Tag Archives: poem

moving along

One night in July I was walking down Broadway, somewhere in the mid-80s. As I crossed the street, my mind bounced here and there. It occurred to me, out of nowhere, that I am finally no longer angry at Mario (of the first bulks). I’m not sure when I’d even thought of him last, as it’s been so long now. But for years after I stopped speaking to him, even the thought of him made my jaw clench. Now there’s nothing. We all have our nonsense, Mario (not his real name. And as an aside (Bij!), I do not discuss work or current beaux onsite. Rarely past beaux, and when so, names are changed) no more or less than anyone else. At the core of it, we are treated the way we want people to treat us.

At this point I was walking behind a guy in his early forties with a boy of about four. Judgment brain clicked on as I took in the tattoo on his lovely deltoid and his Britney Spears Tour 2005 t-shirt. On the Upper West Side? He was either taking the piss or he was crew. Or both. Just as I was about to question his parenting skills, the kid took a fall and started balling. The guy leaned over, picked him up, and brushed him off. More crying.

“Hey buddy, let me see that. That looks like it hurts. Ouch. Are you okay? Here, let me see that. A quick kiss may help it feel better. Yeah, that’s the way. How does that feel? Better?”

Crying stops. “Yes. Better.” And they were on their way.

I’d passed them, still listening, then turned around to take it in. To gawk. Were they real? This guy put on the best demonstration of parenting skills I’ve ever seen in the city—maybe even my life. The guy wasn’t threatened or annoyed by the child’s crying. It wasn’t about him, it was about his kid. There was no discomfort with the tears, no “Hey, stop crying! That’s for sissies. Boys don’t cry!” No, “Why are you crying, that was barely a fall!” No, “If you stop crying I’ll get you some ice cream.” He just acknowledged the kid’s hurt, the kid felt cared for, and the hurt stopped. The kid wasn’t ignored, bribed, or shamed because it wasn’t about the parent, it was about the kid. Wow. To see more of that.

So much for my parenting stereotypes about hot tattooed men in Brittney t-shirts. I could use such fathering. ha Ha!


—Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


april again

Ohio_1990-12_007Jim died a year ago Thursday. April 26th. It’s been a painful week, watching the sad, and my resistance to feeling it. I did soften enough to feel at times, and the soft ache in my heart and dull pain in my chest were less painful than all my resistance, “the why should you be so sad” dialogue, the, “what’s a date anyway?” and the “if I give in to the sadness, will I drown?”

One thing that pulls me through my moods is the knowledge, the experience that that the pain will pass, and that simply feeling is often less painful than the mental fortresses I create to numb and avoid it. My fear that the grief is bottomless is daunting, though. Last November, when a meditation friend held me through fits of tears, my brother’s face floated back into my mind, floated back into perfect focus. I held my breath, as not to disturb his image. My friend felt this and said, “Breathe, you have to breathe. Keep breathing.” I did breathe, as I’m trained to do, but Jimmy’s face faded out when I took in new breath. That seemed harsh punishment. As if to keep living, I’m not allowed to remember. What if I’m not ready to forget? It’s ridiculous. We will never forget.

As I cried, she asked, “There, doesn’t it feel good to let it out?” Of course it did, and I released my body into her warm, round embrace. It also felt limited and superficial, as I knew her embrace was finite. I couldn’t go on there all day, or all year. But I needed to. I wanted the tears to flow away. Who has that kind of time?

John Chapman

He wore a tin pot for a hat, in which
he cooked his supper
toward evening
in the Ohio forests. He wore
a sackcloth shirt and walked
barefoot on feet crooked as roots. And everywhere he went
the apple trees sprang up behind him lovely
as young girls.

No Indian or settler or wild beast
ever harmed him, and he for his part honored
everything, all God’s creatures! thought little,
on a rainy night,
of sharing the shelter of a hollow log touching
flesh with any creatures there: snakes,
racoon possibly, or some great slab of bear.

Mrs. Price, late of Richland County,
at whose parents’ house he sometimes lingered,
recalled: he spoke
only once of women and his gray eyes
brittled into ice. “Some
are deceivers,” he whispered, and she felt
the pain of it, remembered it
into her old age.

Well, the trees he planted or gave away
prospered, and he became
the good legend, you do
what you can if you can; whatever

the secret, and the pain,

there’s a decision: to die,
or to live, to go on
caring about something. In spring, in Ohio,
in the forests that are left you can still find
sign of him: patches
of cold white fire.

—Mary Oliver