You’ve been helping them prepare for the journey
preparing for years. Where to eat, what to eat,
what to do about the dangerous patches—swamps,
fire-breathing dragons, mysterious lights in the distance.
So what do you do when it isn’t the world
with all its werewolves and poison apples
threatening your child?
What do you do when it is their own bad choices,
Monsters of misplaced confidence, arrogance, stupidity,
that chase them through the dark woods,
gnashing sharp teeth, reaching out claws
while your child wanders off the path
you marked so carefully, map discarded in the weeds?
Music is playing so loud they will never hear
your warnings, so it doesn’t matter if you shout
Watch Out or Run or if you give up shouting and
just cover your eyes and answer the phone.
Category Archives: Parents & Children
You’ve been helping them prepare for the journey
Your Christmas biscotti (our favorite gift)
is gone. We took it from its freezer bag,
dunked and ate the last of it with
our breakfast coffee, before my almost
graduate went back to college.
Holidays are done. School begins,
biscotti reduced to crumbs,
our angels packed away.
Here we are again
in this season called
Wait for Spring.
Another moment to freeze—this morning, you
at 22, unlikely gleam of excitement in your eyes—
Let’s go outside, you say, just to see how cold it is.
Frozen. The world dipped in ice. A moment
I can tuck away as we hurry back
to our cozy snowday house—
warm socks, thick novels, baking scones.
Frozen. This moment I would add
to all the winter memories of childhood—
How you and your brother celebrated snow
bundled up before breakfast
eager and laughing,
running to be out in the world.
What I meant to say about the cold
concerned the coziness of watching storms pass,
us safe inside, on the other side of the glass.
Instead, all I see are those tired faces on the news,
shelters full of people stripped of everything but
old clothes and the need to get out of the wind.
All comfortable words fail.
Like that day, visiting a city far from home,
when you first saw someone homeless—
A wild-eyed man, muttering to himself
as he dug through garbage cans.
Ten years old and shocked, you wanted to help,
to give him the warm, half-eaten pretzel in your hand,
and then wanted me —impossible—
To explain why I said no.
This is how it’s done:
The children must be
stuffed into snowsuits, overheated,
dragged car to store to car to another store
until they learn to beg
for one more shiny thing,
one more bit of brightly colored plastic.
Some get there quickly. Other, stoic, stubborn children,
determined to daydream about dressing up the cat
or building forts from empty boxes
and ripped wrapping paper—these children take longer.
But they are, after all, only children—
in the end, each one succumbs
to heat and hunger and greed.
Then finally, finally, a grownup can take them
home again. Sighing over how spoiled
the children have become,
an adult can carry them home to
the naps and quiet they both needed
These are the days thick with angels.
Here’s the tiny one from my childhood,
in her pale pink gown, silver wings chipped,
her painted plaster face fading but serene.
Here’s the handmade one on my mantle
dressed in green velvet, wings of soft white feathers,
her banner trimmed in gold, proclaiming hopefully—
Peace Be With You Always.
Here, three enormous plywood angels
adorn my neighbor’s yard, painted white,
bedecked with strings of lights and
caught mid-flight, wings and trumpets raised
announcing joy to the grey skies of my street.
And here, the most important angel,
invisible and vital—the one who steered
while you slid off the snowy country road
and into a field—a lovely field with no precipice,
no pond, no enormous tree in your path.
That one? Oh, that is my favorite angel.
Mom, he said—there’s someone.
And he brought her to dinner,
which went exactly as you’d guess—
many sidelong glances,
her fiddling with her hair,
her scarf, her phone, her fork,
What I really wanted
was to reach across the table
over the untouched food
kiss her forehead
and tell her to relax—
The judging is over, results are in:
that light in his eyes and his
happy, goofy grin
were all I needed to see.
At the darkest turn of the year,
choose lightness. Choose to believe in
their capable hands, each steering
the ship of their own life—
sometimes, far off across the sea
sometimes, near enough to signal
sometimes, pausing at your side
where you can watch together
the moon, the whales
and schools of tiny, iridescent fish
darting beneath your hulls,
close enough for you and the one on the other ship
to marvel together —
How the neon fish catch the moonlight
and pull it deep into the sea
far below the waves, into the quiet
where we have never been before.
Yes, oh yes,
I want to do enormous favors for you,
the kind involving cash, and inconvenience,
and driving long hours, all over the state,
preferably in the rainy dark, on deer-crowded
back roads, in complicated maneuvers
involving your car, your sister’s car,
a mechanic whose garage we can’t find
in the dark, and some guy named Lloyd
who we don’t even know,
but this day wasn’t a big enough mess
so we threw him in,
because you know for certain that
when everyone else says No,
You can ask for help from one person who
may well grumble or write a poem about it,
but will eventually pick up the keys and say
Silver glitter and cardboard
tacked to the window frame
suspended from a pale green ribbon
this one star is for the two of you.
For you, I place it forever
in the window, a light
so small you can ignore it
for a long time
but always shining, always,
so you can find it in the dark
and see the path home.