When I was a very young girl – maybe four – and lived in New Mexico, my parents visited friends in Ames, Iowa. In the murky way of memory, mostly what I remember is the house we stayed in had hardwood floors, and Iowa seemed to possess an infinite sprawl of gorgeous lawn. The friends had kids of their own, and their father sprayed us on the lawn one afternoon, raising and lowering the spray while we pretended we were flowers opening our blossoms in the morning light, and folding closed again with twilight. For a desert child, the abundance of water and the sweet scent of cut grass was magical.

Today, our front door will be swapped out with a new, tighter door to keep the cold out, not if but when the bitter cold arrives.

My daughters had lived in our former house all their lives – a combined total of 30 years – but already in these months, this house has changed its shape with us: the scent of freshly coated floors wafted through open windows, paintings of flowers hammered on plaster walls, kittens shedding their fuzzy hair over the kitchen floor.

The house I visited as a little girl held more than its portion of misery, but from a knee-high vantage, there was sunlight and laughter, too.

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It’s all

over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

A Little Tooth by Thomas Lux


Summer Sustenance

Swimming in the lake last night until the children were shivering and laughing, the rosy sunset spilling over the still water, I imagined myself like the black bears around us, storing not calories but summer’s barefoot warmth, the ease of lying on the sand, the way you might swim with your eyes at the lake’s surface, all that water stretching from shore to shore, filled with the teeming mysteries of animal, vegetable and mica-flecked rocky life.

An acquaintance once gave me a piece of advice: if I wanted to change my life, do one or two changes well, and see how that spins things around. In those toddler-raising days, I chose two things: I baked our family’s bread and learned to knit. O, once upon the time as a very young woman, I teased and mocked the domestic, little knowing its ancient power and life-carrying grace. Once upon a time, too, I brushed off August swimming as frivolity, back in those days when I chopped my life into pieces, ranked weeding the garden above sand between the girls’ toes, misunderstanding how that lake nourishes our human hunger.

…Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

– Robert Frost, “October”


The Day Before The Birth Day

Exactly 12 years ago on May 30, I was standing very pregnant at the bottom of our driveway, and about a dozen ATVs roared by, excessively fast and noisy. Within me, my baby abruptly flipped, and I pressed my hands over this baby I had yet to meet, face-to-face. The next morning, we saw each other, tiny girl infant and me.

I always think of that moment as the first time I held and comforted this daughter, wrapped my hands around her, loving her, the first time I began to know this child was mine, small being who would spend her first years in our arms.

…the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow
…this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

– Lucille Clifton