The Right Light To See

Another go at a favorite writing exercise, Twenty Little Poetry Projects. Go here to see the exercise in full. I made passes at this exercise for years before I finished all twenty projects. The trick is to lower the stakes. Tell yourself you’re going to have fun. And decide that you’re going to finish the exercise. That means your notebook will look sloppy with crossed-out lines and arrows ordering the parts. Having fun and finishing the exercise means you’ll be surprised by an image or line you’ll want to reuse. Shake your limbs out and run around the yard, pen in hand.

The Right Light To See

My daughter and son are this poem
He is written with invisible ink
She is indenting pencil, erased
margin to margin. The right light
will show me my children

Claire Juliana and Grant Nael stand at the hot window,
surveying Mahboula, and tell me there’s a water truck and
it’s dusty out
I clear my head on dusty days,
take sips of inside air,
stand in the middle of rooms
like I forgot why

When she tells him, Spawn a horse,
he taps the screen three times
When she tells him, Stop exploding my palace,
he taps the screen three times

I say, Go get dressed
My son says, I have a plan in my mind
and it’s about Lego
I say, Okay. Go get dressed
(One day, the plan in his mind
will build a city. One day,
the plan in his mind will take
flesh on its bones, stand and run)
I call, Are you dressed?
He calls, Wulla
I call, We don’t say that

I hold my daughter as long as she lets
She grows taller than me,
in our minute embrace, she grows
stronger than me. I can feel
the day she goes
I cannot feel the day she goes
The long sigh of love is
the top of her head
under my chin
The wall whispers to let go
She runs down the hall,
finds her brother building a
red brick firetruck. She yells,
Holy moley!

If we don’t move, we will remain in this day
Dear holds her breath, stands so still she leaps

This desert is the house of my motherhood,
the green lawn of their childhood and I am a tree,
grown improbably, cracking asphalt for want of
sun and rain, and my children sit in my shade,
though they might cast long equatorial shadows
too, when the earth tilts

We go out into bright dust

I should write all of this down, I think:

From my son’s mouth
trucks accelerate, cars crash

At my daughter’s hairline
a salty kiss

In from outside
dirty palms, dirty feet

Out of the bath
skin the smell of honey

On the living room floor
a nest of arms and legs

I write all of this down. The day inside
The day outside. I lift my page to see what
my daughter and son look like with light
shining through. They are before me, alive
My ink is margin to margin

 

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