Tag Archives: attachment

Cardboard Box

I’m finally looking into the cardboard box
I brought home from my mother’s house
late last month;

The clementines she insisted I take and perched on top
have long since been eaten;
it’s been otherwise untouched
sitting in the corner of the yellow room.

Two pairs of my infant pajamas —
The yellow corduroy with the embroidered lion;
the faded white and green night dress.
She had remarked on the drawstring
she had sewn into the bottom,
how it was still there,
and the fold-over sleeves to keep me from scratching myself
as I slept in my crib.

My white shoes, too —
laces gone,
but still with their impossibly stiff soles;
my grandmother’s blue-and-white Canton ware,
wrapped in the 1975 Daily News
from Bowling Green, Kentucky.

That night,
just before I left,
we sat on the basement couch flipping through
faded Kodak prints, square with rounded corners,
(most taken before we moved into the house on the hill).

We paused at one where I wore that night dress,
standing with my sister
in the deep darkness of an evening east window.
There were others, too, from that forty-years-ago,
and she told me again about each one.

We had such fun, she said,
such fun.

Advertisement

Six

Ophoto
 
he knows now how to read.
he won’t pass through kindergarten again.

he won’t bring home another packet of sight words,
tape them to the wall
over his largely-unmade bed,
lie in the darkness,
read them by flashlight.

that moment,
that emerging,
that world,
that lifetime,

that he-and-I
is gone —

and I want it back.

Buddhism might one day free me from suffering, but not from being human. If anything, I feel my joy, my sadness, anguish, loneliness and contentment more acutely. Buddhism promises the possibility of welcoming each one. It has taught me, even, to welcome my attachments, to not run away from even my clinging.

My relief from suffering, when it arises, comes not from stoicism. Instead, it arrives when I allow the joy and dukkha that are the essence of fatherhood to be together. It comes when I turn and face them both and say, Yes, all of this. This is now. This is fatherhood. The wanting and the letting go. This is love. This is it. All of this. This is it.

Almost Nine

Today is the final day he is almost nine.
As I worried he might,
he holds my hand less often.

The world pushes in on us;
the spaces in which we can hide —
just the two of us —
are more difficult to find,
simpler to disrupt.

Yet on this day,
his brother and sister
already gone from the table,
he pauses at my shoulder.

Even as I pull him onto my lap,
I expect him to continue on
to his book or simply something else;

but he sits
and softens.

Later, in the quiet of a too-late night
my wife whispers to me,

you should have seen his face.

Newest poem in the Years series.

Despite What the Buddha Tells Me

Perhaps I will try one more time
to run away from my dissatisfaction,

despite what the Buddha tells me.

I’d like to linger just a bit longer
at the breakfast table
amid striped pyjamas and cereal crumbs;
replace the broken panes of glass
in the porch and attic windows
to hold back the winter chill —

to sit
and leave space for two breaths
instead of one.

How the Children have Grown

He means well and offers connection
when he remarks how the children have grown,
that it won’t be too long before they aren’t around.

My daughter blinks her eyes
while my son mouths to me that
it isn’t true.

My own sense of the truth of his words
doesn’t make them welcome in the moment
of which they are now an indelible part.

Pride, Love, and Putting the Bucket Down

I was never more proud of my son than I was that day, just a few weeks ago. Thank goodness that has worn away, so I can keep loving him for who he is.

My wife and I have been working on a landscaping project at the house, converting a thousand-square foot area from grass to perennials and herbs. Grass never grew well in this south-facing area, and I am excited about having even more fresh flowers to cut in future years. As a part of the project, I decided to replace a section of fence with a dry stone wall and to install a border of paving stones between the driveway and this new garden.

A couple of weeks back, the day’s work involved digging a trench for the pavers, sixty feet long and about a foot wide. Being next to an old asphalt driveway laid on top of New England clay soil, there wasn’t much easy digging. As I went, I worked to save the small rocks that came out of the ground, since they would make good fill around the base of the stone wall. This meant sifting out the dirt and sorting the stones into different piles. One foot at a time, on a very warm August Saturday.

My son shuffled towards me relatively early in the day. Can I help, Dad?

I thought for a second about what he might be able to do. My initial reaction was that he wouldn’t be able to help. The pick axe is too heavy for him, I thought. The weight of stones themselves, while small, would add up quickly, and they needed to be piled a good fifty feet from where I was working. The wheelbarrow is too big for him to manage.

Sure, I said, still thinking. Go get a bucket, one of the big ones. And put some good shoes on.

Continue reading

Untitled

fading
somewhere past paper thin

wisps of mourning
unreclaimed images

Many of my poems recently have been starting our long; I let them sit and then find myself stripping away words and lines that seem to clutter the feelings that first prompted me to write. Some moments I think I could write more without disturbing the essence if I were a better poet. Other moments, it seems just right.

Dukkha and the Essence of Fatherhood

A few years ago I attended the funeral for the father of a good friend and colleague. My friend’s father had been an important public figure, serving as a Justice on the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Many speakers at the service described his important contributions to civic life.

When my friend stood up to speak and remember her father, though, she talked about dinner. While her father held an important position, she noted, and worked almost fifty miles away (no small distance in Massachusetts traffic), he always came home for dinner. She described how he always seemed to make it to his children’s sporting and school events – and my friend has nine brothers and sisters. I came away that day and in the years since thinking a lot about his example, about the effort he had made in his life to be present for his children and family.

Days like today, I feel like I have utterly failed to live up to that example. My son has a t-ball game tonight. But here I am, at work, waiting for a meeting. Not there.

Again.

I’ll arrive home later and find him asleep, his glove tossed aside on the front porch, his uniform crumpled in the dirty clothes hamper. In the morning, I will ask him how his game was, but I will feel a certain emptiness when I do. Then I will drive off to work as he pours cereal at the kitchen table.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had made different choices, pursued a career that would allow me to be more present, to be home with my wife and children. But maybe this isn’t simply about my career choice. I am reminded of my friend’s father; he was a Justice on the state’s high court, after all.

So I wonder, what am I doing wrong?

There is a possibility that the answer to this question is quite simple: nothing. This nagging wish that my life were different is real. It is raw. It exemplifies the dukkha, or suffering, that Buddha taught comes from attachment and that characterizes so many moments of our lives. My impulse is to try and fix it, to take it away, to do something about it – and perhaps I still can make different choices in my life.

First, though, my Zen practice reminds me to meet myself right here and now. Zen reminds me of the possibility of sitting with this disappointment, this regret, with the wish to be something or be somewhere for my children that circumstances prevent.

Perhaps, in the end, this regret and disappointment are simply the essence of fatherhood.

Not every moment, surely. But right now, behind my desk, imagining my son reaching into his glove to throw the ball he just caught, his determined grin cast in a direction that I cannot see.

Almost Eight

I stopped at the top of the stairs
to wait for him
as he shuffled out of his bedroom,
sleepy-eyed and not yet steady.

He took the old walnut railing
with his left hand
as we walked next to each other
towards breakfast and the day.

His right hand reached into mine,
gentle and soft,
warm from his blanketed slumber.

He’s almost eight years old, I thought,

in fear of the day
when he won’t slip so easily
into sharing his space
or his hand
with me.

I tried to tread carefully as we went
so as not to disturb our clasp,
wishing the stairs might go on forever,
a father and his boy.