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poem of the body

Embrace fleshiness

The baby with her face pressed
to your face is at her happiest
forehead to forehead, mouth
to mouth, or mouth
blowing raspberries on
any fleshy part of you.

Embrace fleshiness
of the self, go against every message
the media has ever sent.
These legs are strong,
you can carry the four year old on your back
after she falls,
even as she clings, while sobbing,
and the one year old is on your hip,
loop one arm behind your back, supporting.
Somehow, you manage
to balance them both
even as you say goodbye
to the fruit you were about to pick.

Some days, parenthood feels like a constant
lesson in letting go
of expectation, of the little plans
that defined your afternoon, little
to say of the grand hopes and plans
of art and literature,
and some days it seems like
if you just allow it, you will receive
every grace possible.

Your arms
surround these children
who press themselves
into you, as your body
provides immeasurable
comfort. Boundless
love, a great acceptance of you
as you are right now: disheveled
mussed, tired, unsung in any circle
but this one.

continuing

Talking with a friend today, I mentioned that I have continued to write almost every day(though not every day, as my father passed away 9 days ago) but that I haven’t been pushing myself to polish, or post. So, here is today’s fast write, with an added 10 minutes of polishing.
 

What survived winter

It was a hard winter, on that
we can all agree. Snow and more
snow. Temperatures below
10, more times than anyone
local can remember. Bid goodbye
to the large rosemary, and lavender.
Goodbye new rose. Watch all of the bay
leaves fade out of green. Wait. Break brittle
fig branches, look for green, but wait. Weeks
later than usual spot green knobs as small
as a 12 point face o. They circle
the base of the fig tree. Try not to hope
for more. Restrain from breaking
into a tiny jig. Only remove that
which is loose in soil. In the second
week of May find one shoot of new growth
on the yellowed bay. A whole branch of the fig unfurls,
slowly. Garden time is different, grass and weeds
will overtake a fallen pruner or glove, even
while your pea plant makes minuscule movements
towards the branched twig you upended beside it. Green
strawberries shake off their white skirts. Wait,
wait again. In this place, more than any other,
believe in resurrection. We may not feast this summer,
but we will dine on the fruits of our own small plot.

bonus poem (napowrimo make-up)

because I missed a few days, and because today’s weather inspired a moment of poetry

 

Sun eyes (May day)

Two days of a heavy grey sky
mean that I can barely see
this morning, as I walk
into full sun. I recently learned
that our eyes are better suited
for an underwater environment,
and today, I believe it. My daughter
and I often sneeze when we walk into
sunlight. If I could’ve requested she get darker
eyes, I probably would have, though I admit
I am happy that I’ve only been asked,
twice, if she is mine. People in this country
see color before any other feature. There is nothing
watery about today’s sky. And though I have to squint,
I’d hug the sun if I could, I feel that happy to see its return.

napowrimo day 30

Rain Poem

Let the poems be all of rain
when even the air has forgotten
how it felt to be naked of rain,
and the seedlings are getting drunk,
and the worms stretch
not just across sidewalks,
but parking lots. Grown bold, water
rushes from distant places, joins hands
in the clouds, crying, me too! Wind joins
in, forgets it is an altogether different
element, pleads with its cousin
and rain agrees. There is nothing
but rain. Dream of the self becoming
atmospheric. Remember you
have always been more water than not.
Clouds descend over the almost sun,
I tell my daughter it always made me think
of heaven. Heaven leads to haloes
the soul, and somehow, to space. Where
we live, she confirms. I usually seem
so much bigger than rain, but today,
I am as infinitesimal as a drop in a waterfall.

napowrimo day 29

I started this two weeks ago, and it still doesn’t say all I mean it to, but it fits, for today.

impermanence

We gather belongings around us
as if they will protect us. On the metro car,
almost every person looks down, as if in prayer,
wearing multiple layers, feet are more booted
than shoed. A deluge of rain and wind
swept almost all of the petals
from the trees, and we’re still shivering
from the 40 degree temperature shift. Once,
my grandmother mentioned liking
the way a pair of shoes looked,
I suggested she buy them, she replied, I already have
a pair of brown shoes. I wanted two things in that moment:
for her to treat herself to a second pair, and for myself
to be able to be that content. We all went to say goodbye

to her two years ago. She’d stopped eating
solid food and the doctors told us she might go any day now. Each time
she has moved, a few of us have gathered to help clear out her
belongings and pare them down to fit a new, smaller space. Our
umbrellas were flipped inside out and ripped,
as we left the museum. The only response to such wind
was two fold: run, and laugh. Everyone around us
did the same. Sometimes that’s how a day goes. It starts with you
rubbing lotion on your sunburnt shoulders and ends with you wrapping

an extra blanket around your child. How can I do this, how can I let go
of these things I think I may need? As we walk back up to the ground
we find a tree still in bloom, protected by a wall. Every
part of it covered in rain. Petals puddle along every still place. Look
at the tree: bark cracked with age, the limbs gnarl and turn. We love them
in other seasons, but never so much as right now,
at the end of winter. They promise a moment
of pure beauty. A hush descends under their boughs. We may

hope that this train contains the same clean silence,
as almost every person looks down. Our umbrellas
continue to shed water.  My grandmother continues
to live. My father diminishes every day. Even as they descend
into some unrecognizable place, their mind glimmers
free perhaps only once every day, reminding us of who
they were. Is this where hope lies? In the impossible
continuance of someone you love.

napowrimo day 28

Whittle

Complaints of the body seem frivolous,
just now, after leaving my father’s bed
at the hospital. He is fading away, flesh
stripping down in that terrible way
that cancer eats at a person. All
of these tiny inconveniences: my hip
sometimes loose, or small abrasions
on my hands, from clearing the garden
of an unwanted tree. And then, my children

how sometimes I am more aware
of their bodies than my own: each scrape
or bruise, nails that need to be cut,
or dry patches that need lotion. Manageable,
some part of me says, after holding
my father’s hand, and noticing his too-
long nails. Yellowing and thick, the nails
of someone in their eighties, not sixties.
But I’ve seen this before, this whittling
away, as cancer becomes the only thing that thrives
in a person. A sudden aging takes place. We’ve
reached that helpless stage
where we wonder if it wouldn’t be better,

but see, it is hard to even write it. Though we have
no choice, or control, we still think it. If it wouldn’t be
better if he were gone.

napowrimo day 26

Touch

I have grown used to
the barely lucid. Comfortable
with touch over talk, I try
to hold my grandmother’s hand,
or press her calf, or scratch
her back. I imagine she is touched often,
by nurses and aides, but what
of love? What of the caress of someone
who wants to be near you solely
because they love you? Lately,
I grow overwhelmed by how often
I am caressed, tasted and hit, all
by my one and four year old.

By the end of the day I won’t even
let the cat come near me: I am done,
ready to become autonomous
for just an hour. There are days
I crave solitude and silence
the way some tell me they crave
drink or drugs. I am told to enjoy it,
this time. I am warned of what is coming,
years in which my children will squirm
from hugs, and then decades of barely
a quick kiss. I try, I really do, to savor
even the fifth tackling hug of the day,
one child in my lap, the other leaning
on my back. How often I am almost unbalanced,
yet somehow right myself. I cannot topple,
for I am their anchor. For now, the grandmothers
tell me, for now. Whispers of reminders eddy
at my feet. If only: I think: if only love like this

could be thinned, spread out, or transmutable. So many
lonely people, and my own years of longing.
If only I could send that aching girl a glimpse
of this: how they love me so,
and are so certain of me that they treat me
almost as furniture. Now this, the baby diving
onto me almost as if to reenter my body.
That determined and that fierce: butting into me,
again and again. Claiming me. I am hers. And she
is mine. For now.

napowrimo day 25

Tree time

Four trees line the road. Three
leaf out in that green gold
that is specific to new
leaves. The fourth, which stands
in the middle, has no leaves. It doesn’t
even have many branches, anymore.

A winter eye may not have noticed
the tree had died, but here,
in the midst of spring’s riotous excess,
it is clear. The bark has peeled off
and shows white in many places. No birds

will nest here, but many colonies of insects
will flourish for as long as the city
ignores this tree. For every visit
I get to talk with my father,
there are three where he is asleep.

We all know what is coming. We
rarely say it aloud. Some things
are too big for small moments. We
know how to bring food or drinks,
cards and photos. We even exchange
more hugs than usual. I hold his hand

as I haven’t since I was tiny. Tree time,
insect time, human time, they all come
to the same end. But

were you loved, did you love? Who knows
if the tree, or insect wonders. But we do,
and for my father, it will probably be
the greatest mark of his time here. He loved
and is loved. Imperfectly, but fiercely.

napowrimo day 22

(in which the author visits a place most rare(for her), indeed)

seeking symmetry

Sometimes someone else
has to tell you what you like. This
time, it was my high school art
teacher. You like symmetry, she said, symmetry

is pleasing, but rarely true in nature. And
she was partially right. I do like symmetry,
and my trees were way too symmetrical. Though
rarely achieving it fully, I think
nature loves symmetry. So does

Wes Anderson. I just spent two hours,
in the dark, watching a movie. This is
a ridiculously decadent thing for me
to do. Two hours, not working,
not cooking, or cleaning, or caring
for anyone. For awhile, in the late

90’s, I was obsessed with the game
Tetris. I was pretty good. However,
when I noticed that the game
continued to show in my head,
even while falling asleep: connected squares
falling and fitting into place, I knew it was time
to stop. So I did, cold turkey. Sometimes

I think the life of a breastfeeding mother
who works(even a little) is like a game of Tetris.
I am aware of every hour. When
the baby will sleep, or wake, when she last
nursed. Add in preschool, bedtime,
laundry, teaching, cooking, etc. You see
what I mean. So, the feat of engineering it took
to get me into this theatre was rather

impressive. This world unfurls
for me, pretty as a storybook drawn
by an artist who loves symmetry. Characters
are always centered. Funiculars climb
mountains.  Rooms frame people. Uniforms
are almost as one would see on the street. Everything
feels almost unreal. Prettier than life,
I guess. But so lovely, and somehow,
so true.

napowrimo day 21

planting cosmos

 
Promised a late-summer array
of sunset orange, we clear winter
from the driveway. Brittle leaves,
small sticks, and creeping weeds. She
is impatient for her favorite part: holding
the seeds in her own hands. This year
she has become expert at this, and rarely
drops any. She doesn’t even question
how a seed can become a tall plant. These
seeds are thin, long and sharp. The baby
is not too close. She sits in a leaf pile
shifts her feet in the rustle. Will
these plants survive my ever
well-intentioned, but partial neglect?
I hope so. As my daughter cups
them in her confident palms,
she asks for their name. Cosmos,
I tell her. “Like the show, like
the universe?” she asks. I marvel,
again, at what she brings to my life,
how every word is remembered, every
new experience links to one from her
not so distant past. We talk of stars,
of how some part of us came from the stars,
long ago. How long? To this girl, her four
years are immense. Longer than that, I say.
How long until these flowers bloom? We count
months. I can see it now, how the baby
will be walking by the time they are in bud. And
my father will most probably be gone. We live
in small time, right now. Just a season contains
as much history as we can imagine. A week
blooms full of possibility. An hour may hold
heartbreak and joy on either end. Gather water
and be generous. The sun is shining and the earth
warms.

 

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