Paper Moon

we wake to an odd familiarity,
more said these days than not,
single cup coffees brewing in succession as the morning begins its foreshadowed burn,
the dew’s moist breath hanging the tall oaks with fog,
and the air standing nearly still except for the slow flap of the robins’ wings lifting from the treetops

Ma sits at the old kitchen table,
sipping her coffee while leaning forward in her everyday chair,
telling stories as the sun rises,
some of them her favorites, echoes I’ve heard so many times before,
while others are surprises, custom cut-outs of time that needed somewhere to go,
so I listen, absorbing them through my skin,
nodding all the while

in the afternoon, I busy myself as she rests,
tidying and organizing and cleaning,
doing the shopping and the cooking,
all the things I hope will help ease the day-to-day business of living

at nightfall, we sit in lawn chairs on the back porch watching the squirrels scurry by,
a paper moon appearing faceless in the still cloudless sky,
stretches of blade grass sliced wide open by chain link and asphalt,
the air adorned with a constant, treaded hum,
as the trees lining the property bend to wear the shape of the welcomed wind

we talk about tomorrows and what-ifs or something funny one of the kids did recently,
but some of the time, we just sit

during the quiet times, I can no longer help but notice she seems so tired of arguing with the elements,
not quite fading into the backdrop, but slowly sinking, leaving in her wake small, concentric circles where the whole used to be

it is then that I realize the loneliness of a lifetime of parenting;
a future unknowable to a parent and a past unknowable to a child,
a reluctant knowing that time ticks by with a quickening urgency and you never want to let go

and in the pinky-red glow of the setting of the sun, I know:
soon, I’ll have to say goodbye

Not Ready

I’m not ready.

Hell, I don’t even know how to feel yet.
I vibrate from feeling to feeling so quickly,
gliding from one to the next, never really touching down.
I smile or laugh, but the remembrance swipes it off my face.
She whispers in my ear that she doesn’t want the smiles to be stolen away, but I love her.

I knew it was coming.
But, I’m not prepared to watch her suffer.
I’m not ready to let her go.

Guilty

I watch her move through the motions,
real emotion wearing a half-mask,
her eyes telling a story that’s never been spoken,
and probably never will,
seventy plus years of doing the next easiest thing,
not necessarily the next right one

it’s such a long road,
pebbles from our shared path littering my own,
and sometimes I feel guilty as hell for just being able to live my life;
there should be a word for this,
the way it feels to steal something that’s already yours

Mirror Image

Tucked tightly beneath her chin, her favorite blanket created a cocoon around her as she lay quietly on the couch, everyone else going about their business around her. Sitting on the floor in front of the tv, her two younger half-sisters bickered over who should have control of the remote. Her mother worked in the kitchen, cleaning up from a dinner she hadn’t been able to eat.

More than anything, she wished she was invisible right now, and yet, she couldn’t make herself be alone with her thoughts. 

No matter how hard she tried to divert her attention from the hurt, she could not. It bubbled and boiled beneath her skin. It was sludge, heavy through her veins and a pulsing pressure behind her eyes, threatening release. It sat like a boulder on her chest, making it impossible to breathe deeply. She was afraid if she tried, she might burst.

She didn’t know what to do. How to feel. How to move. Her feelings were so huge and twisted, it seemed as if she’d never escape them. She had no idea how to go about a day without the weight of it pulling every thought to the pit of her stomach, into the darkness.

I wish I didn’t feel anything at all.

She’d hurt her boyfriend, Doug, and she felt terrible. Worse than terrible. It was revolting. But it was even bigger than the immediate hurt; it was much deeper than that.

She’d done something really stupid, sleeping with that other guy, and the guilt had forced her to tell Doug the truth. Well, mostly. The ugliness and shame had kept her from telling him the whole story. And the fear.

She tried really hard not to think about the whole story, because when she did, the loathing was so intense she could taste it’s metallic tang and smell it’s charred blackness. The fear would burn and churn in her stomach until she could feel the sting of bile in the back of her throat. The worst part was, it wasn’t even the first time. She’d done it before and let the guilt liquefy her insides all this time.

I’m just like her. 

It was her biggest fear. She could not let herself be just like her mother.

Her mother had been married five times already, and the sixth would no doubt be soon. They’d moved in and out, and in and out. All of them were men who were not worthy of her mother’s love, none who treated her mother with respect. Men who took. Who hurt. And it seemed as if her mother searched for carbon copies, over and over, leaving the good ones in her wake. She cheated on every one, and always seemed to be looking for a plan B. And it often felt like she and her sisters were just along for the ride, and the ride had no breaks.

How on earth will I ever be able to outrun that? Look what I’ve already done, and I’m only 17.

It took her by complete surprise when her mother knelt down next to the couch and stroked her hair. It was uncharacteristic; she was not cold, but she was also not really a huggy-touchy type. Vulnerability wasn’t in her wheelhouse.

“Are you going to be okay,” her mother asked, making eye contact.

“I don’t want to end up like you,” she replied, through quivering lips and involuntary tears while maintaining eye contact, the hurt ans fear vibrating softly in each word. She couldn’t believe she’d said it aloud, but it had been sitting right there, on the tip of her tongue, for so very long. And maybe, just maybe, her mother might understand. Maybe she could help. Maybe it would help.

But, no other words passed between them. No words were needed; her mother’s eyes had replied.

Hiding tears of her own, her mother stood and walked away.

-image credit studiojoslizen, found via Pinterest; edited older post

Forest

‘what happened to the forest?’, she asks,
and I tell her how I was never a sapling,
how the canopy was too dense for far too long,
that I now flourish in the splintering of old wood

but what I cannot tell her,
what my heart fractures to know,
is that I see some of my wicked splinters
were seedlings which now flourish in her

-image via Pixabay

My Child

my child,
here you are

some will tell you your whole life is ahead of you,
they’ll draw you a map and tell you how to best reach that life,
and that may very well help lead you to some kind of fulfillment

but I won’t say those things to you –
your whole life is right now,
it’s in every moment you grasp with both hands and hold close,
it’s in every interaction,
every thought, both light and dark,
in every turbulent feeling

I won’t say those things to you,
because I’ve been gifted with all the best moments,
with witnessing you grow,
and watching you blossom,
while I grasped those moments to forever hold them close

I won’t say those things to you,
my child –
I see you grasping moments,
and I trust in YOU

I know you’ll find your own way

-image via Pixabay