holding on/letting go

I wonder what Billy Collins would think about the fact that I had to muscle my way around a rack of paperbacks to access the Poetry section in our local bookstore. Like the Poetry section was small to begin with and then they parked this rack of trade paperbacks in front of it, the implication being …

SONY DSCWho buys poetry anyway?

SONY DSCI was there to buy a book of poems for someone who has cancer. The efforts of the bookstore to hide the poetry and to thwart my intent were in vain, and I came away with the right book of poems in my hand.

SONY DSCI don’t really know this person well enough to choose a novel for them, or even nonfiction, but I know that words can be a lifeboat. So I went for poetry by Billy Collins because the first time I read him, it was during the course of one bath and I was surprised to somehow find myself in cold water, in the almost-dark, and turning the last page of the book.

SONY DSCIt was total poetic gluttony. I was a little ashamed that I didn’t show more restraint, and quite wrinkly.

SONY DSCI hope it was the right choice of book.

SONY DSC{oh my goodness, look at him.}

SONY DSC

SONY DSCI wrote this poem before I knew for sure he was going away. But I already knew. Holding the poem was like that feeling of knowing you’re pregnant, but when you can’t tell anyone yet.

SONY DSC
here’s a portrait of the two of us.

~Curator~

Since this has been my life’s work,

the work that I have strived for the hardest,

loved the best,

the work that has brought me to tears and frustration,

baffled and inspired me,

this work of wonder and miracles

(sometimes all in the same five minutes)

it’s no surprise that I’m terrified.

You were difficult,

pushing every limit,

imperious,

enamored with power

so early.

You may have had some notion

coming here

that you would be a boy prince.

It’s possible that you faced this disappointment

every morning when you woke,

expecting a room of courtiers and satin slippers,

but getting us regular people instead,

the make-your-own-bowl-of-Cheerios sort.

So you really made me

the parent I have become.

As a small person,

you were the Zen master who

switched the tender backs of my knees

every. minute. of. every. day.

to be sure I was fully present,

paying attention,

alive in each moment,

because

YOU

WERE.

Sometimes I just wanted to space out,

tune out.

Have a thought.

But you were there to help me elevate my practice:

work to art

work of art

art of work

heartful work.

I don’t take credit for who you are,

because you were yourself

right from the first moment.

Your eyes were wide,

taking in the panoply of adoring grandparents

and one uncle,

all present at your birth.

You arrived into all this love

and have kept your

eyes wide open

ever since.

But I will take some credit

for the short life you have lived

which has been imperfect,

full of mistakes,

hurt feelings,

the wrong things said and made up for,

angry words,

funny,

loving,

ridiculous,

morning Mom Songs,

zesty word play,

and

“numbers like roads

since there are so many ways to get to each one”

great books shared,

poetry,

debate,

ideas,

Invisible Poker,

“You never forget your first Miss Hannigan,”

amazing and wonderful adults,

laughter,

warmth around the dinner table,

and lavender footbaths

when you were at your worst.

So:

You.

You who made my dream job possible.

My best work and my life’s work.

I’m sending you out,

out there into the big world

of salmon pants and tortoiseshell glasses,

the world of big ideas and some very smart people,

your people,

who will expand your mind and feed your heart

(I won’t say soul because I don’t want you to vomit)

and they’ll finish the work I started.

The waves of panic

hit my heart with your old familiar relentlessness,

mostly in the small moments alone in the car

or late at night

when I can’t keep them away.

Because I know you are ready to go.

Postscript 3/9/15 on the Occasion of his Acceptance:

You’ve outgrown us.
–And I thought we had two more years,

but it’s now.

You’re going.

Just this week,

when we had that kerfuffle about your missing boots,

via text message,

I thought:
This is how I know we’re done here.

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