Monday, December 22, 2014

Dear Heart -

For this week's poem we were to revise a poem we wrote off of a prompt this last year that we wanted to go back to.  The one I chose was the toughest for me to write.  Not, sure it is even past a draft here. This isn't a topic I often write about, but it is one we should all be talking about more: what it is like to raise a child who isn't "normal" and how society, and our doctors deal with parents and children who are going through the terribly scary period of pre-diagnosis.

Dear Heart –


Big lug of muscle.  How you drag me down! Don’t you know I come from the sort of town that’s named after a standoff? Where a man stood three, aching leg days waiting outside the general store for another man who hid inside? Where everything is too fogged in to see clearly.  Where the ocean is too cold to swim?

I don’t live in a cul-de-sac, heart.  I live on a barn on a hill where I can see for miles into the cathedral of sky.  Where rain percusses against the tin roof. Where the creek gathers and gathers until there is a storm.  Where the trees ache and murmur in the winds. Where the morning sparrows punctuated the sky’s blue dome with ellipses that come from the sea. What does it mean to carry something to this place that is so un-nameable? 

But these days I have thick fingers and heavy, slippery feet.


Each doctor who has met with my son picks an edge of the tapestry to pullout and name without seeing the whole.

What we are given are small golden threads gathered and rewoven into unrecognizable shapes.
There is a part of me that wants to mitigate the conflict.       
That part of me is you, heart.

There is a part of me that steps up to the man standing knee deep in the mud outside of the general store just to whisper in his ear, you don’t want to be remembered for this.

There is the part of me who is the man waiting for fate to walk in and throw him against the dry goods, to have his face pressed into the dirt floor until he screams.        
Heart, that floor is so close, I can smell it.

And then there is my son.  My beautiful, suffering son.


On the radio program the parents of children with named mental disorders told their stories to the interviewer as if they were in confession.  They were honest.  They were on the other side of a dark journey looking back.

There was the young child’s palpable rage how it breathed and feathered the air.  Or, how the child ran and ran until he could find a tree that contain the enormous perch of his fear.

There were the holes punched into plaster walls.
There were the volley of shouts and screams that seemed to echo out from another deeper well of a body.

There were the locked doors, then, the removal of locks.

There were the people brought in to teach safety and discipline to parents who hadn't slept soundly in years.
There was the locking away of knives and scissors and baseball bats (just in case).
There was the teaching of body holds.
There were the words: police intervention.
There was the moment I looked into their stories and saw my own.


But what do we do heart without a diagnosis? What if we or the doctors or the schools step back only to see the blur of a face, the energy of a being that is different from what we know to name? 

But, I know him through the fog, heart.  I know his heart once beat inside of me and no matter how long I must stand, I will stand outside the door waiting for him to step out.


So I step back heart. I step back and back and try to see the whole portrait for what it is.  I turn off the radio.  I dig up the god-damned history of my town and try to understand more than what we've left to speak for itself and I try to write it all down.

Because a story is never simple, heart, is it?  Not one that is stitched in my own blood.

1 comment:

Tammi Salas said...


This poem is powerful, raw and beautiful.