[ this end up ]


In Parenting, Writing on September 12, 2010 at 9 am

He appeared suddenly. I took a startled, strong breath and with it went everything that I’d been and the next brought with it awe and wonderment and the deepest love I’d ever felt. It was an instant feeling and it overtook me entirely.

Before my son was born they told me, “You’ll be a different person;” “I can’t explain it, you’ll see.”

Now that he’s here, I think that, though you are different, you’re only different insofar as every event you’ve consciously or subconsciously assigned value to is reshuffled and revalued. Every last one.

To pick one at random: That summer’s night in the car, above speed limits under streetlights; light and dark swapping places through the windshield on our faces; music up, windows down; two friends seeing different versions of the same uncertain future, smelling the same scent of a distant and dissipating youth.

It remains—all of it does—but less. And since, up-until-now, that comprehensive catalogue of events and their respective values are the only reference points connecting you to the world, well, you can see how a swift jolting of those values changes your understanding of yourself.

Now that he’s here, I know that you can’t explain it insofar as descriptions of things of any nature, let alone his nature, are intractable. I’m reminded of two poems by Robert Hass that describe this difficulty well. One poem is titled The Problem With Describing Color, the other, The Problem With Describing Trees.

In Color Hass explores different incarnations of the color red, from the rouge of a nipple, to the deep red blood off fresh cut skin. He does this in such a way that highlights the incompleteness of mere “red.” There is, by the act that elicited the color, a feeling of red. A sexual red. A violent red. Which description of red reflects not just what you’ve seen, but what you’ve felt?

In Trees Hass explores the reality of a tree’s actions, like the fluttering of leaves in summer as a defense against its cells drying out, to show that “tree” doesn’t reflect the type, size or anything at all about the tree itself, outside of being a tree. Maybe tree is all imagination requires. Maybe, as the poem says, there are limits in language of saying what the tree did. The poem closes: “Mountains, sky, An aspen doing something in the wind.”


I cradled him, he looked at me and I was completely filled with something.

So that’s, I think, what I’ll tell the others when they arrive. I’ll say that you’ll be different but you’ll remain, all. You’ll be filled with something.

The colorful capriciousness of fall still captivates me, each tree’s new hue pulling at my same old pieces.

Music still coaxes my voice to join and it eagerly leaps from my gut with such force that tickles my throat, making my insides laugh.

Words too, the way they line up and the men who lead them there. Different lines of words now do different things; the repeating “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as my living, My baby you’ll be” jotted over fifteen short pages slowly retrieves that aging bucket from my endless well and the tears appear when the mother fulfills her lifelong promise before closing her eyes for always.

I cried again last night thinking of all the somethings we’ve had and the ones we may yet have. I cried knowing all somethings one day end.

She held me and we cried together. I told her I didn’t want our somethings to end. She agreed. We climbed into bed, which felt as it has many times before, like always warm and safe, but with each changing moment, something new.

The Problem With Describing Trees
Robert Hass

The aspen glitters in the wind.
And that delights us.
The leaf flutters, turning,
Because that motion in the heat of August
Protects its cells from drying out. Likewise the leaf
Of the cottonwood.
The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem
And the tree danced. No.
The tree capitalized.
No. There are limits to saying,
In language, what the tree did.
It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.
Dance with me, dancer. Oh, I will.
Mountains, sky,
The aspens doing something in the wind.

Robert Hass

If I said – remembering in summer,
The cardinal’s sudden smudge of red
In the bare gray winter woods –

If I said, red ribbon on the cocked straw hat
Of the girl with pooched-out lips
Dangling a wiry lapdog
In the painting by Renoir –

If I said fire, if I said blood welling from a cut –

Or flecks of poppy in the tar-grass scented summer air
On a wind-struck hillside outside Fano –

If I said, her one red earring tugging at her silky lobe,

If she tells fortunes with a deck of falling leaves
Until it comes out right –

Rouged nipple, mouth –

(How could you not love a woman
Who cheats at Tarot?)

Red, I said. Sudden, red.


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