Posts Tagged ‘son’




when I was young and read Lord of the Flies,

and when I read the part where Piggy dies,

I screamed out loud, You got it wrong. No!

As if Golding could hear me through the spine.

Perhaps because I also was a geek.

Perhaps because I didn’t want to know

how cruel the world can be. How kids like me

could choose, in fearful times, to kill our friends.


My son detests the book, but not because

the boys are cruel, because it moves too slow.

I try to reconcile his callousness, his good

and tender heart. He’s grown up in an age

where killing is a part of weekly life.

How strange for me to grieve the loss of grief.


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There are many kinds of love, and I have lived some of them.

—Katherine Gallagher, Distances



You’re too restrictive,

he shouts at you,

and the fist of his voice

connects with your most tender parts.

There was a time

when loving him looked

like holding him, letting

the small question of his body

soften into yours. There

was a time when loving him

looked like kissing a knee

or playing Monopoly

a third time or singing

to him in the dark. How

easy it was to love then.

Now, love is a war

with no winners,

ammo without a gun,

a wall you wish you could

tear down. That’s right,

you say. I’m restrictive.

That’s my job.

He stomps away

and slams his bedroom door,

leaving you standing

alone with your horrible,

fierce love.


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My son and I lean together over the thin resistor,

the nine volt battery, the LEDs in blue and red.


We fuss with the copper tape as it twists and sticks

where we don’t want it to stick. But eventually,


there is light, a small blue light. He can’t stop looking

at the glow on the table. I can’t stop looking


at the glow in him. I remember so little

about how electricity works. Something


about electrons being pushed through the circuit.

Ours is simple, a series circuit, with only one way


for the electrons to go. But I know that no matter

how complex a circuit, the same laws of physics apply.


It’s like love. No matter how intricate the scenario,

the laws themselves are always the same.


There are two laws of love, I tell myself.

One: you can’t predict anything. And two,


it will change you. For good. I swear

as I stare at him now, I can feel the electrons


moving in my own body. Or are those tears,

twin currents following familiar paths.

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Fencing 101




It starts as tag. The instructor

tapes off a strip in the room—

the piste—and my son and I,

confined by the long bounds,

chase and reach for each other.

But the person who’s it

keeps changing. “Left,”

says the teacher, and I am it.

I lunge for my son’s arm, and

“Right,” says the teacher, and

I retreat as fast as I can,

my son now charging for me.

“Left.” “Right.” “Left.” “Right.”

We learn quickly to hold

our weight low, to keep

one foot forward, to allow

distance enough to tag

and not enough that we might

be tagged back.

The game is familiar. I flush

with young joy. Later

we learn to extend

our arms before we lunge,

to advance, to retreat,

to allow just the right distance

to strike, to not be struck.

The instructor gives us

a string to hold between us—

our goal is to keep the curve in it,

not to let it go too slack, too taught.

My son and I dance

forward and back, keeping

step with each other.

both of us smiling, both of us

serious as steel. When it’s done,

we shake what would be

our ungloved hands.

We have learned just enough

to know there’s so much more

to learn. As we leave, I feel

it still between us,

an invisible string, linking us

in this odd game of love,

the world our piste,

one hand always ready to battle,

the other hand, ever vulnerable,

ready to open, to reach,

to meet the other

with devastatingly effective


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One Wonder




the boy who fit in my lap

now taller than I—

an oak from a geranium seed

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This year for Mother’s Day, an offering of four poems published in Telluride Inside and Out–one for my mother, one for my son, one for my daughter (that invokes Mother Mary, too), and one about the day I quit motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers–especially my own. I love you, mom!




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Mom, he says, what’s déjà vu?

The tone of his voice tells me

he’s worried about how I will answer.

I tell him, It’s when you think

you’ve experienced a moment before

when in fact the situation is new.

Oh, he says. Well, my friend

who’s parents are doctors

says he thinks that when

I fell off the top bunk last night

and landed on the concrete floor

I got the déjà vu. And Mom,

he’s going to be a doctor, too.

My son knits his fingers into knots

as he speaks. He looks fragile,

a bird with a broken wing.

I try hard not to laugh,

but not hard enough,

and the laughter spills

between us. You don’t have to worry,

I tell him. He is not convinced.

But Mom, he says, He told me

that was why I could fall on my head,

but it is my leg that hurts. And

he told me that’s why I might do

stupid things even if I’m really smart.

I take my son’s worry to heart. It feels familiar,

like an alley I’ve walked in before,

like a familiar room, like a voice

I have heard, like a remembered door.

My darling, I tell him, you’re fine.

And somewhere, perhaps,

in my rhinal nervous system,

a dysfunctional electric discharge

is sending a message to tell me

I’ve said this to him before.

You’re fine, I say, and unknit his hands.

Are you sure mom? he says,

knots his fingers again.

I think I’m the one with déjà vu,

I tell him. He stares hard at me,

concerned for us all.

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Accidental Baptism

“Mom,” he says, “come quick.”

He pulls me out on the porch

to stare at the three-quarters moon.

“Mom, don’t you think

it looks purple?”

He says it with such urgency,

such thrill. I can make out

the violet edge and hum

in agreement. For a minute,

we hold each other and stand

in marvelous attention.

The night grass is lit,

a touch of purple in it,

even the dirty socks on the lawn

seem rinsed with light.

There is a wholeness I sometimes

doubt. It’s easier to see

what is broken. But whatever

it is that is whole tonight

has always been whole.

I fall into it like an ocean.

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On the Eve

The night before he turns eleven

the boy cannot sleep. He is so alive.

He jumps on his bed and makes up songs

and can’t stop telling me how much

he loves me. Every day he becomes

more his own, which is to say less mine.

There was a time I heard every word

that he said. There was a time I could hold

his entire body in a single arm. But I was never

able to make everything okay with a kiss

or a song, no matter how much I wanted to.

What a perfect rehearsal for now when

his heart is already practicing how to break

at the cruelness of boys and the spite of girls

and the burn of wanting something you can’t have.

Still, I hold him, knowing it won’t make things all better,

hold him through the ache when he lets me.

And tonight I delight with him in his jumping

and singing until it is time for quiet.

The boy cannot sleep. He buzzes above his sheets.

His life is somehow too much for his body.

He can’t contain it all, despite that his legs

are so long, his reach so wide. And this love

I have for him, so much bigger now than it was

when he was smaller, how can that be? Walking out

the bedroom door, I feel a surge of love leaping out

of my chest, leaking from my eyes.

I don’t even try to hold it in.

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In the Current

I pin him, my boy,
on his back on the floor
in the late morning sun
in the quiet kitchen
and hold him there
in the warm orange light
beneath my weight
and threaten to tickle
his belly, his sides,
and I know that he knows
that if he says stop, I
will stop, but oh,
the sweetness of what if,
how it ripens in these seconds
right before the plunder
that doesn’t happen,
our eyes locked and bright,
the morning a boat
we delight in rocking,
knowing that even if it capsizes
we both know how to swim.

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