Ode to the Single Parent
Alarm jangles you awake to coffee,
your 11-hour workday.
Some days you feel one-armed, like the half-finished
sweaters in your basement.
Some days your coffee cup is not big enough
to hold your loss after a night of blind baby dreams,
things in you trying to be born as you soothe their dark cries.
Other days you are warrior wise,
energy enough to be chef, teacher, CEO, gardener, janitor, listener.
In quiet moments between homework, music lessons, volleyball, swimming, school buses, laundry, recycling, garbage, dishes, transportation –
You seek guidance
for decisions great and small,
May these protect the light inside your child
and salvage the remnants of you for that distant day
when your child flies on her own,
Cancer is the two years after the curly blond imp
riding the red tricycle on the wood slat lagoon bridge
bump, bump, bump, back and forth.
The midnight freeway fly to children’s hospital,
gasping to breathe and pale.
Cancer is the two years after sitting in our favorite field,
sneaking up behind to pour fistfuls of grass down my back,
giggling again, again.
The clumps of hair falling,
riding the IV pole down halls.
Barbie movie distraction, instead of our grassy field, our lagoon bridge.
Cancer is the two years after playful preschool friends,
trading one community for another,
the city where parents land with sick children suddenly
in the middle of the night, sharing stories and how the hell
did we arrive here?
Cancer is the place we went without choice,
tethered us to grief and grace,
changed who we are, no matter the gifts
health, freedom, time.
I went inside and met myself,
gray strands pulled back, crinkling crowsfeet at the eyes,
standing in a garden, sunkissed and strong,
I asked, “Do you have any wisdom for me?”
She answered, “You will have more freedom.
Life will not always be this hard.”
I asked, “Will love find me?”
She smiled and surrounded me in a hug.
I thanked her and moved into my focused, sedentary, solitary day,
Submitting to necessity, containing the knowing
One who walks great distances hearing her part
in the glistening melodies of all creation.
Honoring and cherishing the beauty of the me yet to be.
emw – June 1, 2012