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.
Tag Archives: poem about sons
Mom, he said—there’s someone.
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
When you were small,
we came here so little
you thought Santa lived
at the mall all year.
Now, taller than me,
an errand for a friend
brings us to this alien territory
where people look like us
except with better hair
and many shopping bags,
tissue paper wrapped
around their treasures.
I’m glad I hate it here.
And glad you hate it too—
glad you carry all your treasures
unwrapped and close to your heart,
spilling from your musical hands,
and your easy smile.
Yesterday, a tall man
who looked just like my son
showed up unannounced
and mowed the shaggy lawn.
Under normal circumstances,
A Mowing Stranger
would have been Alarming.
But then he kicked off his big shoes
by the front door,
where I tripped on them
while he ate the last of the cake,
and all the leftover chicken,
leaving only the vegetables,
and a pile of dirty dishes in the sink.
Oh, it’s you! I said.
Along with your sleeping bag,
guitar, fishing pole, dirty laundry,
you bring me a souvenir from camping.
You like turtles, don’t you?
The question freezes me—
for one minute time shifts and you are
four, in love with everything in the world,
holding a toad bigger than your cupped hands
asking me to admire its gray-green self.
Turtles are nice, I say warily, remembering.
From your backpack you dig out a silver turtle charm,
enameled in bright turquoise. You shrug.
I bought you this because you like turtles,
you say, then hesitate, suddenly as uncertain
as when you’ve forgotten Mother’s Day again.
You do like turtles, don’t you?
I do now, is what I think.
What I say is Yes. Oh, yes, I love turtles.
I’ll never know
why you believed
our rickety green table
that’s never been asked
to hold more than a lamp, a phone,
the occasional vase—
Why would you believe it could hold
But, you explain again,
baby birds need to eat
every ten minutes.
You learned this online.
You couldn’t find the step ladder
or we never had one to start with
and the mother was going nuts…
She’s not the only one.
Your expression is as stunned as a baby bird.
I didn’t think you’d care that much,
is what you say, bemused.
You explain to me again
how you saved the bird
certain this time
I will see things differently.
Later, calmer, phone and lamp
in their new home on the floor,
it’s a comfort
to remember your surprise.
For you, my happy son,
so bored with home, one more gift
after all the tassels, cakes and cash.
The best gift I ever gave
took decades to build—
Here it is—open it—
The life that led to graduation night
spent with superhero movies
playing on the barn’s back door
behind your best friend’s house
chairs and cushions spread on the lawn
huge starred sky above and a projector
flickering pictures against the barn door screen.
I’ve carried your gift carefully, adding to it day by day
over years and offer it to you, now—
This childhood I built with you, and everybody
who knows you in this little town.
Here, carry it with you, no burden
but a memory to hold in the dark.
Searching for your one important face
in a crowd of caps and gowns
and beach balls—which are against
The Rules and…There— you turn,
see me and grin that always smile
which all these years of practice
taught me to translate with ease
into this jumble of:
I’m hot, this hat itches, isn’t this whole
thing ridiculous but funny?
And as always, the grin includes
Instructions for me–
Please Do Not:
Take any more pictures
Comment on my sneakers
Or the girl in the next aisle.
I smile right back, knowing you too
are a master translator:
I love you, we both say,
as I reach for the camera.
Conjuring combinations with my capable son,
who took a deep breath and set to work
as we compared owner’s manual
and all the tools we had, we taught ourselves
how they fit together.
Coatless, he worked, with breaks for heat
and the loaf of olive bread in the grocery bag.
Now, hours later, warm and dry and home
my mind stops for breath in
its endless effort to sort things into bins
Luck or Fate, Blessing or Chance.
Whichever punctured our tire, held off the rain,
sent strangers and the summoned
friend of a friend with a better wrench,
What I hold to now is the way everything happens
and then wraps itself with meaning: My son in the world
calm and hungry, knowing what he lacks
and ready to smile and open his hands
to welcome what he needs. I even know exactly
what he would say reading this, rolling his eyes:
Mom, a wrench is just a wrench.
Remember when you were little
and made up jokes?
Potatoes for dinner.
Is that funny?, you’d ask.
If I admitted, no, it wasn’t all that funny,
you’d ask, astonished and aggrieved, Why not?
like a dial,
learning to hear
what is worth laughing about,
that you already knew what
was funny: Everything.