Some springs, apples bloom too soon.
The trees have grown here for a hundred years, and are still quick
to trust that the frost has finished. Some springs,
pink petals turn black. Those summers, the orchards are empty
and quiet. No reason for the bees to come.
Other summers, red apples beat hearty in the trees, golden apples
glow in sheer skin. Their weight breaks branches,
the ground rolls with apples, and you fall in fruit.
You could say, I have been foolish. You could say, I have been fooled.
You could say, Some years, there are apples.
For the second night in a row, my son is awake past 10:00pm. He is riding a tidal wave of inspiration. A paper sea churns around him. He draws with thick marker on a sheet of blank-backed leftovers from my father’s draft articles on adaptive management and my own half-hearted attempts at a screenplay. Without any concern for the neat lines of type on the opposite side, Bug splashes the blue ink across the surface of everything. He makes rocket ships and big-headed people, giant insects and treasure maps. When the clipboard is empty, he takes to the bedsheets. His lime green linens explode with giant butterflies and airborne letters. Even the bedside table has become canvas.
He is wearing me out. Eventually, I tip him from his perch. The wave crashes to the shore in a blast of salt and foam. Sobs wrack his body as I snap the cap firmly back on the marker and toss his creations overboard. “It is bedtime,” I say. My lips are tight. I am so very tired. The past week has been yet another chapter in the thousand year history of insomnia. Without good thinking to move us up and out, my own vessel runs aground in some desolate cove. While we languish, my visions of the promised land atrophy in tandem with my faculties. Neither tide nor wind is sufficient to carry us where we need to be. Without rest and a shot at a better life, I give my son only the leavings of my legacy of mistakes.
I long to give up, to curl into my own rumpled sheets. It is impossible while he is awake. He, too, spars with the night. What worries does he carry into his fractured dreams? With nothing to do but be, I crawl in next to my sobbing son.
“I’ll sing you one more song. What do you want to hear?” I have to ask this three times before he can calm down enough to decide. Finally, he chokes out a request.
“Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
“Okay, baby. Come here. ” Drawing him close, I sing it all the way through, slow and low. He surrenders his weight to my waiting shoulder one ounce at a time. When the song ends, he starts to stir. I ease into “Molly Malone,” welcoming him back to my arms. In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty. . .
Well before the fever kills her, Bug’s breath steadies and his muscles soften. I carry on to the end so I can bid goodnight to Molly’s ghost, Alive, alive-oh.
When my feet swing off the bed, they splash into the eddying pages. I have to wade through them to get to the door. I can barely bring myself to look at my son again. His peace is too stark a reminder of what is required of me. How will this broken woman ever provide enough for this beautiful, bursting boy?
In a literature class in back in the wide-open days of college, a professor spoke with reverence of the tenacity of the great authors. She told us of the Brontë sisters, hunched over tables and making stories by candlelight. On bits and fragments in cramped script, they inked worlds to life. Sometimes, the scarcity of paper was severe enough that one of the girls would fill the page with tiny horizontal lines, then turn the page sideways and write across the previous words.
In my own bed, I train my mind away from our doom and breathe in the quiet safety of an in-between place. This inlet, our only home. We have paper in abundance to fashion both ship and sails. Oceans of ink. Currents of light. Our larder is full. We have song. We have each other.
We have enough.
You could say, I have been foolish.
You could say, Some years, there is this.