Category Archives: Kids

Desert Children

They raise up their walls around me

Thick and high and silent

A monastery so remote,

So removed from the world.

 

The Desert Children’s rule is strict.

The day is long and hard

There is nothing here not simple,

Nothing here that’s easy.

 

The day begins before the sun,

Ends after its setting.

Every minute in between is

A rough and holy thing.

 

They teach things I do not know

How to need, how to ask

How to accept, how to enjoy

How to receive a gift.

 

It is a long and lonely way

That some nights I can’t walk

So while the Desert Children sleep

I slip over the wall,

 

A stranger to the world outside,

Speak strangely of strange things

Speaking nursery rhymes to power.

Occupied with smallness.

 

But long before the sun comes up

I’m longing to return

To seek their sacred littleness,

The littleness I’d learn.

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A Secret

Down by the county road

Playing little boy games

Waiting for the school bus

My son looks up and says,

 

“I want to tell you something,”

I lean down so he can

whisper it in my ear:

Then, “I hate you, Daddy.”

 

Just to taste the words come out

Just to watch the knife go in

Just to watch my face change

As I feel it.

 

So don’t tell me that we

Can make it if we try

Because he’s just like his daddy

And his daddy’s just like his.


Snow Day

I am given silence,

For a moment.

snow comes down this morning

Steady, heavy enough

 

To mute the trucks on the County Road

To stop the bus from coming

To wake and whirl the kids away

And so they are sleeping still.

 

I sit here and soak it in

The silence I so often seek

But soon enough is soured

By the empty noise within me.

 

Up the stairs I hear begin

The music of their wakefulness

They are coming to transfigure

The silence, and the snow outside.

 

I was given silence

And it was good and blessed

But now I am given sound

And I am grateful for it.


Potty Training

The boy has wet himself again

And he thinks that I can’t tell

But it is very evident

From his bearing and his smell.

 

He doesn’t seem uncomfortable

He doesn’t seem to mind

It’s nice and warm, a little while,

After all, it’s his behind.

 

But pretty soon I’ll chase him down

Pretty soon I’ll scrub him clean

Pretty soon I’ll wash his bits, and

Everywhere his hands have been.

 

And then the boy will howl at me

And then how the boy will weep

And then the boy will gnash his teeth

As I my foul harvest reap.

 

Being clean means nothing to him

For naught he knows of diaper rash

Freedom is all he wants of me

So those little teeth, he gnash.

 

And I would let him run and play

I would leave him to his mess

I would let him have his way if

I only loved a little less.


Evening News

When the kids are in their beds,

I sit on the porch and look

To where the gods are warring

Just over the horizon.

 

See their distant lightnings

Silent, scar the southern sky

Too far to be heard, but I

Feel a tremor pass beneath.

 

When the chill sets I turn

Back to book, and mug, and chair

To a house so deeply still

I can hear the children breathe.

 

But when I lie in bed at last

To surrender to the night

Lightning flickers on the wall

And the tremor follows it.


Sabbath Beach

I could see that you were tired

Though I knew that you would weep

I took you from your mother

To walk with you and make you sleep.

 

You break on me like a wave

Pitched between your grief and fury

Wailing out your love for her

Howling your hate for me.

 

Against your will I rock you

To the sound the breakers make

Cradle all your love and hate

Up the shore of this great lake.

 

I walk all your weeping out

Until you are sleeping in

The hollow place between my

Aching shoulder and my chin.

 

Just another year or two

And then I will not be strong

Enough to carry you

For so far or for so long.

 

Just another year or two

And then I won’t be able

To force you to take your rest

Sabbath bed or banquet table

 

And I fear that no one will

And I fear therefore you won’t

As I find that I cannot

And as then I find I don’t.


Red Stuff

Down by the river, my little son

Is snapping twigs and tossing them

To see the runoff carry them away

I watch until my mind goes wandering.

 

“What’s that red stuff?” I hear him say

I look down, absently to see

His white star-fingers staining red

With a thing he has no word for.

 

The pain has not yet arrived

He is not afraid to touch and taste it

But I see the moment when it does

And I watch it change his face.

 

When tears are dried and wound is bound

I teach him the word for it

But the meaning of the word

Is the meaning of the world

 

And I won’t teach him that today.