Monthly Archives: May 2013

Arrangement

The arrangement can only be made
from what is there in the garden
among the spring’s fresh birth.

Insistent rain enfolds
petals and blossoms
without hindering,
accompanies hushed birds
and muffled traffic sounds,
distinct only in retrospect.

Last summer’s basket
in which I would have laid each piece
hasn’t turned up —

holding the fresh-clipped stems in my mouth,
we carry each other.

Some taste bitter,
others earthen and whole.

Mother’s Day Tea

Last Thursday, my son woke up early and called to me in his still-morning voice, Daddy, this morning at eight forty-five is Mother’s Day Tea!

It is unusual for him to be excited about something like a Mother’s Day Tea. Special events tend to bring out what shyness he has, and he is not nearly so keen as his older brother on wearing a collared shirt and tie. But sure enough, he had even picked out a special sweater to wear and laid it on his bed.

My wife has been to a lot of these Mother’s Day Tea events over the years as our children have attended the same preschool in turn. Our youngest son is now five and starts kindergarten next year. This year’s Mother’s Day Tea was the last.

Later that same afternoon, I sat with my son on his bed while he showed me some of his new library books and told me about the cookies he had at the tea. He had changed out of his formal shirt and tie and was wearing a dark blue t-shirt emblazoned with pictures of different small whales and the words Nos Amis les dauphins. I love this shirt, and like our preschool and annual Mother’s Day Teas, all of our children have passed through it. One day soon, though, there will be a final wearing as our youngest grows out of it.

We don’t have another child to grow up and go to the next Mother’s Day Tea, or grow into the dolphin shirt. This realization has been arising much more frequently lately, and usually with it the impulse to turn my head to the side and close my eyes, as if turning away from something I would rather not witness.

At first, I was upset with myself for feeling this way. I would take it as an indication that I wasn’t living in the moment. I would scold myself for not being fully present with my children and instead worrying about how we would change as they grew older. Yet as I sat with my son on his bed that afternoon, my deep sadness about this phase of my life changing and receeding was quite real, very much the essence of the moment.

If Zen has begun to teach me anything, it is that the present moment encompasses all of my experience – all of the universe. This includes the desire not be in that moment, or the wish for it to go on forever, despite being fully aware of its impermanence.

I started out my spiritual searching looking for, desperate for, something that would make everything all right. I’ve come to realize, though, that everything isn’t all right – at least not in the way I had hoped.

There was something exquisitely joyful about those moments with my son. And something painfully sad, too. But all of it is my life. The deep intimacy of my life with my children, and the loneliness that comes from knowing we are all of the nature of change. All of it.

Recognizing and being grateful for all of that, that’s what might be all right – and maybe, just maybe, what I have been longing for.

Entwined

Passing quickly in the morning
as you make lunches
and I rush to the car
isn’t what I imagined

that day we stood
in the old barn by the sea,

my hand gently touching yours,
and feeling every movement of the sweat
trickling down the small of my back.

Standing outside in the garden,
I didn’t notice the photographer
as we talked idly
between silences
about the softness of the rain —

though the pictures in the crimson binder
tucked up on the highest shelf
tell me he was there.

Let’s meet again in that garden,
where we can stand still,

my hand resting
on the laces that entwine
the back of your dress.

Spring Haiku #2

morning carries
cold lilac breezes —
whispered and gone

When posting my last few haiku, I have described my struggle to write, how I have had to circle around and coax out the words. In contrast, three pieces have emerged in succession in recent days – this haiku, a free verse poem, and a piece of prose. While two are not yet complete, I marveled at first at the difference. But I suppose that is simply how it is – as a writer, as a father, as a husband. Quite striking and not-so-remarkable all at once. I’m looking forward to sharing all three in the coming week.