Mother’s Day 2016
When you wake up how are you changed
little boy What ropes and pulleys are now joined
in your mind and swaying For each new ability
a new rung on your inner monkey bars Your voice
which comes spilling out of your smile Your small
smile And later your grin The anemones that your hands
become fingers curling in and blooming out How must
it feel when suddenly movement or sensations are newly
available to you An unfamiliar room you find yourself in
that you yourself are building This is why children
love blocks Love tinker toys Love joining two hard bits
that seem unchanging to make a changed third thing
Baby if you will build I will bake you the warm bricks
and hand them to you like cupcakes Bang the world’s pieces
together sweetie Slam your eyelashes up and down
Let your drawbridge mouth release horns and horses
and also mandolin-strumming pacifists who will never
hold a sword
The Report Card
She’s failing Biology
and I can’t help feeling there’s some poetic justice
in that F, this child whose biology failed her
the day her biological mother
placed her in my arms.
She’s the anti-biology child
and I’m the not-natural mother.
Language, too, fails us.
She lies down beside me,
her long hair hiding her face,
her breath warming my arm.
She wants me to say it’s okay,
F or no F. Fifteen years ago
she was the yawning baby
I bathed in the hospital nursery
and swaddled in a pink blanket.
I didn’t give birth to her, not with my body,
but I witnessed the flutter
of her eyelids like mothwings,
the bow of her mouth.
Rain begins and through the open window
we hear it first in the leaves
of the trees and then as it patters
against the driveway. We hear frogs.
The smell of blossoms drifts over us.
“When will this end,” she says
and though I know she means something like
homework or high school,
I cup my hand over the crown of her head
as I did when she was an infant,
when the tender fontanel
made her seem so vulnerable,
made me so ache with love for her.
How could I say,
that it was just more life,
that we want it to go on and on?
When you have the mother who plays
the same Chopin étude on the piano
over and over until it is perfect
as a Champagne bubble ascending
a crystal goblet, that is different
than when you have the mother who thinks
she is Callas and sings in her bedroom all day,
never goes outside, throws jars and bottles
at the door when the bell rings. Different
than the mother who lives in the house in between
these two, who is fat, whose hair is corkscrews,
whose hands are raw with wind and soap
as she pins white sheets on the line,
smiles at the clouds and tells you
they are in the shapes of rabbits today.
Later, she will take down the sheets, frozen
stiff as cardboard, smooth them warm and soft
against her belly, call you to help her fold, in half
in half again, a dance, until there is a pile
in the basket that she lifts onto her hip,
carries into the house as if it holds a baby
she found hidden under a bush.
A Yet Closed System Subsides
Didn’t use them. Couldn’t use them. Tried.
Did try. In-between.
Each ovary is about the size of an almond.
To get hot on time, drink less wine, etc.
Ovarian risk factors: never pregnant—
Wasn’t sexless. Did as told:
squared my hips, raised my thighs.
Symptoms: a heavy feeling in the pelvis.
Hung there for a lifetime, gripping my toes,
in a grimly determined happy baby pose.
Your health care team can help you
Alas, old wives . . . nothing
waiting in the wings.
with the following problem: sadness.
“I’m a numbers man,” my uncle said
when the doctor revealed that his sister
had a one percent chance of surviving,
her lungs scarred and hardened, the tender
pink walls an impermeable meat.
“One out of one hundred isn’t so bad.”
He knew this
because he was a physicist.
the doctors said, pointing
to the dozen thick tubes piercing
her stomach, limbs, throat,
explaining how bright
beams of pain
can break through the densest
cloud cover of drugs.
What were the odds that he would
have to make this decision?
About whether to bet it all
on a losing hand,
pretend that this woman,
her collapsed body inflated
by machines, her face
an uncooked dough
would somehow awaken,
become human again,
a princess released
from a spell?
This was mine,
her only child, next of kin
the one she left years ago
when she realized she couldn’t
take care of herself or a kid.
I stood by her bed
and counted the times her chest
rose and fell,
remembering how it felt
to say goodbye to someone
who was already gone.
Making a Bed
Making up my daughter’s bed
with sheets fresh from the dryer,
I’m taken by a thankfulness
both profound and daily,
ordinary as the grace said over a bowl of soup,
or the every-night prayer of a child,
Now I lay me down to sleep.
Not just for food or sleep,
but for this, too, I want to give thanks,
for this simple act
of preparation, for all it is made of,
for the makers of sheets
and mattresses and dryers and bedframes.
I’m not sure where it has come from,
this feeling, but this morning
making this bed needs to be more
than just another chore checked off
the to-do list. So I give thanks for my daughter,
who will be home this weekend,
and for my mother, who taught me
to make a bed, whose daily repetitions
of all homely work
made me feel cared for.
I give thanks for my hands,
for my shoulders, and arms, and hips,
for my lower back, which is a little achy
just now. I give thanks
for the work of tugging the sheets
to smooth out the wrinkles, for the work
of tucking in the bottom and sides
to make it snug. I pull up the cover
and I give thanks for the pillows
as I plump them and place them
at the head of the bed, as I imagine
my daughter lying down here.
I give thanks for all that we take for granted,
for my own bed, and nightfall,
and for the labor that makes sleep sweet.
You can see more of Angelica Paez’s glorious collages at her website and in her Artist Watch feature here at Escape Into Life, so please click those links below. Click on each poet’s name to see more of her work here at EIL! Happy Mother’s Day from Escape Into Life.
And please also visit our previous Mother’s Day features for more wonderful and unusual poetry about mothers.