Friday, May 15 – A mother contemplates her daughter
“I want her to think of this as a connection rather
than a severing . . . “
Some years ago, I sent several of my niece Terri’s compelling poem-stories about her grandmother (my mother died in October 2005 at 102 years) to a richly gifted poet, asking what he thought of Terri’s writing. He wrote back with the highest praise I can imagine for describing a poet’s language.
“She writes with ‘flint-hard’ word choices.”
Terri’s recent poem strikes me the same way; how deep and deftly can a poet’s word choices reach?
Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.
Have a blest weekend,
My daughter is practicing.
Every minute of every waking hour
she remains consistent, committed.
I can see her improving,
day after day of concentrated attention-
every detail accounted for.
When we walk she slows her steps
to let the world know with certainty
that she is not walking with me.
That there is no one else
wandering the sage, makes it clear that I
am the target of her silent discourse.
When I pause to show her a centipede
swarming the dirt, or an anthill
cratering the path, she speeds past until,
at the same set distance as before, she walks,
but not with me.
Back in the house she shifts
her shoulder from beneath my hand, and in the evening,
when I settle on the end of the couch where she’s sprawled,
she moves to a chair.
The breakfasts I make for her harden
until, dry and discolored, I scrape what remains
into the trash. And when I ask “What’s wrong?”
she says “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I’ll try,” I say.
Please let me try.
She doesn’t say, “I won’t”
but that’s what I hear
as she shrugs and turns away.
Until I realize that she is trying.
Trying as hard as she can
and improving with each deliberate effort,
honing an expertise in rebuke and hatred.
And, as when she was six and constantly calling “Watch me, mama!”
she’s working to make sure I notice.
I want to think of this as a connection rather
than a severing. But as she excels
day after practiced day, I worry she will become so skilled
at bearing grudges
that she’ll have no room to master anything else.
And I wonder
if I am her first true heartbreak
as she is mine.