Posts Tagged ‘son’

Memory of sitting by the river,
you taking my picture,
the leaves around us
already changing—
you were happy that day,
camera in hand,
no hint of sorrow,
no augury of grief.
Oh, that beautiful day.
I fold it in half,
run my finger down the crease,
unfold it, rotate it ninety degrees
and fold it in half again.
In six more steps,
I’ve folded it neatly into a boat.
Someday, perhaps,
I will float it down the river.
Today, I tuck it
into my mind’s back pocket.
When I need to, I touch it,
run my fingers along the folds.
It carries me along
the current.

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for my son

I didn’t know you used to straighten
   the shelves at the toy store in town
     until tonight, when my friend told me
you used to go there to play after school
   while hanging out with your friends, and then,
     to her shock, you’d put everything away.
No other kids ever did that, she said.  
   But that was your nature—
     you who kept rows of mechanical pencils
in perfect lines on your desk.
   You who ate one thing at a time on your plate.
     Sometimes I pull out memories of you
and scatter them all over the house—
   memory of smelling all the spices in the spice drawer,
     memory of building pirate ships out of couches,
memory of playing Legos on the floor.
   Setting up the drum set in the doorway.
     Playing chase to Krishna Das before bed.
They’re everywhere, these memories.
   I don’t even try to stack them away
     in the closet, color coded, neatly folded,
though that is in my nature, too.
   I like it best when the memories are everywhere—
     and I stumble over the ghosts of wooden train tracks,
trip on the spot where you used to do push-ups,
   fall all over the memory of your ski gear, neatly laid out,
     and there, on the piano, I remember it well,
your music spread out next to mine.


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After hours of weeping and laughing
and hearing stories that make me fall
even more deeply in love with my boy,
after flower bouquets and tear-stained words
and full body hugs and cello and viola and Country Roads
and leaning deeply into grief and grace,
I sit alone in my car and discover
with a quick glance at my phone
someone has given my address
to internationalcupid.com,
and in the last few hours of heartbreak
and breaking wide open, I have amassed
dozens of likes and letters of nascent love
from people around the world.
And part of me is annoyed and part of me
thinks my son must have coordinated this prank
from beyond the veil, perhaps
as retribution for me coordinating a sing along
at his memorial. I can hear him.
Mom, you’re embarrassing me. Mom.
Really? Mom. What are you doing?
Mom, stop right now or else … or else …
But I can’t regret I shared the song
I wrote for him before he was born,
shared the song I sang to him
when first they laid him on my chest,
shared the song I sang him almost
every night of his life, shared the song
I sang to his body before they rolled it away.
And the hundreds of people who gathered today,
they sang it back, true and full of love.
It was worth it, Finn. It was worth it
to hear the air ring with your song.
Could you hear it? I think so,
based on the quick retribution. I’m not sorry.
You are the song I’m still listening for,
the song I’m still learning to sing.
You are the song I will continue to share,
the song I can’t help but singing along.

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Tonight it’s his willowy body I miss,
the way it fit so easily into my arms,
the way he’d find me on the couch
and slip in beside me and loan me
for a time the full weight of his loneliness.
I miss how sometimes we’d say nothing
and let the quiet crests of our breath
be the only thing that need be said.
I miss how sometimes we’d talk for hours,
our thoughts unspooling like ink-dark yarn.
I miss nuzzling my face in his hair.
I miss being with him everywhere—
in the kitchen, in the car, in the yard,
on a plane, in town, on the pond,
in the store, by his desk. But most of all,
tonight, I miss him in my arms,
here in my too empty arms,
this place where so many years I held him,
this place where the memory of his beauty
still leans full weight against my chest.

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The Unheard

I do not hear his shrieks of laughter
escaping from his room.
I don’t hear his hand beating time against the table.
I don’t hear the luff of his breath
as I stand beside him while he sleeps.
I don’t hear the fear in his voice
when he begs me, please mom, please.

I hear the rain on the rooftop,
a morse code of love I don’t know how to translate
except in shades of green.
I hear cars on the highway,
and remember life is moving.
I hear the whir of the hummingbird wings
and the black notes of crows
and the silence where the boy
no longer grows.

If you ask me do I hear his voice,
I would tell you no.
But that is only partly true.
I do not hear his voice in words.
I don’t hear it the way perhaps I wish to.
But I hear him inside me, not a whisper,
but a voice that sounds startlingly like my own,
a voice that sounds like rain on the roof,
like cars on the highway, like hummingbird wings,
like crows, like the silence
where my love for the boy still grows.

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Because I can, I carry the box with your ashes
around the house as if you’re a baby on my hip.
I point out things and explain them,
just as I did when you were young and alive.
There, I say, there is where you practiced piano.
Here, I say, is where you sat at the counter
and wept when I told you the story
of Cinderella. And here is the wall
where we hung all your artwork.
And here is the room where you slept.
Here’s the plant you gave me last year—
see how it’s doubled in size?
And here’s the new couch in the place
where the old couch once was,
the one on which we snuggled each morning
before school. I walk the floor as I did
when you were young and fussy and needed
touch and movement to calm you.
Now I am the one who is calmed by the walking.
So familiar, these steps around the kitchen island,
these steps around the table.
So familiar, this weight on my hip.
Soon we will place this small wooden box
in the ground, so while I still can, I carry you.
Oh sweetheart, how is it I’m thriving amidst this gravity?
It is, I am sure, because I, too, am deeply companioned,
carried from moment to moment, from space to space.
And though I don’t hear it, there is perhaps a voice
that says to me, Here is where you lit
a candle every day. Here is where you practiced
to love in new ways. And here is where
you did not judge yourself as you wept.
Here is the place where you did nothing but breathe.
And here is where you thought of all the people
who have carried you.
And here is where you said thank you.

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   Tonight, instead of serving pie,
 I serve the memory of pie—
    serve the memory of pumpkins
 we grew in the garden
     then processed into custard.
         Serve the memory of years
  we made gluten-free crusts.
      Serve the memory of your rhubarb plant
     that will rise more robust this spring,
   memory of thinly sliced apples,
     key limes, lemon merengue,
        and all those tart cherries
         we harvested together.
       I serve the joy we shared
         in celebrating a constant
   necessary to the geometry of the world.
  I serve the thrill in knowing
   there is something
        both transcendental and infinite,
    something death can never touch,
      something ubiquitous that defines
  the world we inhabit.
      And though it is math,
    it is no less love,
   something that helps us
   understand our universe,
        something that hints
   at the grand design
  that amidst great catastrophe
       continues to hold it all together.

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The Softening

I carry it with me now, everywhere I go,
this softness, this limp unstuffed toy, a puppy
with a thin square body made for snuggling.
I carry it in my purse where it mingles
with my wallet, my glasses, my lipstick,
my loss. When I’m walking, I reach in
and let my fingers rub its soft, worn fleece.
When I’m watching a movie, once it’s dark,
I pull it out and let Skinny Puppy settle in my lap,
as if its brown embroidered eyes could see.
I know it’s just an object, but it’s a well-loved object,
some small proof that my boy was here,
that he loved, loved hard, loved long.
I remember how he carried Skinny to school,
clutching the small brown scrap to his belly
when we would say goodbye. I remember
how long after the toy trains and model tractors
and even the complicated Legos had gone away,
Skinny still slept on his pillow.
It’s been worn down by love, this old friend,
and made even softer by the loving—
like me, an old woman who has become
frayed, sentimental, slightly tattered,
distressed, but so shaped by love, and softened,
yes, softened. Even more myself, only softer.

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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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