I remember so clearly Aware of my thinking How it felt good when He touched me What a soothing way to To help me fall asleep A friend of the family’s Teenager son Left in charge of me tucked in the bedroom of my mother’s childhood home I was in my mom’s bed
My mom’s bed where once She may have dreamed me up Or fought off trauma Us! Maybe as warriors Together! Maybe my mom Raising horses in the backyard Dreamed of me there in My mom’s bed
Where he touched me I remember his rubbing And then the shift in me Knowing When he whispered Don’t tell Anyone Don’t tell Your grandma when She gets home Left imprinted-confusion How I knew then what I had felt, I had enjoyed, Was wrong and that If I tell, it is My fault. So if I keep a secret- My secret of liking the attention or the secret that he told me not to tell or the secret that it happened This was what he taught me: That if I keep the secret It will still be my fault.
And as he grows I am reminded to Pay attention The days of his total Dependence are Almost forgotten He can open the Refrigerator and take Out the jelly Demanding it spread On his uneaten peanut Butter only bagel in His lunch box He has a lunch box! How quiet are our nights How quickly his mind expands Telling me the red thread On my shirt Reminds him of red blood cells Magic School Bus! I kept a list of his words When he was first saying Mama and Daddy And bug and moon All the things I forgot To write down To capture every moment As if it wouldn't escape Me anyway
Many things can wait. Children cannot. Today their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, their senses are being developed. To them we cannot say “tomorrow.” Their name is today. – Gabriela Mistral (Chilean teacher 1899 - 1957)
You did not specifically say Tomorrow I will break my promise You never even promised Somehow I knew that to ask you every answer Would leave me
But even though the bay window of my lookout days is as forgotten as the smashed glass in a once up and coming dream
Though a new generation arrived and they barely speak your name, if ever
Though I filled the hole a thousand times Spilled over my cup with distractions and delights
Though I have lived my life without you and I am strong
Though over the hill, It is your car Your arrival, knowing that I don't actually want what is real
Though you don't know me or my child and You missed the window for pride, I am still waiting for your return
My dad may die tonight There is a helplessness taken hold Left outside the door like his own Father confused and lost down the street Who just needed to get out of that Apartment but could not find his way back Frightening sure but fine all the same While the worry settling in from this Late summer- the worst kinds of moons Rattled tides and washed up triggers Send it back I am not interested in the humanity Of these memories
My dad may not die tonight But I may not sleep There is too much not to do that I will look for a list to make until My restlessness will overtake me And in it, a staggering realization Like his mother knowing her mind was gone or Slipping but too late to even succumb To anger I am numb until I can wait no longer
When I was little, I was a flying champion swinger. I could swing for hours and hours, a little aspiring trapeze artist, although we only had about 13 minutes of recess. And that was only if we weren’t made to stand silent on the painted footprints on the black- top, our backs turned toward the screaming delight of our classmates. Standing silent on the those footprints meant we had gotten our names on the board with a check, and possibly two checks if we had been especially naughty. Our music teacher, Mrs. Gish, was constantly putting our names on the board. It was just that she was a source of ridicule. She had been seen, at some legendary date, putting what we thought was lipstick, on the tip of her nose, where a small wart lived. She was seen, probably by a sixth grader, the source of all things known and unknown in the school, applying some cosmetic while hiding behind a cubby in the band room. From then on, we third graders had a really hard time singing for her, playing our recorders for her without short bursts of contagious laughter behind her back. She could only guess who had started it. And so it went that the last child left smiling when she looked up from the piano, was sent to stand on the footprints at recess.
When I was not in trouble, I would often participate in the flying contest. It was not so much about the swinging, as it was about the leaping off from your swing and landing on your feet, no matter how badly the stab to the heel and then up to the knees. To win you had to land on your feet and from a great height, furiously pumped. There was the one, two, three, and all would leap that forbidden arc. One day, when I was involved in this contest, feeling quite confident in my abilities, I found myself flat on my back and unable to move.
This is what the instructor told me to do in some way. Go up to your room, open up a notebook, fresh and blank- take out the markers- the new set you just got, and make a list. First list all of the things you could do today. List even things you know you are not ever going to do, but they could be done. Then make a list of everyone you love and have ever loved and ever will love. Then make a list of all the things that make you happy- be sure to switch colors for each item on this list- so they stand out and you can use each color- which is something that makes you happy. Then turn the page and draw a picture of the first thing you see. Then space out and doodle in the details, stick out your tongue a little bit, and don’t notice you are doing it. Lay down then on your stomach, for surely sitting on the floor all this time has made your lower back ache- a sign that you have been creating hard. Next cross your legs behind you and let them sway while you pause to draw something else in the corner of the paper- up at the top- something you have not drawn before but for sure plan to go back to. Then breathe for five minutes. Even though you have been breathing this whole time- probably a little too loudly for concentration, now just breathe, and let the out breath come first and then the in breath. Let go, then take in what you can. Let go, and then make room for the newness, and in this way- the rage downstairs becomes possible to bear.