Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Goodnight Moon

On the coldest night
Under a gauzy moon
Lovers twine bodies,
Newborns draw breath,
Children wake startled,
Cats yowl, or lie in wait,
And the aged or infirm
Toss and turn, but for
A few who on this eve
Will shudder, heave,
And take their leave.

Scientists will fan out
Sheaves of evidence,
Will claim that Earth
Knows one moon, not
Two, nor four or more.
But poets may object:
Does the lovers' moon
Cast light soft and sweet,
Its aim just this: to flatter?
While the dying are lying
Beneath a moon sallow
Grey and cratered, one
Far more apt to flash
Its darkly hidden half?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Snow

I had a doll, once, and she kept her counsel. Her eyes gazed serene and indifferent. I told her my tales, such as they were, and she remained placid, unmoved and unmoving. Over time my frustrated tears -- just the ones all children tend to shed -- stained the pink flannel stretched taut over her stuffing. Still she did not blink.

Today it is snowing, and I am reminded of my doll. Snow covers over, smoothes out, hushes. But its is not the silence of absence. No, snow's silence is layered with us, our secrets, our dreams, our lives.


When my mother came to visit just after the birth of my second son, it started to snow and didn't stop for days. She stood by the window and gaped at the unfamiliar land, the relentless white, or at herself reflected in the panes. I cannot even guess. Her secrets are in Connecticut waters now, and the snow knows enough to cover them up when it can.

On the fourth day of her stay, she managed to tear herself from the vista. The newborn hadn't reeled her in. Only the snow. She said, "I want to go home."

"Now?," my husband queried, incredulous. "You don't want me here," she returned listlessly, playing the role that came most naturally to her: making, faking, excuses. He complied (giving the lie to her words, I suppose, because she looked terribly surprised to have been taken seriously -- I would have soothed, assuaged, contradicted) and drove her to the airport in the worst of the storm, nearly dying for his trouble.

I stayed home, cradling the good baby, the one who looked like me, the one who hadn't been worth his grandmother's time.

And I took my turn at the window, mesmerized by the snow, still falling, doing its work of quieting our lonely-hunter hearts, safekeeping them until the long spring melt.

written in December of 2012

Mother, Other

He still plays with my hair. Sitting next to me on the couch, his hand will wander over to my mess of long, thick hair and untangle it. It is an absent-minded gesture, one left over from young childhood, and comforting to both of us, I won't lie.

How long do I have?, I wonder as he does it, and find myself holding my breath. I cannot help but flash to his older brother, who at fifteen shrinks from my touch and looks horrified if he should so much as brush by me in the kitchen on his way to the fridge.

It is when we watch commercials that I am most acutely aware of my otherness in this family, of that extra X chromosome that in this phase of our lives matters so much.  An ad for a bra, or commercials about digestive or urinary tract problems and the salves that soothe them.  You know the ones.

My boys turn red, or mutter, "Oh, no...," or worse, "Eww..."

The commericals are terrible, but nonetheless I feel the urge to leap up and defend myself and my sex, if only to remind my children that despite anatomical differences and their divergent physiological and psychological sequelae, we are not Other, and never were.  There is nothing more divisive (and trite) than the oft-spouted claim that women are from Venus, men Mars.  Bah.

Defining women as Other leads us all down paths that are poorly lit, and dangerous for it.

Believe me, I do understand that there are good reasons for all the phases and stages that children pass through on the way to adulthood, just as I'm aware that soon enough my younger son will stop untangling my hair, and that some time later my older son will hug me, not a forced hug but a spontaneous and loving one.  And that hug, it will comfort both of us.

Until then, I wait, only now and then jumping off the sofa to defend a woman's right to age ungracefully, just as men do, and always have.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Of Broken Brains and Messy Chains

Background: My mind tends to tumble down hills. I have to race to catch up with it.

Story: I rear-ended a minivan the other week (that, at least, is fact - no embellishing to be done, thank you, brain). Inside the minivan, through chance, or not, as your perspective dictates, was a pregnant woman. Not comfortably pregnant, as in if-she-had-the-baby-today-it-would-arrive-squalling-and-healthy, but dicily so: twenty-five weeks pregnant. Her mother, wringing hands, informed me of this before leaning forward to her daughter in the front seat and peppering the girl with a spray of worried questions: "You did have your seatbelt on? Does anything hurt?"

Interjection: The minivan suffered no more than a dent and scrape to one corner of its bumper. I wasn't going fast. I'd even applied my brakes, only (obviously) not quickly enough.

Story, Redux: And yet her mother feared the loss of the baby. As did my God-forsaken brain, which was already, not five minutes after metal's contacting metal, broadcasting images to me of this girl cradling her stillborn child. We exchanged insurance information. No one thought to call the police. So I continued on my way to pick up my younger son at his school. Because one does. Continue.

Later my brother talked me down. Somehow he managed to recast the incident as one in which I was damn near heroic. What if, he speculated, the sun had sliced into someone else's eyes, someone not nearly as conscientious and attentive as I? Why, he continued, his voice growing more animated by the word, she might have lost that baby after all! I blinked. This way of shaping things happy is utterly foreign to me. Implausible, too, I felt, but if nothing else I was comforted by a brother's love for his sister on full display in those outlandish words.

Denouement: Of course the woman and her baby were just fine. This post would be a wholly different creature had it not been so.

Still, the accident seems only the latest instance of life's way of splitting the infinitive. There's always something intervening, and that thing is usually messy and complicated. At least it is for me. Welcome to my life. Welcome to my new blog.