Saturday, December 15, 2012

Three Poems: December 15, 2012


 

The Swan


On the first night my baby was not in my body
she lay in a plastic basinet next to me in my room.
Bundled, she looked like a sweet date. I lay in
the pale lit room and I traced her features with my
eyes, sketching her in my memory, recognizing
that this is what it means to make a person; it will
be someone you’ve never seen before and would
change into anything to protect. I reached my hand to
the plastic’s rim and lay it gently on her chest, through
the blanket, through the hours that would complete
her first rotation of the sun. I understood from now
on I would be in direct competition with every harm
that lives in the world. I would grow great wings
invisible to any but her and me, and I would cover
her when something terrible neared and I would hiss.
The clock on the wall also became something more
real to me. Until then, I had been waiting for her to
come. Now every second was another of her movements
away from my body, away from my blood which I
could control what fed her, what reached her.
Nine, now. Different from me in ways I never would have
expected. A scientist to my artist. As well, a keeper
of her own worlds, always delighted when someone
accepts her for who she is. And every day I drop her
off at school, I watch her confidence, her knowing of
which bell means what class or order, a familiarity with
a classmate who opens her door. Her asymmetrical
haircut, which she wanted, is an expression of who
she is. Everything has been more real she arrived,
every danger, every joy, which is why when you see her
you will also see the single white feather I have tucked
into the back pocket of her fashion jeans, why, when you
speak to her, you always feel something fierce nearby,
great wings, a shadow, a spell I re-hiss every damn day.







Four, Five

When she was four months, one day,
I could sit her up, and she would stay that way
a few seconds. Then by the end of the day
she could stay that way and just stay. On her face: a smile
that defied gravity.

The developments of her life
have become less defined now. She long-
divides and works multiples of fourteen.
She asks a boy to a dance that's four months away.
When he rebuffs, she holds the pain until she sees me
and asks me what to do with it.
Her lower lip moves backward between her teeth
when she’s being brave. Her emotions
have merged with the moon and she has tides.

I think back to when she was four, five,
I could still pick her up so easily
and swung her over my shoulders when we danced. Mornings, 
she would ask me to carry her from her bed to the playroom
not because she was lazy she said but because
she loved to be held.
She would still ask this if she wasn’t so tall
and has learned to help me in this world we share,
we make together, to pull
something that I suppose is her "own weight" that was
even when I could hold all of her in one arm,
something incalculable to me,
something great enough to knock me over.


*

When She Isn’t In This House


She’s on a playdate or at her father’s house.
She’s still at school or at a piano lesson.
She’s sitting between Ceci and Gracie at after-school
watching a movie involving chipmunks in shirts
but no pants, which bothers me, and we joke.
She’s at her grandmother’s, my mother’s, loving
being there as I loved being at my grandmother's.
She's eating food she won’t eat when I make it.
She’s decorating the Tree.
She’s spending the night at Angelina’s house where older 
siblings teach her about being cool.
She is at a soccer game I had to miss because I have
work to do and will regret choosing when she’s grown.
She’s in the garden discovering something about
rhododendrons.
She's telling a story to the trees.
She’s on a hike with Poppy.
She's at daycamp playing in a waterfall.

The wall by the kitchen
bears the marks of every inch she’s grown since
she could stand, including the time
she cheated and just reached and made a mark.
She'll reach that height by Spring.

There's a Hello Kitty! washcloth sits by her sink 
with a Spongebob tube of toothpaste she dislikes the taste of. 
There are mermaids in the bathtub.
There's a seven-foot high giraffe she’s cut the eyelashes of in her bedroom.
It's there because I wanted something enormous in her life,
something bigger than the two of us,
something that quiet and able to see things far off coming.

She’s on the schoolbus being brave against a boy who says 
mean things to her but insists she can handle.
She’s at the mall with a friend and friend’s mother
building teddy bears out of fluff and red silk heart.
Soon she’ll bring it home and add it
to the collection of non-living living things,
all with eyes wide, unclosing, in her room.