from Delights and Shadows
by Ted Kooser
Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass an the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.
You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.
The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,
for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened
and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.
This poem was featured on The Writer's Almanac this morning, and I knew I would have to repost it immediately. Yesterday was heavy with tornado stress, and I've just gone off my thyroid medicine--a combination that left me feeling exhausted. I perched on the couch watching the early news alerts and then began amassing supplies in the central bathroom. The diaper bag, a bowl of water for the dog, a battery operated lantern, the cell phone, my sneakers, and the baby carrier. I imagined putting the baby in the carrier and the sneakers on my feet before picking our way out through the rubble and into the rain. I've seen Twister but still picture tornadoes as dusty events and not rain storms, but they must be that way usually. A dog leash, I forgot to grab Sukey's leash! I had a granola bar but no dog food or fresh water. And I should have filled my pockets with cash and jewelry (if we had a pocket's worth of either) for bartering. Robb would have been tragically swept up in the funnel cloud--sorry, my love, that's the peril of working on a boat in a disaster movie. In reality it would be very hot in the bathroom, the three of us jammed in there panting (the dog) and sweating (the baby and I) for an hour. And boring. Instead we played on the nursery floor across the hall and waited. And Mom called to check on us. I told her about my preparations.
"Make up some bottles and take them into the bathroom with you," she said.
"I don't need bottles. I make milk for her."
"Oh, yeah." She thought for a moment, and then said, "But you know, just in case you are crushed."
"If I am crushed, how is little Mo going to get a bottle open?"
"Maybe you could feed her with one arm. Or you might need bottles in case something fell and only crushed your boobs."
"Only my boobs?" What kind of selective rubble is this?
"You're right, never mind. Your boobs won't be crushed--they're too big."
Everyone's a comedian.
The poem also made me think of Dad and how I had forgotten to remember this the eighth anniversary of his death. Maureen was two weeks old, I was enthralled with her, and I missed it and didn't realize I had missed it until mid-February. I think he would agree, though, that it's only right for new life to trump death. It seems the proper order of things. Oh, but he would have loved her!