All the Poets

The first two poems I learned as a child were about motherhood. This was before I learned to read and the poems were on the walls of my mother’s kitchen. Someone read them to me and I memorized them. I would recite them to myself and pretend that I could read, just like I would pretend I was a mother.

Both poems were about being grateful for your children despite the mess and sorrow they bring into life. I remembered them last night as I laid on the couch and cried, my poor husband doing his best to comfort me, just kissing my wet face, not knowing what to say. I’m sure he was thinking, well they told me women could be like this…

The other day the old bag-man at the grocery store reached out and touched me and blessed me in Jesus name. He and his wife had had two babies 16 months apart. I’m not the sort of person who minds being touched or minds, in general, people touching my children, especially to bless them. I am familiar enough with the Lord to know that his blessing often makes us uncomfortable. Last night I was wondering, even, if my tears were the result of this man’s prayers.

For I was so uncomfortable. There was a foot or an elbow or something jabbed into a tender organ. I was suddenly afraid of labor. I was afraid of the newborn days, so exhausting, so raw and fragile. But mostly I was crying because that evening Helen, who usually plays in the shower, just held onto my bare legs and pressed her face into my thighs, hugging me tight. I was crying for the momentariness of that moment—how soon it will be just a vague memory in an old woman’s mind! And she all grown-up. Then I was crying because perhaps I was assuming too much. Perhaps I, even we, would die tomorrow. Perhaps these precious toddler days with my daughter are the end of what He plans to give me in this life.

She had spent the morning smelling the last of the fall roses in the garden. Soon they will be spent and gone, even in memory, and so will we— even Helen, so young and fresh and beautiful. Her life, too, is a vapor.

I went to sleep, at peace with feeling unresolved, just exhausted, and woke up early to see my husband off. My grandfather sometimes would sit in his recliner and listen to his favorite songs and cry. This made him feel better.

In the dark quiet of the house, I found the poems my friend, Rachel Joy Welcher, sent me and read through them again. I cried fresh morning tears into my coffee, and was deeply comforted. Her words gave place to my feelings, and made me feel more than I was willing to all by myself. I know I will turn to these poems again and again, will write them on the walls of my house.

My husband told me to make a list before he left, and he meant of things he needed to do.

I made a list…

Things that make me uncomfortable:

The strong baby boy of thirty-three weeks

The brevity of life

The blessing of strangers

Things that bring me joy:

Chubby cheeks pressed into my wet thighs

Scratchy face pressed into my wet face

All the poets I have known

P.S. You can order Rachel’s new poetry book here: Sometimes Women Lie About Being Okay

And you should!

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