larapayne

Just another WordPress.com site

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.

 

napowrimo day 20

in which I fully embrace sentiment and (perhaps) even cheesiness. This is not so poetical. But, it is felt.

 

Thankfulness

 

Today a child’s toy carried me

out of my everyday, worrying, self.

I held the kaleidoscope, closed one eye

to look at my daughter. My heart opened

in a fast rush, to see her smile

caught and held,

but not one smile, twenty

of them. She laughed, and asked,

‘how many of me do you see,

a million?’ And I moved it a fraction

and her eye blinked, that eye

whose color I can never quite

fathom. Greedy, I turned the toy

in the direction of my baby. Rewarded

with twenty chins, and then twenty noses.

Each part of her perfect. Each part of them.

How long I waited, how much I tried, and every month

found me finding more ways things could go wrong. Even

something as minute as her heart beat can

unhinge me. Its never quite taken for granted ness.

Sometimes I think I could spend a whole day

saying thank you. Thank You: to every friend who helps me,

thank you to my family, who made me, thank you to the crazy

intense universe of living. I could fall

to my knees right now, struck

not speechless, but speech

full. Gratitude, rushing

through me. Cellular and infinite

all at the same time.

napowrimo day 17

The Art Supply Store

 

Easels guard the doors. Then

frames, uncoupled and unmeasured,

full of potential. A circular rack

holds small books of -just

waiting to be colored- pages. Then the chiseled

markers. Trays of large paper. Stacks

of blank canvas. An aisle of journals,

paper plain or decadent. Brushes

small enough to paint a hummingbird’s

eye, and large enough to give weight

to a rock. Paints mixed with oil,

paints mixed with water. Segmented

hands, human figures,

even a horse. The watercolor paper

edges soft, absorbent. Unsharpened

pencils range smooth to hard.

How I could take one, even now,

and draw his profile from memory

with just a few sure strokes. But,

my hands are clumsy, unpracticed.

A few things lay in wait. I may know

her face more than my own. I pass

by the art supply store, hesitant, yet

knowing that those images, all

of these indrawn moments must

wait. Responsibility wars with a fierce

longing. My daughters await, one thirsty,

one ready for a story. My fingers long

to be smudged with graphite, my days

and minutes to be uncounted, ready

to be filled with color. Later,

on this day, the one I inhabit,

I’ll pick up a piece of chalk

and make winged beings fly

across the solid blue of my children’s

room. It is enough. This temporary

creation will do, for now. Dream

of alizarin crimson and cerulean blue.

napowrimo day 15

this needs work, but it is as done as I can do, today.

Fixed

 

Central, watched: the mother. Even a moment away causes wailing cries: the child almost heartbroken. A few seconds are akin to eternity, as a day can be a large part of a lifetime. True relativity, I inhale patience, try to remember how few days she has been alive. Each person in this room needs my care. Food, water, ice. My father is fixed in his hospital bed. Even his breathing is assisted. I wonder of he’ll ever go outside again. I rotate from baby to child to parent, giving food, or drink. He asks me what day it is. Thursday. Five minutes later, he asks again. I can’t tell, when I wake, how much time has passed, he says. Since I was pregnant, it seems I’ve been aware of every minute. This exhausts me, but, I can’t seem to change. Tethered, by choice, as the main sustenance for my babies, I remind myself that these days and years are temporary. Yet, when the baby awakes at 1 and 4 am, I am bleary: this night seems never ending. It is no longer Thursday. When I wake, who knows who will share this day’s air with me? We breathe deeply, in and out of dream. Who knows what tells my daughter to call for me, but she does. And, I respond. A photograph used to be temporary until fixed. That moment of perusal, in the red lit room, I’d watch my father hold the paper up, and then dip it in the fixer. A slow wash. Always that moment of decision that separated possibility from permanence.

 

napowrimo day 13

Blossom Moon

 

Sudden bud and bloom,

this season I barely noticed

last year. Birth came fast and hard

and left me torn, bruised, but with

an extraordinary sense of instinct. I used

 

to be rather cerebral. Theories, -ism’s,

and theologies dripped from my

tongue. Then this: a resetting

of the self. Unable to pretend

 

to be anything but mammalian. Something

I was good at without study or practice.

Giving suck, giving milk. Lactation

is often messy, starts painful, and then reaches

some place of calm. We retreat

 

to the overgrown arbor of the arboretum,

my just turned one year old, and I.

As I settle into shadow, I discover

why this space is deserted. Bumblebees

swoop and careen, so numerous

 

that two run into each other, fall

to the stones in a furry yellow tumble,

and then re-air. I surrender myself

to stillness and trust that we

are not what they want. She drinks, she wiggles,

 

and bees continue to stumble through air. She

pulls herself up into an almost stand. We

have a name for the look a baby gets

when she has recently fed: milk drunk.

These bees are overcome with this sudden

 

spring. Sun drunk, pollen drunk. We revel

in what nature provides after a long and hard winter.