Poetry

Seasonal Effect

From the curtain rod it dips
low and rises again, as air-laced
as a playground swing brushing
branches and kicking down
showers of petals brighter even
than months ago.

They call this kind of floating
delicacy Georgette, the scarf an ornament
carried in folds
of rolled summer shirts, a gift
from Australia.

At first it draped like jewels
around my neck. Now it serves
a higher purpose, casting its nameless
coral-drunk flowers, its sapphire reef
across the threshold of autumn’s breach.
It jars the white blinds
into dimensionality, pulling them from wall,
carpet, ceiling, from the insistence
of a morning that hasn’t even bothered to bring the sun
along for reveille.

My eyes wish for nothing now. They fall on absence
and do not complain.

I know the danger.
Fortification is imperative.

After the scarf is hung soft
enough there, I position a lamp
bought just today, just for this
corner. Knock-off Tiffany,
it is too big and the wrong shape
but needful nonetheless:
pressed-leaf glass shade, the sweep
of flora, celadon and indigo twining
between amber-veined isinglass panes.

Who could wither in this glow
of meadow, monarch,
day?

Color is a collusion
between evolution and light
to help us survive
the winter.

I tie a purple ribbon around the cord to pull
the switch near and call
my eyes like the face of a flower
back
to lift,
to thirst.
 

Children, Home, Parenting

Fall Awake

The door squeaks open. The dog gets to her feet, panting out her good morning greeting. The swooshes of her tail propel her down the hall. My boy stands barefoot on the bamboo floor rubbing his eyes. He ducks away from his furred friend’s eager tongue.

Bug’s hair is a chrysanthemum explosion. He waits for me to come and wrap my arms around his middle. When I do, I bend to bury my kiss in the tangled light of his head. We drag together down the hallway into my room where I snap open the bunched-up sheet and let it flutter onto the bed.

Continue reading “Fall Awake”

Love, Outdoors, Poetry

Happy 100 Days: 46

I have only two left
gloves, a worn
hole in the index finger
of one so I turn it backwards
on my right hand and heft
my end of the 6×6
over to the pit where the small hill
of sand by the gate
will reside
after we are done
(probably not today)
 
The man’s toolbelt drags
down his pants and his pencils
have not been sharpened
in a year. His drill
bit is too short and keeps escaping
from its housing
it is a wonder we manage
to fit holes
three beams deep
with the same rebar we use
to lever the lumber from its
ill-placed seating
(the volunteers did not use a level)
 
Leaves drift into the pit and we lose
the maul and then the last
pencil. My gloves flop like wings of
bats. Nothing stays. We use the flat
side of a hand saw to draw a line
“measure twice, cut once,” I say
so he pauses and smiles and unclips
the measuring tape
before hitching up his pants
again. When he drills backwards
through wood to meet
the hole from the other side, every time
I hold my breath and every time
I cheer when the bit spins free
finding its aim in the dark center
and the light and the air
spill through
behind the shavings
 
The eight-foot beam splits
my right index finger
at the tip and I suck my breath
but he is bleeding too in almost the same place
(the posts are hard to lift from the rebar
we keep seating too soon)
so we both shrug and keep hammering
the business end of one maul
with the blunt end of another
 
The sun sinks. We coil
the orange cord and stand
the shovels and wheelbarrow against the shed
wall, the beams still loose
the sand still piled
by the gate. He gives me
my first and
as it turns out
only hug of the day
and drives off with the circular saw
in his back seat
 
The gloves need a proper burial
but I toss them in
with my tools again
and my skin chafes red and thirsty
as I lift away the leaves caught
in the trunk of my car to make
room. The sting dulls to a throb
and so I do not feel the cut
mouth of the paper frog
my son made for a man
he loved once when crafting
something by hand was enough
even if the the edges
were ragged and maybe
even especially then.
 

Uncategorized

Happy 100 Days: 92

Eleven and a half hours. That is how long he sleeps without stirring once. I wake at dawn and head out into the damp dark to run with only the glow of the waning moon to show the way. I return, stretch in the dew, walk the dog, pack lunch, shower, and bring the water to boil for oatmeal. He sleeps on and on.
 
This is what happens the night after the day the kid rides his bike to the school and back all by himself. Not all by himself, actually — training wheels notwithstanding, he is still skittish about hills. When we come to the top of a slope, he slows to a crawl and asks, “Mommy, can you hold on, please?” I touch the handlebars the way I remember learning to hold the barre in ballet. This lightest of grips is poised and at the ready. When he hears a car, he tenses and turns back three or four times to look. He veers in a wide arc away from the curb. I tell him the story about hitting the telephone pole when I was learning to ride a bike even though I was staring right at it. “You tend to go wherever you are looking, so keep looking at the place you want to go, not the thing you are trying to avoid.”
 
“I am going to run over that black spot,” he says. He peers with great intensity at a tar patch on the street ahead and steers his front tire over it. “Now, I am going to go over that one.” The cars pass on by.
 
At the playground behind the school, we run and run and run and run. It is dusk and the storm clouds are rolling in. I chase him up the slide and down the ladder, up the fire pole and down the parallel bars. We do not speak. This game demands no negotiation of rules. He bends and peers at me from between poles across the yard, eyes flashing and skin on fire. He breathes hard and braces himself. I charge and he shrieks, mulch flying. He tears off over the jungle gym and under the bridge, ducking, faking left then right. His wild laughter echoes off the school’s brick walls. We run until he notices the sky.
 
“Those clouds are very low,” he says.
 
“Yes. They are.”
 
“We should go home.”
 
He is back on the bike and I drop my fingers onto the handlebar. He nudges my hand away. “No, Mommy, you don’t need to hold me.” He weaves in and out and around the pillars at the front of the school building, tires churning up the chalk murals of peace signs and rainbows. On the way home, we meet the slope going the other way. He lifts his hands from the bars and gazes at the red, puffy spots on his palm.
 
“We can put ice on your hands when we get home,” I tell him.
 
He makes a fist, releases it, then pushes on.
 
“They make special gloves for biking,” I say. “They have padding and no fingers. We can get you some.”
 
“I’ve seen them,” he says.
 
And now he is climbing. Up in the seat, he stands as he pedals up the hill, grinding against gravity. I grin and tell him he’s got it. He climbs all the way to the top hill and then drops into the seat, pauses, and looks at his hands again. The red spots are angry now.
 
“We’ll use that soft ice pack,” I say.
 
“Okay.”
 
He turns right at the stop sign and continues all the way home. He never asks for my help, never complains. He makes it to the driveway and then lets me maneuver the bike into the garage. Inside, we root around in the fridge for the ice pack. He presses his hands to the blue pockets of relief.
 
When I put him to bed an hour earlier than usual, he does not protest. We read our three books and sing our three songs, cuddle and nuzzle and have butterfly kisses.
 
It is no surprise he sleeps on and on this October morning. When he wakes and comes padding into my room, he tucks himself under the already made folds of my comforter, grinning with sleepy bliss.
 
“Can you come cuddle me, Mommy?”
 
“I can cuddle you for exactly one minute. We have to get ready for school.”
 
I lay down next to him and put my face against his. He turns and presses his nose into my cheek.
 
“How about exactly two minutes?” He puts his hand on my arm. The red blister has faded to a pink whisper.
 
“Okay,” I say. “Exactly two minutes.”
 
He hums into my neck, closes his eyes, and pulls my arm across his belly.
 

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Happy 100 Days: 94

 
At the Colonial Farm Park, we walk back into 1771. It is all bonnets and woolen trousers. The family living there hangs tobacco in the barn to dry. The cast-iron belly of a pot hangs low over a fire that heats a potage of turnips, onions, and potatoes to boiling. The children are at work pulling “mile o’minute” from the fence with large wooden rakes. The skinny black cat is stuck in the tree, but one of the women uses a thick branch to help him down. As soon as he is back on the ground, he races off to terrorize the chickens.
 
Bug and his friend scoot around the corner to get in on the action when the clutch of young people returns from rounding up a loose piglet. A boy tosses darts made of corn cobs through a hoop. The girls spread their skirts and rest in the shade before supper. They show the two children from the future their dolls made of twisted corn husks wrapped in scraps of hand-dyed wool.
 
The place is inches away from one of the most congested metropolitan areas in the country. Or rather, what will become such a place in another 250 years. My friend’s little boy points out a cumulus cloud. A leaf falls into the collar of his shirt and he giggles. I hear the geese jabber at someone passing over the hill.
 
Time passes. Maybe a long time, maybe not. My friend and I talk, sitting on stumps outside the warming face of the log house where garlic dries in the rafters. Bug and his buddy are somewhere out of sight. A chicken squawks its disapproval at the relentless kitten. Eventually, Bug comes around to see me.
 
“Mommy, do you know what we are doing?”
 
“I have no idea.”
 
“We’re building a dollhouse.”
 
We rise and shake of the torpor. Indeed, he and my friend’s daughter have collected fallen sticks and sleeves of bark, gathered stones, overturned logs. They continue to balance these mismatched building block across one another, higher and wider. All around them, the skirts spread, the bonnets loll. No one speaks. Somehow, the house is erected.
 
My friend and I sit some more. Later, we wake, and 20 years has passed. The sun has moved our rough seats into the shade. We shiver a little and pull sweaters back over our sunburned shoulders. When we leave, we find the children have assembled the corn-husk family in its new quarters. The rooster struts past, swishing his black-ringed tail. The kitten watches from a distance. Everyone is ready for winter.
 

 

Uncategorized

Happy 100 Days: 96

Out there in the dark, the night creatures sing. The dog and I walk through them, deaf at first. The chatter in my head talks itself hoarse during the first mile. Finally, at the top of the hill where we turn back towards home, the soliloquy decides to pause for a sip of something cool.  I take a breath of September sky. At last, I can hear song.
 
The music starts with a churning of chirps. Then, an aquatic bass groans, rising slowly at first, sweeping up to its white crest and then crashing. Into that half-beat of rest, the faint piccolo of some distant insect twitters into the fringes of the composition. High up lyrics in the trees thrum against a low insistent rhythm. Some of these things sound finned, some winged. Some may only be visitors here. Some are most certainly in heat.
 
I walk and walk, the noise echoing against my skin. I walk right through the plush center of memory, returning to the deep blue-black of his sheets where we spread ourselves on our backs next to each other. It was the end of summer. The sliding door was flung wide, opening out onto the balcony and the woods beyond. We held hands and gazed blind into the dark, listening.
 
With our torn net of words, we tried to capture the sweeping shape of the calls out there. Low, elastic frog calls, intermittent and long. A high whine, a chirrup-chirrup. We listened together, whispering our discoveries. We collected five varieties of song, teasing out the threads, each of us hearing an altogether new strain that the other had discerned first. Finally, finally, we stopped forcing names on impossible things. We lay together sharing nothing but one song as it changed without our consent into something different. We let go without letting go. We no longer remembered to count. At some point before morning, that fleeting chorus lulled us to sleep.
 
I remember nothing of this.
 
I remember everything.
 
Tonight, the thunder rolls in. The dog and I make it home before the rain begins.