Art, Children, Friends

Love before Love

Valentine's Soup

Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.

– Elie Wiesel

Bug creeps out of his bed and tiptoes into my room. “Mommy, I made twenty-eight bowls!” His eyes are far too bright for this ungodly hour. For the third time, I walk him back to his room and perch next to him on the bed. He has been drawing a Valentine’s Day picture. The pink and red markers are running to chalky streaks.

“You know it’s well past time for sleep, buddy.”

“I know, but see?” He starts to color in the legs of the lone person on the page, already forgetting why he called me in. Continue reading “Love before Love”

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With Drawn

Gather
Rose McLarney

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.
 

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Propagation

It creeps down the side
of the credenza, spilling onto the shelves below
before climbing again, gaining purchase
in minute crevices where paint
appearing flat
is not.

The vine spawns more
vines, fat leaves
unfurling from a ration of soil
I dumped in the pot
a year ago.
I have trimmed it back
twice, down to the nubs,
sure if I allowed it to grow unfettered
it would burst its seams
and shrivel
in this dim office
cut by a narrow fraction of glass
facing north.

Yet it keeps coming back.
Curling around corners, heedless
of borders, it feeds off that old handful of dirt,
flaunting its green like the Amazon
canopy, thirsting for nothing
but sips from the tap.
Barring my scissors,
it would carpet the floors
drape the walls
drip from the ceiling
and steal down the back of my chair
until it could slip
inside my collar, whispering
against my throat
its secret
for licking at nothing
and still swelling
with a bellyful
of yes.