A BENEDICTION FOR MY DAUGHTER
A single glance over your shoulder and you’re gone.
A molten ball of speed – compact and sure.
An echoing whoop,
full of joy and pride and fire,
the only record of your passing.
Beautiful, confident, fearless –
wild and unrepentant –
you are unstoppable.
Heedless, you coast over innumerable hidden perils.
Ice, rocks, twigs, roots, and boulders
are nothing to you.
May you always be carefree.
May you always coast above danger,
unknowing and unmarked.
Fearless, free, and full of grace –
all potential and promise.
In my life, I have come to know the cruelty of the mountain,
as well as its beauty.
May it be a long-time finding you, my wild one.
May your innocence carry you,
unfettered and unafraid.
I HAD NOT A THOUGHT
I had thought ‘best friends’
a term I’d left behind
in middle school.
That performative dance
of secret notes
of tribal belonging
and cutting cruelty.
Or in the bubbled world
of high school
where cliques and status
Or in college
where living together
with family of your own choosing
created a heady, liberating, wonder –
Friendships thicker than rope, and
thicker than blood.
But ‘best friends’ as an adult
with a house, two cars, and kids
to love and to manage?
But, then I found you.
Such strong, beautiful women –
You carried me when I was broken.
You kept checking in as I pushed you away.
How I love you.
for such an unexpected
and such an undeserved
gift of friendship.
I had not thought to find it.
LESSONS I NEVER TAUGHT YOU
I did not teach you to be a parent,
yet you will find yourself caring
so deeply for the children
who sit in front of you
on the multi-colored carpet
that it will frighten you.
You will come to love them,
as if they came from your own body.
You will not be able to help it.
I did not teach you to be a counselor,
yet you will find yourself
listening to Laura from 5th period
because you are the one adult she trusts.
Unable to comfort her and
unable to advise her,
you will hold in silent, angry tears
reduced to bearing witness,
and shouldering her grief
as if it were your own.
I did not teach you to be an advocate,
yet you will find yourself fighting
to secure services for your students.
Like Ysidro, whose parents don’t speak English.
You will help him navigate a winding labyrinth.
You will rage with him,
in defiance of a broken system
that demands a 15-year-old child
serve as a translator for his parents
at his own IEP meeting.
I did not teach you to be a soldier,
yet you may find yourself
crouched in a supply closet,
holding the doorknob shut,
as tightly as you can.
All the while,
brushing away tears,
and singing softly,
to the fourteen first graders
cowering behind you.
These are lessons I did not teach you.
But, hear me now.
To be a teacher is to live all these lives.
To give, to serve, and to love
with your heart outside your body
both depleted and made whole again
by the burnishing practice
of empathy and care.
A fleeting feeling,
the smallest pause,
Scanning the bright glare of the water,
sure that your head will pop up,
white teeth and a salty smile.
So many other children,
rushing, swimming, splashing, yelling.
So many, but not you.
Calling, shouting, screaming your name,
searching with frantic, frenzied eyes.
The ice-grip of panic,
of unreal loss.
Dry heaving shin deep in the water;
desperate and alone.
Another mother runs for help.
But who will help?
How will they help?
You’re already gone.