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
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
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.