A True Story

But this didn’t have to happen today.
You could set it in any time, and it
would still work just fine. No one
would know that it had been lifted
and set back down, the screaming
squirrel in the tree. When did
squirrels first appear? And trees?
When did yellow leaves and green
first appear together, hanging in
the gray sky that has seen it all,
and then seen it all again? How long
have there been mothers with two
children, older girl and younger boy,
and the boy suddenly wants to know
why only mothers have babies? And
how long have those mothers heard
themselves saying that same stupid
thing about the special seed that
helps the baby get started
? And how
many little boys have seemed to feel
better then, knowing their bodies
aren’t totally fruitless, without
life-giving magic? This could happen
any time when there’s been a scooter
and some Halloween candy, a day off
from school, a season just on the edge
of turning into something else completely.

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For the PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 11. Prompt: a timely poem or a timeless one.

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Eyeglasses and Jazz Shoes

That’s what it feels like: I can’t find
enough dental floss for a dream of
jigsaw puzzles, and the raft of paper
won’t keep me afloat until I find all
my dollar bills. I have to return

eyeglasses and jazz shoes, send
a collection of bow ties. These
are days when someone wants
to take pictures of my children
and then, if I pay more, remove

my children’s imperfections
and write their names on them
(the pictures) so I don’t forget
who they are, the one who
looked like a rubber alien and

the other one who looked like
a kitten or my father. Sometimes
I forget the song while I’m still
singing it. Sometimes, you know,
I need all the help I can get.

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A Pretty Nice Way of Living

Pooky girl slurps her hot chocolate
with marshmallows. An apple and
some orange juice took too long
yesterday, she says; hot chocolate
and marshmallows are quicker,
and then she can pretend
she’s drinking coffee.

At the garden, she helped me
unkink the hose while telling me
how she told everyone in her class
that her mom writes poems and just
got some published, and one kid said
maybe his mom had read my poems,
and she said, Well, has she ever heard
of Marilyn Cavicchia? And the kid
said, That sounds familiar.

There’s fiction is this somewhere,
but it all feels true.

The Algonquin Indians have
a pretty nice way of living,
she says. I probably have
more than a thousand
hairs on my head.

 

 

If it’s Tuesday p.m., which it is here now, be sure to check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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For J

When J was growing up, he had a mother.
When J was two and he danced in the living room,
in his diaper, to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”—when he
dropped down low so the diaper skimmed the floor,
and then he stopped, waiting for applause—
his mother took note. (How could she not?)
When J was three and he peeked in the window
of his sister B’s ballet class, when he said he would
like to take ballet, too, J’s mother asked around
and found that in their neighborhood, ballet was
mostly a safe and OK thing for boys. There were
several boys in B’s spring recital, so J’s mother
began to dream, and she signed J up in the fall.
Then, J’s mother and his sister B would peek at J
in the window when B was on the way to her class.
It is true that J would barrel around on his muscly
sausage legs and crash to the floor, and make faces
in the mirror, and pester all the girls. But it is also true
that J was often up on his toes, spinning, moving
differently from in his everyday life—and that many
of the girls seemed to enjoy his pestering. When people
commented here and there about whether ballet was
really an acceptable thing for boys to do—for J to do—
J’s mother firmly shut them down. What about
Baryshnikov?, said J’s mother. And, It takes a lot
of muscle to lift those ballerinas. J’s mother was glad
she had chosen J’s father so well: a large, masculine,
kindhearted man who never doubted that J should
take ballet, and who was even less open to comments
about it than J’s mother was. Before the next recital,
J and B’s mother chose pale pink roses for B and
fire-tinged roses for J. Two children dancing.
Two rose bouquets. J and B’s father held the
bouquets as their mother took pictures, and as
people in the audience said, “Awwww” at the sight
of little blond J in his black tights and ballet slippers,
white T-shirt and orange vest. One lucky girl linked arms
with J and danced with him onstage while the other girls
danced with each other. At the end, J looked straight up,
dazzled by the lights. As the other, older groups danced,
J’s mother took note of all the boys, their roles, what might
lie ahead for J. That’s as far as J’s mother can dream
this particular dream. She knows that dance can be cruel,
and that dancers, even boy ones, sometimes end up broken.
She knows this is folly, anyway, projecting a future that
might not work out, that might not even be wanted,
after all. She’ll just say this: When J is all grown up,
he’ll have a mother—J’s mother hopes—
and she’ll love him no matter what he does.

 

 

 

 

Check out Open Link Night at dVerse Poets!

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Maybe the Rosemary

Time to write about religion now,
after buying bananas and escarole,
after passing up a rosemary plant
that was blooming, which I have
never seen, which sent me on a
whole series of associations
(gardens, my mother, whose name
was Rosemary; she was a pilgrim
in the garden, always a transplant
and always seeking something—
blooming vigor, a pleasant surprise
brought about by her own two hands:
Oops! Look at that—this thing I have
tended, not even knowing for sure what
it was, is now exploding in splendor.)
But anyway, I was buying onions
and carrots, basil and bread,
showing Betty, my daughter,
how the eggs we buy are cage free,
certified humane. I was cringing
at my ostentatiousness, how I
justify myself out loud, and my
children were fighting, mainly
Joseph, my son, relentlessly
needling Betty because he is
smaller and knows he is smaller.
They both got cookies anyway,
which I can’t justify except that
being smaller can be difficult,
and sometimes I am too tired
to mete out life lessons, so I
give out cookies freely and
allow cookies to be given.
Now I think maybe I’ll buy
that rosemary plant someday,
for a friend of mine who just
turned 50 and who watched
our goldfish this weekend
so he wouldn’t die, which
he likely wouldn’t have done
in three days’ time, but I felt
better with some eyes on him,
and precise instructions on
when to drop in his shelled peas,
cucumber slices. Maybe the
rosemary would grow on her deck
all summer, and she’d think of me—
perhaps even my mother, whom
she never met—each time she
stepped out to snip a sprig here
and there. Now I have to write
about what it is that I have faith in.
It’s everything I just told you, though
I’d like to add a number of things:
mainly James, my husband, across
from me at the table, and the birds
outside, singing in the gray.

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets (aka “my Tuesday thing”).

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In the Beginning, There Was

My children talk about what the beginning
of the world looked like. It was pink, says
my son, with total certainty, almost as if
he remembers the beginning of his world,
which was not the beginning of mine,
but close: If we’re talking billions of years,
then what are my 35 before he was born?
Is it possible that at age four, he can
still hold the memory? I’ve heard that
we all retain everything we’ve ever
experienced, that we only forget
because so many things are layered
over, and perhaps because to remember
so much would be unbearable, even
immobilizing. At seven, my daughter
is shedding memory so rapidly that
preschool, which once seemed
indelible—which only ended
three years ago—is now mostly
gone. This is necessary, I know:
new experiences overlapping,
overtaking, replacing the old.
But if my son could remember
far enough, beyond pink beginnings,
further back even than his dividing cells,
those of all his human relatives, past
primates, further back than mammals,
past an egg tooth and a leathery shell,
beyond a pond somewhere—the
simplest beginning of the simplest
creature—beyond all that, back
and back to atoms, and past that,
all the way to nothing, would he have
an answer? Would he see the divine,
the void, the ways in which the two
are one and the same? But this is all
too cosmic. I wanted to say a true thing,
and somehow I ended up at imaginary
space dust. As if flesh is not enough.
Flesh. Sunlight. Water. Love.

Enough.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets. Please check out the many other fine poets who link there every Tuesday p.m.!

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Book of Myths

Over the canned announcements on the train,
she continues to tell me about the birth of Titans,
how Cronus swallowed his own babies, and how
you would think the world began with Zeus,
but he was once a baby, and the world began
instead with Gaea, Mother Earth. I wanted
to tell her that it’s all myth—not just those
ancient stories, but others, too:

the patient turtle that holds us upright,
we people made of clay and rib. So many
ways to organize a world. So many things
to understand, however we can.

Left unfinished is any idea of how
to tell her our myths, too, the ones
I spent Sundays learning, week by week,
craft by craft. Apostles’ boats of Ivory
soap, woven willow twigs signifying
something (baskets, perhaps, for loaves
and fishes?). It’s different when
the myths are still living, still asking
to be believed, when there is
a prickle you can’t deny

before you throw away the Bible tract,
when the church bells sing a song
you still remember.

Someday, I want to give her
these things, too:  a giant boat,
a pillar of salt, a god-man-ghost
leaping, unseen but recognized,

welcomed.

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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