After they have left

August 28th, 2008

After they have left, driving slowly with lights extinguished, I start to shake. After they have left I set Little Boy C on the floor with a toy and start to cry. After they have left, taking the moment with them, the moment rushes at me from the high corners of the room: Little Boy C coughing, dry-heaving like a cat, something in his mouth I can’t reach, dialing 144 thumping his back all the while. Waiting, it seems an eternity, for the ambulance that arrives only after C has thrown up his afternoon bottle and a puzzle piece of one of the dried-up leaves that are falling into our garden now that late August is here. They ask me to describe what happened, the paramedics, while trying to look at the little boy I will not let go of. They are kind and dismiss with sympathetic eyes my apologies for the unnecessary call. The team leader whose name I forgot the moment he said it looks at me with the eyes of a parent; he knows this fear, I think. His partner tells me, “Lieber ein mal zu viel… [rather one call too many…].” She listens to C’s lungs and pronounces them clear; he has not, she feels, aspirated anything. They take some information, fill out a form, and leave. Everything is fine, everything is okay, C is fine, C is okay, it is all over as fast as it began, my coughing child vomiting up this dry and pointy-edged but harmless piece of autumn. Already he is playing on the floor, taking advantage of his brother’s visit to the grandparents to play with all the things A will not let him play with. He is happily destroying a Lego-firehouse, blocks flying. Everything is okay. Everything is fine.

It is only after they have left that I start to sob. Everything is fine.

Ever forward

August 20th, 2008

Slap. Slap. Shuffle. Slap. Slap. Shuffle. This is the sound of Little Boy C, on the very day he turned nine months old (yesterday), crawling from the playmat to the couch. A short distance, a meter, perhaps a little less. Yet never again will he cover as much ground as he did just then – those first unstable but determined movements into autonomy. Into exploration. Into action. Those first independent moments forward, alone. His bold achievement, celebrated, applauded; in my heart, a small goodbye. It has begun – it began the moment he was born, in truth, but it has become obvious now. He will move ever forward. As it should be. But in my heart, the first of a lifetime of small goodbyes.

“For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

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August 18th, 2008

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And so it goes

August 15th, 2008

Another form rejection letter. Am I picking the wrong markets, is my poetry less polished than I think it is, or both? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.) I know that rejections are the rule rather than the exception but it gets a girl down, you know?

I must remember this

August 14th, 2008

Little Boy C is almost nine months old and hardly nurses at all anymore – only at night before he goes to bed. He nursed like a champ until he tasted his first spoon of food and then he never looked back. I didn’t expect this; LIttle Boy A nursed until he was eighteen months old and weaning at that point was my idea, not his.

C hasn’t nursed during the day since I can’t remember when but he holds fast to those last moments before he goes to bed. We lay on our sides in my big bed together, his face pressed up against me, my bottom arm curled around his head and back. With my free top hand I might stroke his hair, or rest the palm of my hand on his belly or his hip. Tonight I had my hand cupped on his head and when I moved it C reached up and flailed around with his little hand until he grabbed my index finger and pulled my hand back down to his head. He does this often, grabs my hand and moves it where he wants it. From his hip he might pull it up to his belly; when I stroke his hair he might clamp his hand on mine to keep me still. Sometimes he pushes my hand away, then a few minutes later is reaching out for a finger to bring me back to him. Each night as we lay there in bed and C holds my hand, pulls it to his body, I tell myself to write this down and each night after I put C to bed I move on to the bedtime routine for Little Boy A, and by the time that one is in bed it is forgotten, this way C tells me what he wants, shows me what he likes. This way he reaches out for me, finds my hand and presses it against his body. This way he loves me. Every night, I tell myself to remember this.

I remember this

August 13th, 2008

The yoga is getting better. I still do not feel long and luxurious, cat-like, but my movements are more fluid and my stretches are getting longer and deeper. My spine, a stiff trouble spot since Little Boy C was born, feels more supple. I am bending more like a willow and less like a pine tree and it feels good. I flow through my sun salutations, gradually adding repetitions every few mornings. It feels good. It feels familiar. It feels like something my body remembers, something my body has missed. Yes, my body says as I deepen a pose, I remember this.

Political poetry

August 12th, 2008

I “cheated” – this is something I wrote awhile ago but I somehow managed to miss about a month of RWP poems so I wanted to get back into the swing of things one way or another. I generally don’t write poetry of witness; I know my limitatons. But now and then poets should confront the forms they generally avoid. All of us, now and then, should confront the things we generally avoid.

Fifty Years in the Making

Flame of shame
is too obvious a rhyme,
but sometimes the obvious is true.
Sometimes the obvious sits in front of you
fifty years
waiting to be noticed
and when it is,
pent-up energy sparks
a chain reaction
picked up by strangers
who don’t speak your language
but understand every word
and send the signal on down the line.
We’re the flame now
this conflagration of outrage
sending sparks across channels
and oceans
and to the roof of the world
where they wait for this burning
fifty years in the making.
No domesticated flame, this
no desecrated flame, this
just the fire of an outrage
fifty years in the making.


There’s more poetry – political and personal – here.


August 11th, 2008

I spent the weekend in Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland. We drove up as a family on Saturday morning, had lunch, played at a playground, went on a short walk, and then my husband drove back down with the boys and I stayed the night and returned home in time for dinner Sunday.

I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go on a hike, or a walk, or even ride the gondola to the foothills above the village to gain a “stunning view of the Alps.” I actually said to myself, I see a panorama of the Alps every day I don’t really need to do that. Can you believe it? The Swiss Alps, yeah, whatever. Instead I moved from one cafe to another, working my way up the main shopping street of the village one latte machiatto at a time. I didn’t write anything, or revise a poem, or do a few of the things I had brought along with me that needed to be done. I had my camera with me but once the boys left I stopped taking pictures. I simply sat and watched the people go by, drank my coffee and ate my apple strudle and now and then half-heartedly read the book I had brought with me.

It was all I wanted to do, all I had the energy to do. Introverts, I sometimes think, should not have children. Their very presence, after a while, becomes exhausting. Little Boy A is attached to me in the extreme; I call him my Velcro Baby. The touching, after a while, becomes exhausting. And the noise. Oh the noise noise noise noise! It’s like Who-ville on Christmas morning with me in the role of the Grinch before his heart grew two sizes. I long for stillness and quiet and solitude. Time to just sit there and not be touched. To read four sentences in a row without being interupted. To spend an hour without the constant soundtrack of firetrucks (“doo DAH da da! doo DAH da da!”) in the background; and foreground. It is the greatest challenge of parenthood for me, the absolute constancy of it all.

So I fled for twenty-four hours to the Bernese Oberland, those green Alpine valleys with the stereotypical Swiss challet houses, their windows and balconies bedecked with vermillion geraniums. The sky was pristine blue, not a cloud to be seen. Farmers were out cutting hay, those stubborn traditional Swiss famers whose cows and sheep and hay-cutting make the low mountains of the Bernese Oberland so beautiful, so traditional, so Swiss. And I sat there, drinking my lattes alone, storing up the silence, the solitude, the sheer self-indulgence of it all, sometimes watching the tourists with their high-end shopping bags (Gstaad is a high-end sort of place, not the sort of place we usually go) sometimes positioning my chair for a view of the Voralpen, the foot-hills, with their pastures and challets and lines of sage-colored cut hay drying in the sun.

There wasn’t a thing in the world I wanted to be doing besides just sitting there, alone, blessedly, brieflly, alone.