when winter clings to the bones


The wind moves like spirit
through these Vermont trees, coaxing
the snow to fall a second time.
The evergreens stand a little straighter
with the weight removed. The oaks
and ash sigh,

I sit beside the wood-
stove and watch it all happen through
the glass. I envy these
trees. My own burdens rest more
permanently. My own burdens
are not so easily blown away.

Or are they?

What if I walked into a field blanketed
with snow, mine the only tracks, and
closed my eyes, like the birch,
spread my arms wide, like the maple,
stopped doing whatever it is that I do
long enough to let the spirit
move around me, through me?
Would an unexpected thaw shake
the clinging cold from these creaking bones?
Would the weight from this winter
drift away with the wind, leave me
reaching for spring?

The Massive Nature of This Calling: Parent


“I’ll get him,” I say, at dark-o’clock
in the morning, rolling slowly out of bed.
I am older now
than I once was, and my body sometimes
creaks like a tired house in a storm.

I walk the hall, avoiding the toys.
“Good morning, you,” I say, lifting Leo and burying
my face into his neck, his cheeks, smelling his warmth.
A one-year-old is still so close to their beginning
you can see their rings expanding, if you watch,
if you pay attention. He looks concerned.
“MaMA?” he asks. “MaMA?”
His voice is like the call of a baby bird. He emphasizes
the second syllable.
“She’s sleeping,” I whisper, kissing his cheek again.
“Let’s get brother.”

We walk the dark hall, Leo and I. We go
into my oldest son’s room. He sleeps spread out
on his bed, a lanky boy-man. Waking him, I
remember when it was only him. Time
is wind through the trees, a spirit you see
only when you do not look directly at it.
“Wake up,” I say, shaking the outline of him,
hills under a blanket.
“Five minutes?” his now-deep voice asks
from deep within a well.
“Five minutes,” I say, and walk out
with Leo.

We climb the stairs to heaven, to the place
my girls sleep. We climb the steep steps and
lean into Abra’s room.
“Good morning,” I say, and her eyes open. She
sheds sleep the way a baby duck shakes water
from itself. She smiles. She sits up. She
“Hi, Leo,” she says.
He waves, and the way he waves is by opening
and closing his hands, both of them, as if squeezing
away the night, or clutching
and clutching again,
each and every moment.

We walk into Lucy’s room and I put Leo on the bed.
He crawls towards her. She sighs and rolls over.
“Sleep good?” I ask. She nods.
“Leo,” she says, long and slow,
as if meeting him for the first
time, and he kisses her, and she laughs.
“Time to get up,” I say.
“Leave Leo here,” she says.

I always go to Sam last. He hates
going to bed. He hates
waking up. He progresses reluctantly.
I switch on the night, bringing day into
the room. “Sam-oh,” I call to him, over
that great distance. “Sam-oh.”
He is still as water. He sleeps in the depths, in some
other world, some other universe. My voice
comes to him as deep calls
to deep, travels the paths of comets, around
moons and between distant stars.
He is still so far away.
“I’m coming back,” I say. “You’d better
be up by then.”

When I think of these five lives,
and the sixth sleeping inside Mai, I realize
the massive nature of this calling.
Each child, a universe.
Each mind, a fresh field of snow.
The tracks we leave behind cannot
easily be smoothed over.
This can be a good thing
if we tread lightly.

Slow Dancing On Pizza Crusts and Avocado

If I go missing, it's because Maile got rid of me for putting this picture of her on the blog.
If I go missing, it’s because Maile got rid of me for putting this picture of her on the blog.
“Seven o’clock,” you say, along with something
about disappearing days, and then you lean
against the kitchen counter, sigh, a cloth in your hand.
I nod without saying anything,
cleaning out the sink, because what can anyone say
in the face of time, passing as it does, a thief
and a giver?

I’ve grown tired of traveling alone

Tired of traveling alone
I’ve grown tired of traveling alone
Won’t you ride with me?
“I always think of you when I hear
that song,” I say, and you smile bashfully,
sidle up alongside me.
Before I know it we are
slow-dancing in the empty kitchen, you still holding
the cloth, me stepping on
a slimy piece of avocado Leo
dropped earlier in the day.


I’ve grown tired of traveling alone
Tired of traveling alone
I’ve grown tired of traveling alone
Won’t you ride with me?*

I remember dancing with you that way
when we were still teenagers on the brink
of our twenties, on the edge of a life
unimaginable. Before we were handed a life
with five kids and one on the way. This life.
This crazy, mundane, adventurous life
where you dance without putting down
the dish cloth, where I step on
an old pizza crust
and it doesn’t even phase me.
(Jason Isbell, “Traveling Alone”)

After the Rain, On James Street

IMG_1077 copy

After the rain, on James Street
the cars drift on glass,
the wind toys with a wisp of hope
someone left behind, or misplaced,
and my neighbor across the street limps
outside, leans into traffic, and
peers west to see if the world has
actually ended or if it is only the peculiar
way winter light will sometimes fall.

I stand with my hand on the cold knob,
and think of my friend, recently departed. I, too,
wonder about the end of all things, the silence
six feet under, and even the practicality
of golden streets, the marks tires might make,
the long, gradual grooves weight will press
into its softness.

Inside the house, normal life awaits.

I turn the knob but still do not go in, still
stand staring at the glassy street, when my neighbor
shouts, “Hey!” across the way
and raises his arm to say hello or good-bye
or perhaps he is saluting
me before the end. I raise
my arm back at him and he smiles and shrugs
towards the street and the sky as if to say, Look
what I found.

But neither of us move from where
we stand. We simply wait there,
for something spectacular to happen
after the rain, on James Street.

A Confession, and an Antidote to the Cruel World


I must confess
when you creep down
the stairs (they creak under the late
hour), I sigh. But, sighs withstanding, I
follow you back up
to the third floor, and I tuck you in
for the second time
sing the same song with yet another
made-up verse,
pray an abbreviated prayer, then stumble
back to my own bed, weighed down
by weariness.

That old friend. Weariness will put his arms
around your shoulders and hug you down.

After that I can no longer sleep, so I think about how,
at some point in the near future,
I will have to tell you about the meanness
in the world, the people who will take advantage
of you, the people who will return
your innocent smile with a handful of
filth. I will have to tell you about the wars
and the shootings
and the hardness of it all. Yes, that’s it.

It’s the unbending nature of this world I will have to
warn you about.

But tonight I sigh and roll over in bed, and
the next time you come down, unable
to sleep, I tell you to bring
your pillow
and your blanket
and make a bed beside me, on the floor.
I watch through the door’s slant of light the beauty
of you, falling asleep,
and suddenly I remember the antidote
to the unyielding nature of this world:

a seven-year-old girl,

Marriage is a Sacrament, They Say

Photo by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash

When December days are warmer
than they should be, and no one is home,
everyone scattered like dust in different corners
of this city, I sit on the porch and wait
for you.

Arriving without any
of our five children (God bless my mother),
you lead me hand-in-hand into the empty house
that now feels more like a church, a holy space
made up of diagonal light and quiet.

Marriage is a sacrament, they say, a sign
of the sacred.

Outside the house, cars roll down James
Street. Outside the house, people leave the barber’s
smelling of after-shave, the wind pulling at
their new hair. Outside the house, December takes
the last leaf from the ancient sycamore. Is there

anything outside the house that knows
of the holy space between us? The way diagonal
light gently rests on rounded sheets? Or
how, later, you hold my hand and we slip inside
a merciful sleep?

Marriage is a sacrament, they say, a sign
of the sacred.