A child, my mother showed
me the small closet of her self.
She stood there, child thin
in a shift-dress. Her blade
of tenderness, the pain of a blow
that made everything more colored–
her black-winged bangs
a blur of hands, pink-crush
that could take the wind out
and fill me with broken things.
This would take me to the winternight of a school
parking lot, where I was led to the shadow
of a lamplight post, the emptied classroom
from the want of children, ghost faces
seeking the same tenderness.
The cold flesh like a living thing,
a child’s body folded inside that living thing
and my tender knees,
the gravel that pierces them
to remind them how easy they cut,
the other working in his cutting
as if he sought to be buried
beneath my 15 years, the careful carving.
This is the kindness I have carried
inside like a birdhouse and its flurry
of wings, not even separate beatings
of hundreds of birds,
but a single thunderous pulse
that has found me, now,
holding my newborn daughter
in faintly lit dawn, her hair
like singed down between my fingers.
What can I
Draw tenderness out of a cracked
well, imagine the stillness of water
in its silvery and solid room.
Yes, once my father brushed my hair
until the curls separated and frizzed,
its tangled rise beneath his dark hands,
comfort in their browned veins
when he held me against his ribs
as wind swept around us.
When he came home at dusk, I’d wait for the night
when he’d turn the pages to my book,
careful that I could see every page.
I rock her in my arms,
hum a tune with no melody,
my throat warming up
to match her small cry, a turn
for a turn, enough to last
the hour I rock her, its gentle tick and hurt.