Not all children are poets

Not at all children are poets, but some are.

I remember my four-year old saying, with gravelly complaint and

consternation as we rounded the last lap of tract homes from the 

neighborhood park, “It feels like there’s an elephant in my shoe.”

Those days, I was not a poet myself, so I simply took off her shoe

to see what was the matter, what was in there, a rock or a sock?

Neither of those could possibly be the size or weight of an elephant

but I skipped right over the poetry and assumed the play out of it:

She just meant that something was slowing down her gait, some

obstruction that was making her walk like an elephant, and that

full explanation did not even articulate in my mind, just swallowed

up in the patching up holes and problems, as parents are wont to do.

 

And then those hours of “Mother Goose” nursery rhymes that 

pleased and placated my tiny joy-riding song and wordsters who

pleaded, “Again” after we’d go through the entire night’s rhymes read

before bed time, and all I could think was, “What does this mean, 

‘hickory dickory dock’, mice, clocks and ‘Little Jack Horner’s plum’, 

dishes eloping with spoons and cracked “Humpty” eggs that garnered

so much respect that all the king’s horses and men came to its aid?”

My mind drifted as I sang-sung the words that were impossible to

read plainly, prosaically–meter forced down the reader’s tongue and 

bones–through history, fairy tales and folktales, lore of

cultures and small pockets of rural societies past when these words, 

rules and references made sense, all the while losing the music that 

kept my poetettes lulled to the opiate rhythms of story-song silliness.

 

Only when I noticed their wobbling knees and fatty little fingers 

opening and closing like metronomes to music I forgot to hear, the

pulse of primal iambs that beat like limbic hearts, laughter-ful, wordless 

sense, even while my lips, breath, voice, tongue and ears decoded and 

reproduced the text just as it was meant to be read–filled with 

drama, pause, whole notes and half notes, lento and allegro, 

ha-ha! loud and sh-sh soft as we three piggies word-danced, they

with their poet souls and me with my mimed mastery of lines.

For No Apparent Reason

Like any other morning, I wake up to muffled door rattles or slams,

And the crystal plea of a squeezed bladder–release, sweet release.

The blinds drawn and the clock radio dead for a few years now, I reach

For my phone to check the time: the usual 6:38 a.m. flashes retinally.

Taking inventory, I listen for a high schooler soon to fly out the door,

Perhaps her older sister stirring in poor sleep or kicking the disruptive

Cat out the door to purr in someone else’s ears, perturbations unleashed

For those battling anxiety and depression: IBS, TBI, PMS and US politics.

 
Challenging gravity’s rest, I aright myself and further assess the day’s 

Bone placement as they all align, sink and press in allotted pegs, dips

And slots, and all measure properly without incident or undue notice.

My body has not joined in some stealth overnight rebellion for unpaid

Dues or sins of my youth just yet, and I take my first steps into morning.

Upright, leaning into space opening up to the bathroom door a mere six

Steps from my launch, I begin to feel it: the heaviness, not in step or 

Weight, but an anchor-dragging shadow that resists verticality from

Scalp to balls of the feet, slowing the advancing doorway  to a shuffle.
 

I know I’m already late, but the excursion’s effort, to pee and back, 

Begs my re-bedding just for a hair’s breadth of a moment, I bargain.

Soon, the phone or entry door will vibrate with his questioning call or 

Needy knuckles, reminding me that it’s time for his intravenous push 

And his diabetes blood check and his arm wrap for his shower and his 

Pill box re-filling as it is Monday: the array of multi-colored, go-gemlets 

Shaped like candy paper dots or pez ovals popped out of a clown mouth.

The anchor widens and grows tentacles, linking chain to arms and chest,

Pulling down shoulders and the corners of eyes and lips no breath can re-

Vive, no gratitude check can lighten and release like an emptied bladder.
 

I glance out the now-opened blinds at the orange clusters in threes and 

Fours, heavy with juice, hanging impossibly high at the thinnest branches

At the top, mightily fighting, irresistibly drawn downward while floating

The resistance between soaring, maintaining and falling: mass, space and

Time–all illusion, as is this overwhelming dread and angst that will dry,

Crumble and dust, blown into an afternoon breeze that kicks up after June

Grey dewy mornings drip, clear and stiffen to bolster tender leaves against

The love, need, hate, and anger over their circling heads tethered to a sun,    

The same star that guides ships, unanchored, daylight drifting or swiftly 

coursing waters tumultuous and calm to destinations charted yet unknown.

Another rudder-less morning steering me blindly, I have survived the first

Passage and make my way to the door, enjoying the last five, quiet seconds

Before the physical proof meets the prescient mood, while nothing is wrong. 

 

  

Pre-Mother’s Day

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My children are leaving,
Attending a birthday party
For the evening while their
Father and I dine on wine
By heating lamp on a blue-
Awning’d patio across town.

I wish them a fine evening
And they do likewise for me,
An amicable arrangement, but
I mourn the loveliness of us,
We four of the indominatable
Good middle class’ right luck.

When we were knitted kin, we
All in a bunch, toe to toes
Seated on couches watching
Princesses and Bambi, Barney
And doggies on two leashes
Herding babies on front lawns.

I picture them gone and grown,
Harvesting their own with seeds
Sown before knowing themselves,
Remnants of history forwarded
To Mother’s Days gushing love
Walking out the door waving bye.

Cruel witness to our days’ ends
My own mother sits motionless
Waiting for doors opening wide
Ready for her entry’s surrender
While nibbling-choking pear bits
Sucking air in to wind it down.

Stretches not cycles mark time
Willing us expand and contract
As the earth spins us like dice
Numbers arising lucky and lost
Tossed like mystery dryer socks
Ever seeking our missing halves.

Number 36

  
Tonight I raise a glass to you my long time mate on our 36th.

The reels we’ve spun can replay for decades to come, still

If we have them, for the lottery winnings pile in daily, you,

Me and this old house, decaying like two old yard cats, long

After the children have sought their own, riches strewn to 

The wind of fates, our progeny spinning their own records.

So let us look in the eyes of cheer and sound a resounding 

Reidel clink to another year’s pantomime time bound 37th

(Hurry home; the Insignia’s in the cooler heavy-breathing).

 

“An Open Letter to My Ex-Husband’s New Girlfriend”

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A refreshingly mature, well-composed letter that reads like a how-to manual in its full cognizance of the nuanced trials that await complex family dynamics post-divorce with children, Tina Plantamura’s open letter to the newcomer to her expanding family (she is remarried) is sensible, sensitive and rational. One passage stands out as particularly the hallmark of all three aforementioned adjectives:

This might sound weird, but I’m so excited about you. My sons will see a side of their father that they don’t even know they missed. They’ll witness the kind of happiness that blooms from the excitement, joy and mystery that comes with a new relationship. They’ll see their father beaming with hope. They’ll hear him laugh (too much and too loud, as they’ve reported to us) and speak with a new charm in his voice. And because they love and admire him, all of these things will make them happier, too.

A healthier response about relationship healing and moving on I have never seen in over twenty years of divorces I’ve navigated; although, I did not often get to see the aftermath, the farther down the road recovery phase of my clients. Most divorces with new significant others, especially those who were part of the divorce causes–and there are always multiple causes–were complicated by yet another person’s agenda and sensibilities to consider. Generally, the path from conclusion to fresh start was far more difficult with outsiders to the divorcing family.

While Plantamura is optimistic about the relationship her sons will develop with the addressee of this letter and attempts to reassure her that the connection she and her ex (the new boyfriend) have is solely the children, both of those emotional and potentially volatile components of the newly emerging “family” are often insurmountably difficult to surrender.

Most mothers jealously guard their possessory interests in their children, emotional, behavioral, and instructional, interests that could easily be threatened by an outsider/insider mothering figure. For instance, being their father’s girlfriend, she inevitably will require, may even demand, a modicum of respect from her lover’s children. She may imagine a future with this family and want to establish and ensure her place as adult and potential permanent roommate. If she lives with him even part time, that demand may be even more insistent. And the longer the relationship persists, the likelier the intrusion on the mother’s coveted role as advisor, consoler, and role model. Disagreements are likely to surface.

Also, the connection two people have with respect to their children is unique, something the girlfriend will never have regarding those children who affect her life, individually and with her husband. Jealousy and friction are foreseeable no matter how warm the welcome and sincere the assurance and encouragement by an ex.

All in all, skepticism aside, I enjoyed the idyllic embrace of this letter and even if only a stated intention of good will and hope, it serves as inspiration for those willing to accept responsibility for raising healthy children as well as for their own happiness.