the dark wood floor
in the night dark room,
and I wanted to be wholly,
completely, obliteratingly there.
Fear-ridden, ferocious,I met it all,
felt the current pushing through.
Acceptance is a filament
that takes our resistance
and makes it bright,
makes it luminous enough
that we might see ourselves
exactly as we are.
I did not find my son
in that doorway. Perhaps
I had hoped I would.
But I saw the light
that came with me.
I softened into that light.

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One Boy

Today the heart is full of ghosts—
one doing backflips and one
eating ice cream and one throwing
rocks in the river. One drops
a camera into a lily pond while trying
to take a picture. One peels apples
and one rides on my hip and one
sings country songs. One lights a candle
and one blows it out and one spends hours
arguing about which of the ghosts is most right.
And one is never satisfied. And one
has a thousand dull gray eyes. And one,
one whispers, I’ve got this, Mom.
And I turn to them all, one at a time,
and say welcome, you’re all welcome here.
Even the ghost who slams the door.
Even the ghost who bristles, who swears.
Ghost playing drums. Ghost aiming
nerf guns. Ghost wearing button down shirts.
Ghost with a brain made for zeros and ones.
Ghost with hands in the dirt.
And the heart expands to hold them all—
or were its corridors already stretched?
Straight A ghost. Red canoe ghost. Ghost
of the man I’ll never know. Ghost
who sits beside me at the table,
who says nothing, sipping sweet tea.
Ghost who tucks me into bed, then
slips into my dreams.

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Leaning into the vastness
of the star drunk sky,
my heart a vehicle,
to my surprise
I heard a small click,
like the sound of a car door
and your voice,
Mom, hop in.
Let’s take a spin.

I startle, as if
waking from a dream,
heart pounding,
astonished to find you
in the driver’s seat
as you love to be, and me
just one yes away
from a joy ride
through the universe,
if only I can find
the door.

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It was the orange juice aisle that did it.
I stood there staring at cartons
I knew I wouldn’t buy because you
are gone. My son, I stumble on you
everywhere you are not. Which is everywhere.
The only way to learn how to meet
your absence is by meeting it.
In the car. At the table. In the yard.
On the phone. At the school.
And there in the orange juice aisle
where I stared at the cartons on the shelf
then walked on, the cart still empty.

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