Poems & Essays

19 Aug


General/Column No Response

It was a day just like this, temperate
and clear, I stood on the porch 
that place of transient thoughts
and watched them,
filled with their fresh cells,
flit in the yard, that small plot of earth
where they moved this way
and that. Memory has shuffled
the enormous deck of days
and placed this one on top
and made the grass a brilliant peacock green, 
and the red azaleas so carnal you 
can almost hear them
fainting. It is obviously spring,
that much I know, a day where a generation ago 
bleached sheets on a clothesline would scoop up the wind,
that thwapping sound of diligence, the
invisible labor of women,
and I wonder how this day 
could have ended
with a grown woman in tears, surely
an embarrassment now, but so serious then as I crossed the high wire
 between dusk
and dinner, bath and bed, 
time when the universe
would fold in upon the house
and crumble in a great undoing—
all the competence and order
that I craved seemed a galaxy away, just
out of reach, my small hand,
like so many things—
but maybe I might divine instruction
for I was the certain the chaos out there
was missing its mate
as it was here with me
and my babies, so atomic and fierce
at the end of the day, all their fine wires
crossed in a neurologic schism—
I would listen for a frequency
that might guide me, motherless I
was missing the elders,
like those bosomy women 
in Bruegel’s painting,
dancing in the town square
who might galvanize,
pick goldenrod, or maybe bake
bread. The second hand 
would hurry itself along
while the minute hand would stick,
as I would tender through the minefield
of tiny eruptions, merge
with the piles of things that didn’t really belong anymore 
to anything really
like a foreshadowing
of one of those yard sales of sad artifacts,
rusty things, and not even 
the full attention of the sun 
could make this anything but sad, that suddenly all those hours
and all those days, and all that oxygen
has vaporized—
like the day I fed Faith her winter squash 
in the sink
so that I could ingeniously spray her off
like some wonderful organic creature
who had just emerged from clay
and mud. And other days, the sound of the bath, oceanic,
two in the tub,
their feet soft as figs
as I cleaned between their toes
which seems extravagant
and almost perplexing to me now,
and watched them navigate
their mildewed rubber duckies through
the sea swells
and I am so tired I start to think
we   really   are  at   sea
aboard one of those tugs 
we read about nightly,
rough seas in say 1929, Little Tug
saves the day! Ruminations like this rise above the surf, 
and the seamless
curious chatter lifts up elegantly
into the universe,
I love that,
but as the octaves drop over the years ahead little changes will elude me, 
thousands of tiny alterations
will be swallowed by the busy din
of chores—hear the clanking of dishes?
the swoosh of juice in cups, the high pitched song of praise
honoring microscopic-huge accomplishments—stairs to climb, sun-up-sun down—
I reach the summit,
the air thin by now,
bedtime so close, steeling myself for this most delicate of maneuvers, the halting groan and cessation of their coal powered little 
engines—the ultimate reward of my fortitude 
and an umbilical battle of our mutual wills,
then the rocker’s last creak,
and in the darkness shadows like icebergs
sweep across the green walls
half-frozen I watch them
in disbelief, in astonishment
noticing their flushed cheeks, heads turned on the pillow, 
mouths agape
as if cut off in mid-sentence when sleep
simply overtook them
and then the brief moment of terror—
don’t   take   them—
how on that day longing and love
and guilty swells of loneliness
would corrupt the hours,
how my heart
worked incessantly in my chest like a woodpecker beating against
the minutia and the vexation,
against the sense of permanence 
and the temporal—how they were mine 
and  never  really mine—
flouncing in the yard as if it were a borderless field that stretched 
all the way back to the beginning of their beings,
to the percolation of their cells, 
and it is undeniable
they were impossibly sweet in
little dresses, stained with strawberries, inhabiting the world they share
in their opposing ways, the older one fierce in her love, the younger one
an accidental handmaiden 
to the deity
that is her older sister—
and in the bright peacock green grass
sits a baby boy,
round and solid
on his doughy bottom, all of his intellect
puddling in his fat fists
as he gnaws on them, stops,
screams at the air,
because he has just looked up
and noticed the giant sycamore towering above him 
in a maze of crushing
limbs and chirping birds.
He is unafraid.
And they love him dearly
as they might love
a giant
bullfrog in summer.
And now,
on this April morning,
the little ones are made of dream and air–
these children 
with their longer bones, depart, 
powered by their own sturdy legs,
and turn back once
to say goodbye,
with their deeper voices,
their backpacks
already full of burdens.

Rachael Mayer‘s poetry has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Hiram Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Hudson Valley Echoes, Affilia, The Avatar Review, and Poetry Quarterly. Motherhood has been her highest calling. She is a feminist, poet, social worker, health coach, and a stay at home home for many years. 

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