Foxes and Magnolias

Poetry for keepsakes, for longing, for letting go.

Grant

I will never forget the way your sister dropped to her knees
screaming your name as though she could maybe still reach you.
As though you might respond from a thousand miles away
if she yelled for you loud enough. 
Then she would know it was all a bad lie.

But you were already too far in the stars.

Your mom said she was numb
but I could hear her holding back tears that like she was trying to dam a river. 
No mother can be strong in a time like that.
Her whole heart must have turned to ashes and fell right through her.

I missed a call from your dad.
I couldn’t bring myself to call him back quite yet. 
I knew he’d be crying.
I couldn’t think of how to not break when speaking to him,
hearing a cry that could only belong to a father.

I wanted to bear them,
tether them. 
They were ¾ of a family scattered across the country 
suddenly feeling un-whole,
suddenly feeling that so many pieces of them were lost,
needing each other in the same way a tree needs leaves to breathe. 

I imagined you standing in the kitchen with me, 
as we peeled garlic and laughed.
I wanted to enter back into that moment and throw my arms around your tall waist 
and hold you a little harder and longer than I did then. 
We all wish to have held you longer. To be holding you still.

Soften

Let yourself soften to open
in the same way a seed’s husk needs to soften to split 
before sprouting.


It is then you can grow. 

Finding Warmth for You

 I took wood from the pile
 and carefully arranged it to burn.
 It hadn’t dried enough yet
 to burn properly though. 
  
 But your tiny fingers and toes and nose were so cold,
 in that first morning of winter.
 So I sat there tending to the fire,
 burning paper and kindle 
 over and over,
 doggedly, for you, 
 until finally the flames held to the wood on their own.
 All day I threw logs over weak flames
 to find warmth for you. 

I Can’t Tell You How Much I Love You

 I can’t tell you how much I love you
 because I’ve never seen it’s end.
 So instead, I lay with you in bed, 
 and wrap you into my arms like a present.
 Your tiny fingers against my lips,
 I kissed them over and over 
 as you came in and out of sleep. 

When Feeding you

I fed you this morning in bed,
your unweathered skin against mine, 30 years weathered,
and covered you in a blanket as we witnessed the cooler tones of autumn through the window,
the blue and gray skies and the silver of the trees that are falling bare.
 
The dogs bolted towards the turkeys in the tall native grasses
and scared them back to the sky,
meanwhile, the bedroom silent aside from your gulping,
each swallow another moment I can’t keep.
  

Learning Your Language

I spent the day learning your language, leaning close to not miss a tone,
to watch the way your lips shape around any ooh or ahh or wahh you made
so that at any moment I could act in accordance to your needs,
finding ways to ease you
and offer you my milk, my cradle, a gentle rub on the back.

I will keep trying.
And if I ever mishear you or misunderstand your oohs and ahhs and wahhs,
I will give you everything I’ve got until you are content
and with that, I will be too.

To Save a Moment

There’s a moment so tender to me that it’s hard to write of and so subtle
that it’s hard to capture:
Your dad on the porch with his guitar,
his voice raspy and exerted, rushing rivers through my heart.
You, just born, warm in my arms.
Me, sitting with new emotion, tears leaving steady streams down my cheeks
as I prayed for this to be forever,
not the moment itself, but all that it contained-
you and him and us, all well, (as though “well” could be so simply understood).
 
The weather seems important:
Bright blue skies with flitting clouds.
The sun would streak through
and I would cup my hand so tightly to not let a single beam of midday light
find space between my fingers
and lay itself upon your vulnerable skin.
Auburns, reds and golds suddenly dawning amongst summer’s ripened greens.
When you were born, you brought the colors of fall into the world with you, warming everything.
 
And your dad, I must mention him again:
He’d pause from his strumming, smile at my tears,
he’d sing even while hating the sound
and could never know how much I truly love it, (he never believes me when I tell him so),
how it’s reminiscent for me of our beginning, your dad’s and mine,
how his whole truth is written plainly on a blank page as he sings
and how it’s that truth-
the open and honest sounds of who this man is
that I fall in love with over and over again.
 
And all of this, summed up:
It’s cool from the onset of fall
and warm from the colors and sun and all the love I have for you and your dad.
It’s happy and hopeful and honest and scary.
It’s fleeting.
And yet somehow I want it to be forever,
to etch this memory into the deepest layer of my bones,
or, at least, this page.

You, Me, the Fire and the Sky

It was you, me, the fire and the sky.

In that moment, it seemed like only a few things existed

as the bowed moon fastened low,

stars clear amongst the night and they shone down over the hills and grass and trees.

In my mind, we were big then.

Anything was possible- you, me, the fire and the sky.

First Fire of the Season

All the wood was wet from rain

and late snow falls in March,

but we sat there diligently

throwing twigs onto tiny flames,

sticks overs twigs

until the vigor of fire we mustered

was greater than that of the cool, wet logs.

You kept poking the fire, prodding it to blaze,

you said it was the nature of a man to interfere with the nature of a fire.

Smoke rolled over the hill toward my favorite pine.

To Walk With You

Some day you’ll have shoes with laces

and I’ll be there to tie them for you

or help you tie them

or teach you how.

 

And for a while your tiny feet will patter behind mine,

probably stumbling, left tripping over right, as you learn to align your steps.

I’ll be there to help you stand again, offering my little finger

for entire hand to grasp on to

as we work together

to pull you to your tiny feet.

But sometimes I’ll let you figure it out on your own

and I may have to turn my eye not to see you struggle.

Other times, I may watch you without blinking

so I don’t miss the moments when you succeed.

 

In not too long, you’ll be walking by my side,

our hands folded into one another’s.

I will hold on to your hand so tightly,

knowing that when your hand is bigger, you won’t want it held by me.

But until then, I’ll hold it like a brick of gold.

 

Someday, instead of pattering behind me or ambling by my side,

you’ll find your own path, walking in directions I’ve never gone.

Your strides may be wild

or slow and precise,

but they will be yours.

And with every step you take, even after getting lost,

you’ll always be able to find your way back to me,

and I’ll be there,

hoping you’ll want to walk with me.

Musing

My body makes new shapes to accommodate for yours-

the bowl of my pelvis growing wider for you

the bud of my belly blooming like a peony in June.

 

I watch my nature shift

and muse at it

and muse at you-

how your movements swell like waves in a storm and then settle,

how your shape has grown.

How I move differently now that we move as one.

 

I ponder over the ways you’ll be,

what temperament your spirit will hold,

how your face will look as I brush your hair

or how it will shadow under the hat I will put on you to save you from the sun.

I imagine watching you for hours,

my head resting next to yours as you lie sleeping and I try not to blink.

 

 

 

Like Nesting Dolls

31 years ago, I nested inside my mother’s belly,

and as a female, I already held the little egg that you would become,

that your spirit would be born into.

 

So for 31 years, we’ve been stacking

like little nesting dolls.

 

When my mother was conceived in 1957,

I stacked with her and her mother,

like little nesting dolls.

We are one generation hatching into the next.

 

We’ve all been connected for so long-

my grandmother’s breath breathing life into mine,

your grandmother’s into yours.

 

While none of us are the same,

we are made from the same grain,

painted with similar pigments and patterns,

each expressing life in our own ways.

Taylor Marie

For years I’ve known you turning flour into dough,

turning dough into beautifully risen breads or biscuits,

all of your rings in a neat little pile

as you press your palms into the mounds of dough,

flour dusting your forearms and apron.

 

Years ago, I learned to dry flowers from you-

gently tie the stems to a hanger

for a week or maybe longer

as moisture slowly bleeds away.

Hangers are set like ornaments in any sunned space

as each petal deepens in tone- pinks leaning toward magentas, reds becoming burgundy or the shade of merlot.

 

I’ve seen the way you’ve lit up when something is ignited inside of you.

I’ve seen the way you’ve crumbled when a fire goes out,

swept away the ashes and then learned how to glow again.

I’ve seen all the ways in which you are human without shame

and I have learned from you to cry.

 

And through all the years, I’ve seen the innumerable things you’ve cared for-

all the little children, your husband, your plants, the lambs you’ve raised and all the hens, your brother and mother and father, your many sisters, your creations, yourself.

I’ve learned from you to turn twigs to art

and that if you plant something

in the right soil, at the right time, anything can be grown.

I’ve learned from you to have every dream.

I’ve learned from you to be proud.

 

And whether you are kneading dough, drying roses

or teaching clumsy lambs to drink from its mother as it learns to latch,

you are seeding and spreading both love and life

like the wildest of flowers.

 

You know this-

everything you do, you grow from,

like a sprout lifting and bending towards the sun,

like the water of a river finding it’s way home to an ocean.

 

I am at home with you,

as you go on kneading dough and baking breads-

each motion filled with love and intention and all of your beauty.

Fertile Ground

Dig yourself into the layers of soil my body has sown for you
so we can watch the way a wildflower blooms.

Let’s grow gardens that’s a derivative of you
and me,
and love,

and tend to the tiny agriculture we seed between my bones.

Eternal

You are every color the sun spreads

and every bit of warmth it holds.

You are the soft features of a landscape

with the light gentle on its surface.

You are, too, the sharp features that shine when all else is in shadow

and the deep valleys that cradle the sun

when the sun’s been yearning to be held all day.

In the hours between when the sun sinks and rises,

you are the hope of tomorrow’s light

and in the morning you are the promise of light’s company again.

You are eternal.

My Grandparents Saw the Stars

When was the last time you saw the stars

like you told me you used to see?-

laying out on summer nights

watching them shimmer like a bucket of diamonds

spilled across the sky.

 

Now: a few,

maybe,

dull through the smog and lights.

 

Don’t you wish to see them still.

to spend another evening in your backyard

watching the sky gleam the way you know it can,

in a way that tells you that God is real,

or that shows you you’re alive again

in a way you forgot you knew you could be?

That everything around you is too.

 

The truth is that every night you have left to lay under that sky,

your stars are likely to lack luster.

But maybe one night I can see them glimmering like you did,

and my kids, and theirs.

 

Do something.

Do it for me and your other grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Do it for now and do it for later

and do it for all generations that deserve to see the sky like you did.

 

I’m trying too.

 

Though your skies may be forever dull,

I hope you can help to make mine shine.

 

Kisses from Heaven

When it rains,

is that just you

dropping down kisses from heaven?

When Looking for Answers, Listen to the Ivy

All the ivy

move like waves with the wind

as though breathing Yes

under its breath

Jeff

It was raining when I heard,

the skies were crying over you too.

 

I think you knew awhile ago it was going to end this way,

the rest of us just hoped you’d pull yourself out of it

sometime-

 

after falling for so many years,

we hoped you’d eventually learn how to not fall

again.

 

At least you aren’t falling any more.

Just lay easy, sweet man, and rest.

Weak from Winter

I came dragging out of winter,

wet and bruised and bleeding

while letting you hold on to me

like we were crossing a river in January

and you didn’t know how to swim.

 

Now I’m at the outer banks of June

still trying to shake the frost from my bones,

holding my tears each night while working to stay strong for you

and I can’t feel my own toes.

I need you to stand for me,

hold me straight

while on my own I’d be bending like a branch weighted with too much snow.

Rain

Earlier you spoke of rain

eighty miles north of me, by you.

 

I told you of warm winds here

wondering if rain

was in route to me;

you always get the weather first

it seems.

 

I can hear it now-

water rolling down the roof

and dripping from overhangs,

puddling beneath.

Rain taps at windows like a barefoot slow dance,

heels and toes

drumming the floor, softly.

 

I like to think the wind carried your voice south,

sending sweet messages

through gentle rain,

 

a kiss perhaps,

too.

 

 

If the wind reroutes, know that I’ve sent some out for you.

Love Each Other New

There are ways we’ve both been marred before,

left aching to the bone

because of things we’ve been told

from the lips of those

we’d loved before,

 

because of the bruises left

by the hands of those

that loved us once.

 

Let us discover roads

we’ve never known alone.

Let us learn

what love is meant to mean.

 

We are not the years behind us

or the scars we still hold.

We are not each other’s past lovers,

let us love each other new.

 

Let us let go

of the pain we’ve know love to mean,

let us love each other new.

In Range

All of the mountain ranges and

days between us now

 

I wonder when we’ll be in range again

Oats

Steel cut oats and apples

simmering in a pot this morning

 

I eat them slowly,

noticing time

Heathered Blue and Gray Skies

I put my fingers in the lake today,

just at the edge

where the water advances to and recedes from

 

I thought that maybe

the lake would carry a message to you,

through the rivers and into the oceans

and then

into other rivers and lakes again

until it found you

 

and maybe you’d be touching the water too,

knowing that I’ve been thinking of you

Burning With You

You kissed me and I think a wildfire

went loose in frenzy

all the way to my toes,

to my bones.

 

We’d sit back, breathe a moment

and you’d nod, so subtly, “yes”,

almost as though

you were speaking to the ways of the universe

for what was happening

right then.

 

You can throw logs on my fire

night after night

and I will keep burning with you.

 

Keep setting me on fire

and I will find warmth for you.

Let’s discover how many ways

we can fuel a fire

and see if it can’t be confined.

Every Season Long

I met you on a Friday night,

on Saturday, Sunday came too soon.

On Monday I wanted to spend Tuesday all day long, right next to you.

The next week, I already knew

you’re the man I want to get married to.

 

You look like the moon rolling over the bed of your truck

in the middle of the afternoon.

You sound like a real man

singing songs over the strings of your guitar

in the middle of my living room.

Let’s make love

every way we can dream of.

Let’s roll around till the sun goes down,

wait up talking till it comes rising from the ground again.

 

I want to love you every season long.

I want to kiss you like this is it,

like this is all there is.

Babe, you and me

every season long

like this is it.

I Find You in the Leaves

All the leaves on the ground-

dried and curling,

browning now in process of decomposing.

 

The sun shines at the Japanese Maple-

(you taught me what these are)

this one yellow and warm

and sings soft songs as the wind passes through.

 

How many leaves will drop

between now and the time I see you again?

How many songs will the trees sing with wind

before I can hear your sweet songs again?

(The Logs Never Run Out)

You sent me a picture of you in your long johns

when I was ½ way across the country wanting to pull them off of you,

wanting to be cold with you in Milwaukee

and build a fire between our bare bones

until the logs run out

and we are winded from keeping warm.

In a Cup for You

You called me while crossing the IL state line

to say you were making

way to me.

This was you indicating your place

in a space by me.

 

I want to love you on a Sunday

and into next week.

I want to love you till the moon falls

and the sun rises

and the seasons change.

 

I want to pour my love

in a cup for you

and fill it up before your lips get dry.

 

I want to give you all the love I’ve got

every day of the week.

I Like the Way

I like the way you put our hands in your coat pocket

walking through the night

then hold me under a streetlight.

 

I like the way you pull me closer in the morning

saying, Sweetie stay,

then steal a breath away from me.

 

I like the way you like me looking at you,

the way you like my teeth against your kiss

cause I can’t help but smile at you.

 

I like the way you love me on a Tuesday afternoon

I like the way you touch me

like touching me is new.

 

Every broken heart has led me to you.

Every time I was walking,

I was just walking to you.

Let me keep loving you, honey,

let me love the things you do.

Like the Moon

Like the way the moon was still hanging in the sky this morning,

there you are,

still hanging in my mind.

 

And when the stars appear

amongst the moon tonight,

there you’ll be,

like the moon again.

 

And even on moonless nights,

you’ll be my moon,

hanging in my mind

again.

 

Honey

I’m headed south from Milwaukee

counting how many trees

are making room between us now,

watching long miles spread

from the way I heard you call me honey today,

from the way I caught you looking at me

this morning

 

I want to keep finding you with eyes like that

 

I want to keep looking

back at you

that way

too

But I don’t Want to Love Anyone

The small, older man selling photographs

on a Friday night side street

laughed at us, kindly,

at the way we spoke Spanish to each other,

badly.

He spoke English

well,

taught us a few palabras- slang, mostly.

 

Later-

“Miras a la luna,” I pointed to the sky.

It looked different here, tilted.

 

“Si, es bonita,” not knowing the words for more,

though little else needed.

 

Some days, the Mexican sun made your hair a bit blonder,

the edges of your nose,

previously broken (though I never noticed before)

both sharpen and round

depending on the direction you angled.

 

At times our faces were closer than usual,

legs touching under the table without meaning to.

I wanted to kiss you,

tell you it could be so easy to love you.

 

When driving to Cancun, both of us half sleeping,

the road knocked our knees together, had our shoulders brush.

Trash

I was talking to a friend

and after five or six beers in

he said,

 

I want to feel like a piece of garbage

so that I can feel love,

because that’s what love is

 

sometimes.

Goodbye, Sorry

I’ve written so many poems

fishing for words

to say goodbye,

I’m sorry.

 

I can’t find them,

the words.

 

 

Medicine Cabinet

 

I wonder how long my toothbrush will be there

in the medicine cabinet, lying next to yours.

I hope to know you’re not waiting

for me to use it again,

loving you like I wanted to,

like you hoped I would.

Boys

Too many boys are in love with me.

Why do they love me

like that?

I wish I could love them like that

too.

Language

Last night we began

to come up with a language of touch.

One finger means this,

two means that,

three- us or we.

I wonder how full our dictionary will be

by the time we are 80,

still touching each other.

Tribe

A little tribe:

you,

my dog,

me.

Every Morning

You said,

I want to wake up every morning with you

like this.

 

Ok, I said.

Slowly

I wish time would wait,

let us have mornings together,

slowly, daily.

Girl Talk II

You walked away and she asked,

Is that your man?

watching the way you move.

 

I can’t claim you as anyone but your own,

but nodded, smiled,

as though to say,

We belong together.

Girl Talk

My friend said,

I like him.

I like the way you talk about him.

In City Park with the City Geese

The colors were subdued in the way they are just after it rains,

though it hadn’t yet.

Forest greens and bright greens with the same amount of softness,

yellows like butterscotch, grays and whites and blacks all charcoal and ash.

The squirrels were almost red, the geese almost blue.

 

She came to us, the little Japanese women,

walking slowly through her age,

bundled in an ash puffy jacket, hood over hat,

her little dog in a little teal sweater.

 

Carefully, to not let the birds see,

she gave us a handful of bread

each

(the pieces pre-torn)

for the goose with a limp in its leg,

left lagging.

 

When she slowly made off,

the plump birds at her feet,

we fed the limping one.

 

As we passed her again, us on our bicycles,

her with her little dog and bags of bread

and gaggle of geese,

she thanked us,

and us her.

 

This morning we woke to a flock of geese

honking through cold Tuesday rain.

 

I imagine she was there this morning,

seeing them off as they flew south,

being sure the little one had enough food before taking flight.

 

It is more than just feeding the geese,

she knows their way-

the goose lady.

Instead

I want to tell you I love you

but I’ll write it here instead.

My Bicycle

On the phone with my mother

the other day,

she was asking about you.

 

She said,

It’s like riding a bicycle.

 

It’s just that easy with you, she’s right.

 

You are my bicycle.

 

Stay Young

When we were living on 33rd,

(in our mid twenties)

you’d take the showerhead,

point it full blast at your teeth,

giggling like I imagine you did the first time you tried this-

probably in elementary school

or younger-

your eyes sealing tightly to keep the water out.

Your eyes smiled, even when closed.

 

Then you’d point it full blast

at my teeth

and I’d laugh too,

water pooling and falling from my lips

like tiny rivers.

 

I remember thinking how you are forever young,

beautifully.

 

I pointed the showerhead head at my teeth this morning,

laughed a little.

You Said/I Said

In the middle of the night,

our noses touching,

you said,

you scare the shit out of me.

 

 

You don’t scare me at all,

I said and then kissed you.

Into/ In To

You said

I’m way too

in

to you.

 

I wasn’t sure in which way you meant,

so I just moved

slower,

let you breathe through movements

so that moments lasted

longer

(somehow noon before getting out of bed with you-

falling in and out of sleep and woven arrangements

with you).

 

I took notice of blue shadows where the sheets creased,

your eyes (green today),

looking back at me.

 

You don’t look at me simply.

There are novels in your eyes.

 

 

If you meant otherwise-

I know.

I’m in to you

too.