Literary Mama published my poem “Heirlooms,” out today.
Seeing the poem this morning, out in the world such as it is, felt as sudden and as vast as birth. I expected to be more excited to share this creation. Yet a part of me was reserved, held back. It’s new.
My prayer for every piece of writing I send into the atmosphere is for it to be of service to someone.
In this way, I have to trust that every poem and story is good enough, true enough, beautiful enough, that it makes the trip unbroken to whoever needs it. That it will land and stick and create something ultimately more meaningful that just words on a page.
“Heirlooms” is for my daughter Reese, and also for my mother and grandmother and Reese’s maybe-someday children. It’s for the tunnel of mothers, with all its connections. How we pass through and keep going. How we carry the torch. It is also about the liminal (hazy, oft-desperate, half -asleep but still hopeful) space of new motherhood and how it connects us to the girls we used to be and the women motherhood will make of us.
Motherhood not only often means a newborn baby, but sometimes a new-born self as well. We find a grit, a patience, a resolve, we’ve never known in ourselves. We also discover soft aches, shadows of longing, and deep grief: all that we haven’t done and all we might never do, what we thought we’d be good at and are not. Being somebody’s mother is like walking around all day with a mirror. We are forced to look. We are forced to see.
We want for our children all the bliss and passion and safe feelings in the world, yet we cannot save them from our own shortcomings. We want to continue to bear the cross of damage wrought by our own mothers, but suddenly we are our mothers: imperfect, mostly well-meaning, mourning the lost, free girls of our own youths.
But there’s still so much hope.
The other day, Reese and I sat down with a tray of watercolors and a canvas I’d been saving since before she was born (to use for the perfect thing, someday when I had a brilliant idea and had found time to take art classes–you know the drill). We painted nothing, and flowers. Space, colors, drips. And it felt good and real, making the time to do something I didn’t have any real expectations of or expertise at. It was another liminal space, like early motherhood. The painting could turn into anything it wanted to be.
Reese and I collaborated. She added gaudy sparkles and puffballs. It wasn’t what I would have done. But I thought of how my own mother let me cover the glass tables in shaving cream to draw in it. So I passed the torch. Whatever I started, my daughter–she will make it even better.