Hard Road

family story

Our girl is now bigger
than popcorn ever was.
It used to be her feet found the world,
now its her eyes, her fingers, her mind.
She pulls me down to root-dirt,
she knows the power weeds have,
to devour our fears.

She and her brother still dress you with their lives
as they spread themselves across your makeshift bed.
You could be scraped
even more thin than you are now
and you would still be every bit as much Momma
as they have ever known.

Here is where we write our captured tadpoles into her,
here she will wear the new friend I made,
here the book Papa is reading to me.

He grew into
a hazard of stretched legs and gangled arms,
plying with his ruby-brown eyes,
his wanting to be cuddled to sleep,
launching a new martial attack,
or slicing away another year of my life
by leaping out from behind the fridge,
when I least expect it,

You crouch to comfort
in divots you find,
not hiding,
struggling to move
without hurt,
struggling to breath.

I remember when you
took my crappy bachelor apartment,
and made it feel like a home for beauty.
We had an eggplant kitchen,
and floor to ceiling drapes,
fragrances that meant something seductive,
and I had a real life,
for the first time in a long time.
I felt newly cultured
standing next to you,
even though I often
disappeared into the drapes.

Now I belong to our girl most of the time,
for comfort, for breakfast, for bristly nuzzling.
Today at the beach she found three friends from school.
After that she made a new friend at the library,
who dragged her through the isles as if
she belonged only to her,
instead of the enchanted mud legions
we know to be her kin.
She left saying “goodby friend” to everyone in the Library,
a chorus of goodbyes
followed her into the afternoon sun.

You are losing some
of your breathing places now,
shingles falling off a roof in gusts,
from time to time.

I talked to him weeks ago, again,
about the possibility,
the chance,
the maybe
of you not making it through this.
We both turned stiff
like men do,
I thought we wouldn’t
because he still kisses me before school,
and asks me to hold him
without hesitation.
We both looked certain and important,
he nodded wisely.
It felt like a lot of bullshit,
but it was a marker in this road
I had to make.

Everyone sees
the invisible wings you made grow in each of us.
Our kids glide to class in the morning,
finding currents few of us know much less rise to.
They will never forget how to fly,
you made sure of that.

When I go to the spirits now
there is a golden woman there,
she is probably an angel,
warm and welcoming,
someone I would have turned to readily
in the past.
Now I turn away from her,
I don’t want her messages
of warmth and welcome,
I know I’ll be able to visit you,
and you’ll visit us,
I also think I’ll shatter
if you go.

I asked our girl what she thought happened to us
when we died,
where do our spirits go?
“Everywhere…anywhere,” she said.
“Yes, thats right…and here still.”

I told her that you could
die from this illness,
she cried herself to sleep that night.
When she woke up the next day
she ran in, celebrating
“you’re alive, you’re alive!”
It was Christmas for her.
And then again when I got her
at school,
“is Momma gone?”
No honey, Momma is at home
waiting to see you.

I will be angry if you go.
I will refuse to cook for you for a while.
I will not clean up after myself in the bathroom.
I will drink beer so that I snore horribly loud.
I will say inappropriate things that would embarrass you,
and forget to brush their hair enough.

You used to get so pissed at me
when I’d go away for the weekend,
even for a day.
I didn’t realize way back then,
that it meant you really loved me.

For now,
let me hold you here,
inside of me,
curl up just here
and I’ll protect you from this little storm,
sing to you,
until the worst is over,
and you can heal,
or be free.

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