Similar Boat

Monday, February 13, 2017

My son, almost four, asked me what happens after people are buried in the cemetery.  As gently as possible, I suggest that their bodies become part of the earth and their souls go up among the stars.  He starts crying and says, "Promise you won't let that happen to me." 

I drop him off at preschool after a weekend alone with him.  He is to decorate a book about his family that has photos pasted inside.  "Maybe you should draw Mimi and Bibi," I say.  They didn't print that picture out, so my parents aren't in there.  While I talk to the preschool teacher about his stubborn weekend, he draws a train, an infinity sign, and a pirate.  "Show Ms. B your 'ignoring face'," I say.  He rolls his eyes up and to the side, then closes them and lifts his eyebrows, setting his mouth imperiously.  "That really is the best face," the teacher says. 

Why I'm a poet:  
Once, around the year 2000, my mother visited me in Philadelphia, where I was in graduate school.   I took her to campus with me, and we saw a blond young woman walking along wearing black platform shoes which, in the style of the day, looked vaguely orthopedic.  "Look," I said.  "It's one of my students."  "That poor girl," my mother responded dryly.  "She has two club feet."  

I am writing in a small notebook that I've been losing and finding for a few years.  I find something I wrote in late summer 2012:  " 'In my delicate condition.'  I was born in a delicate condition."   

I go to the food co-op and drink a cup of dark coffee with half and half.  On a lark, I sprinkle nutmeg in it.   I see that they have more of the heart-shaped maple apple hand pies made by a local pie company, and I buy another one.  This will be my breakfast.  I know the woman who made this pie.  I know that she was diagnosed with and treated for thyroid cancer shortly after she received insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  Her daughters used to be in preschool with my son.  They have the sweetest faces, the dearest love for one another.  Their gazes are steady and assessing.  

On a visit to my grandmother, she tells me, "Everyone is a little crazy."  She says that her mother used to say that.  On her coffee table is a book of essays by Marilynne Robinson I gave her for Christmas and a Time with Bannon's face. 

I find this in my small notebook:  "How do I spend my remaining time upon the earth? etc."  Elsewhere I've written a note to remind myself to write a poem titled "Similar Boat."  

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