Being Here

I’m back with April’s Poetry for Parents. I just returned from the Olympic Peninsula, where my family of four has spent the last three Easters. We all love it, and I love that my daughters will love this place fiercely, this place where we are all as present as can be, spending time together. We brought another family with, and I’ve known the other mom since college, where we read Marge Piercy poems to each other. So this morning I’m reading my favorite pieces in Circles on the Water, the ones I paper-clipped more than twenty years ago.

It’s hard to post just one here. My favorite poems in this book are about doing the hard and ordinary work of life and about loving wide open, with all of our senses. It reminds me of the hardest moments of parenting, where I sometimes feel I’d rather be anywhere but here. And that’s when I need to call on my fierce love and be right there, standing in the open flame of hurt, offering some version of love and comfort. (Yes, we had hard moments on our lovely vacation, and it was hard and worth it, the most important work of being human.) That’s why I picked this poem today.

In the Wet

How you shine from the inside

orange as a pumpkin’s belly,

your face as beautiful as children’s

faces when they want

at white heat, when fear pinches

them, when they have not learned

how to lie well

yet.

 

Your pain flows into me through

my ears and fingers. Your pain

presses in, I cannot keep it away.

Like a baby in my body

you kick me as you stretch

and knock the breath out.

 

Yet when I shoot with pain’s

fever, when fear chewed me

raw all night, you held me, you

held on. Then I was the baby

past words and blubbering.

The words, the comfort were yours

and you nurtured me shriveled

like a seed that would

never uncurl.

 

How strangely we mother each

other, sister and brother, lovers,

twins. For you to love me means

you must love yourself.

That is what loving is, I say.

it is not pain, it is not

pleasure, it is not compulsion

or fantasy. It is only a way

of living, wide open.

Marge Piercy

 

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