the angel hair. the tea cups. your walls. you.

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I can feel the skeleton that is me beneath my face skin. It becomes closer and clearer each day. Breaking me down into less than human. Skin and bone. Skull.

There was a china cabinet and angel hair in our playroom. There was no other place to put it. It did not move with us when we moved. It must have been his mother’s.

The cabinet glass was a wall between us and its treasures. The angel hair. The tea cups. Keeping us out. This wall.

What I know now:

If you build a wall, morning glories will find it. Their heart-shaped leaves reaching out to you and your wall. They will break that wall down with their beauty. You are not trapped by it. Push your vine up and over. Let go your wretchedness. Let go.

As a child you are kept out of these mysteries. The angel hair. The tea cups. Your walls. You.

You are your own mystery.

You believe your parents feel all that you feel and you all that they feel.

You do not know. You only see these walls and wonder how to break them down.

Break them down, you. Break them down.

Reach your vine up and over. Your beauty. Your beauty.

Remain your own best mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

home

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It was hot and breezy yesterday. My run should have been more difficult than it was. But it just keeps getting easier. I came back to running a month or so ago.I had forgotten how much joy it gives me to use my body this way. To propel myself forward.

I also forgot about the joy of stopping and witnessing the beauty around me. The rivers and the fields. I am at home in the natural world. As a child, I took to the woods to explore, to escape. I’ve not changed so much.

The end of my run is always hard because no matter which direction I take, I have to run a hill to get to my street. It’s a brutal ending. A necessary evil to get to where I’m going.

Yesterday, I could have run and run but I decided to let myself stop. I don’t need to punish myself. I just need to keep moving forward and push myself up the hill and find my way home.

No Jumping Off

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The road leads through the marsh. The Parker River spins and spins its way out and back. In the summer, kids jump off the railing into the water below. It’s not far but it is a leap of faith. The river is tidal, the depth not set. The bridge is compromised and was shut down over the winter.

Some authority put a sign up on the bridge:

NO SWIMMING

NO JUMPING OFF

BRIDGE

Not a poem. Not a haiku. But the line breaks seem significant. A message to those in need. A reminder not to try. Not to take chances.

It’s not a message I want to hear. Telling me to stay as I am. Telling me to let the bridge be the bridge and that is all. Just keep moving in the direction you are moving. The water is for itself. Not for you. Write as you always have written. Take no chances. No chance.

No Jumping Off.

Stay as you are.

Stay.

Be safe.

No.

I will not jump off this bridge but I will jump off.

I say to you jump off with me. Take your chances. Swim. Bridge, bridge, and bridge your way into where you are going.

Jump off. Swim beside me.

blue, the shell, the sky, what belongs to you, what doesn’t

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I could say that the shell is thinner than a fingernail but that would not be true. The shell is a shiver. It is a slice. It is the color of the veins beneath the skin of my wrist. The color of the veins at my son’s soft temple.

The shell is cracked open and whatever was within it is now gone. The albumen. The amniotic fluid. The fluid. All gone. Beneath the shell, darkness spreads.

The mother may have tossed it from the nest in a fit of cleaning or another creature got it and gnawed through to the tender bone within.

The shell is always left behind. It belongs to the sky.

Not to you.

Never to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

remember, a wall of lilacs

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That winter I dreamed that my father was in his car, his jeep, and that my sisters and I had been called to say good bye to him. He said good bye and that he loved us and he waited for a machine to come and crush him. I woke up in a panic but refused to tell anyone about the dream.

It felt too real.

This week my dad will have been dead for 37 years. At some point in the future he will have been dead for longer than he was alive. We all will.

Now, I remember the day he died more than I remember him. It was a day like today, sunny and cooler. I walked home from school for lunch and saw a strange car in the driveway. I thought it might be a new company car for my dad. Maybe he had gotten a new job.

But he wasn’t there. A priest was.

My mother could not tell me. My godmother told me as I sat on her lap.

What I said was no.

I said no.

The days after that are filled with people and smoke and drunken laughter. Tight hugs from adults who needed them more than I did. Shopping for a dress I came to loathe.

A wall of lilacs across the back edge of the lawn. My cousin and I sat on the edge of the patio and squished ants until I realized that what we were doing was killing them. That they were now dead and that we had done that.

A few weeks before everything happened, I stood in the yard and watched a plane fly overhead. I thought about how there were people on it. People I didn’t know going places I had never been. I didn’t know why but I felt everything was changing and that terrified and thrilled me.

Later that summer everything was dull-edged and grown and you were no longer a child. Now, there is nothing in my mouth. A taste. Burnt coffee, singed. There was something to say but no words to say it. So much happened next. Hold on to that, if you can.

mama: for those without one

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The first sound that was close to a word that my son made was da. He would repeat it all the time, dadadada. I tried to get him to say ma. Mamamama. But it took a while. We read that the da sound is easier than the ma sound and that’s why it often comes first.

I spent a good deal of time wondering if the sound associated with father comes first in other languages, too. I’ll admit it really annoyed me. I had carried this child inside of me. My life was completely devoted to him. I expected to be his first word. I needed it more than I wanted to admit to anyone.

When he finally said ma and then when he began to associate it with me, I felt the word in my bones. This is who I was: Ma. Mama. Mamamamama. And then I was mummy (which is my preference) but now I am mom or mommy. And that’s okay, too. So long as I am known as the one who loves you.

IMG_20150509_091327I don’t know what my first word was and there is no one left to ask. My mother has been dead for fourteen years and she has missed all of the most important moments of my life. I am never going to stop loving her and I’m never going to stop being angry at her for leaving me. Of course, death wasn’t the first time she left me. She had left me and come back, left me and come back, left me and come back, so many other times.

What I knew was that I was not her first choice and yet she always expected to be my first choice. And she was. As a child, my love was so powerful that I believe I would have given my life up to save her life. I realize now that this is not the way the parent-child relationship is supposed to go. This is reversed. I must have also realized that as a young woman when I broke away for her.

It was painful for both of us but I needed to save myself. When I left is when I believe she finally loved me the way I had wanted to be loved all those years, but by then I had moved on.

By then, my first choice was me.

What I am saying here is that Mother’s Day is a complicated day for many people. For some of us, it is a day of mourning and yet we might feel forced to celebrate something that was traumatic for us. We might feel we need to pretend that our relationship with our mother was easy-going. We might want to say, my mother was my best friend, when we know that this is a lie.

Now, a mother myself, my child is my first choice. He will be until the day I die. I need not be his though. I want him to choose himself. As such, I don’t feel like I need a day to celebrate my own motherhood. I am not defined by it. It is the most important part of me, but it is not who I am.

It is not who my mother was either. She had lived before her children. She had lived.

I keep telling myself these things about her: that she was a human being, that she didn’t need to be everything to me, that she was damaged and I need to accept her for that. And yet, I am angry that she didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. I am angry about the choices she made and what those choices did to me. I am angry. I also really love her and admire the strong survivor she was. I am in awe of all that she lived through and that she lived. I am grateful for all that she taught me.

IMG_20150509_091511She was a human being singular from me. She was once a young woman, hopeful, in love. Before her children. Before she was ma, mama, mum. She was a human being deserving of happiness. She was a human being deserving of love.

She was flawed, as we all are.

On Mother’s Day, I am choosing to celebrate love in all its many forms. I am accepting the love that is offered me by my son as a gift and not as a right or as something I am owed. He loves me because I give him a reason to love me. It is not something he has to do simply because I gave birth to him.

henry and mummy

What I know now is that his first word was a sound without meaning yet. It was a sound and not a word. We were connected without that sound. We had been one and were in the process of becoming these two separate people again.

Every day I accept the love my son offers me. Every day I am grateful for it and realize how lucky I am to have him.

To those who are wanting, I am holding out my hand to you. I am offering you the love you need. Take it.

Be brave. Be brave. Accept that you are enough. You are enough.

Paved: On Finding My Way Home

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Yesterday the town decided it was time to pave the cross street to our subdivision. The road has been in horrible shape for years, not to mention that it is narrow and has no shoulder. It’s a road I know by heart not just from driving on it but from running on it. I know where the blind spots are. I know where the dips and bends are. I know the hills and the curves. I also know the potholes.

Our subdivision is nearly sixty years old and is comprised of two parallel streets and a newer cul de sac lollipopped on at the end. The only way out is on the street they were paving. Throughout the day if you wanted to leave by car, you were stopped at the end of the road and made to wait. I’m pretty sure they just wanted us to stay put. Honestly, I felt a little bit trapped which is not a way I like to feel. Feeling trapped brings out the worst in me.

I got it in my head that if I tried to go for my run, they would stop me and tell me I couldn’t. This was, of course, a ridiculous thought. I easily escaped through the barricades. I went on a run I haven’t done in a while. The roads are not quite as familiar as my normal loops which is why I like it. Back on the road home, I stopped and watched the river for a bit. It’s a small river and yet it used to power a grist mill. The mills are all gone now but the river remains. I kept the river in my mind all day.

At night I left my house to go into town to teach. It was strange to drive out with the paved road beneath my tires. I was used to anticipating the bumps and dips and to being alert for cars veering into my lane to avoid the huge potholes. This was just smooth and easy. The machines and workers gone. We were no longer trapped.

Coming home by the light of the moon and with the peepers loudly making themselves known, I hesitated as I turned on the newly paved road. I’m used to knowing this road by heart. I’m used to letting my body find its way home. I had to force myself to stay in my lane and not avoid the potholes that were no longer there. I had to force myself to acknowledge this new road.

When I turned onto my street I realized that the new road had led me back to where I started and that while it felt different, it also felt good.

Yesterday, I started on another new road. One in which I committed to certain decisions about my writing life. One in which I chose one path for my writing, instead of another. This path is newer and requires me to use my brain instead of letting my instinct do the work. This path is me breaking through the barricades and pushing myself out to where I can acknowledge my own abilities instead of relying on what is easiest for me.

All this is to say that as long as we are allowed choice, we are not trapped. If we have access to choice we can set out into unfamiliar territory and trust in ourselves and our ability.

The writing life need not be about staying still.

I want you to trust in yourself. I want you to stop avoiding the potholes and accept the freshly paved road. I want you to learn that road by heart and then I want you to choose another road to learn again and so on and so on.

I want you to find your way home. And when you do, I will meet you there.