For Hyla

Fourteen

Thirteen thoughts on your fourteenth birthday

When the moon shines on the water with the twinkling distant suns,
You would need a calculator just to count the lucky ones.
— Cheryl Wheeler

I
Before you were born,
you were always with me.
When I woke, I carried you
with me to the shower
to the kitchen, to the car.
I buckled the both of us up.
At work, we took a secret nap at 3.
You were always with me.

II
A girl and a Singapura
are one.
A girl and a Singapura
and a raccoon dog and a minnow
are one.

III
This first word we recognized was “dog”.
Or maybe it “dad”.
You said your word
over and over
to the dog
to your father
to me.
You named us all a word.
You claimed us all with a word.

IV
“Girls’ Wednesday”
You’re in a car seat in the backseat,
waving a hot dog in your hand.
We’re singing along with the radio.
“This is the best day of my life” you say.
And I think.

V
I love you.
I love you more.
I love you most.
I love you more than toast.

VI
Whatever is the now
is the only thing that counts,
The thing you have in your fist
is worth two in the bush.
The now, the now, the now
is what you remind us to hold.

VII
On the school swing set,
you sang the swing as high as it would go:
“Down in St. Mary’s county, headed south from Baltimore”.
You taught the littler girls to do the same.
In Chicago, you sang “O mio babbino caro”
In the science museum’s whispering gallery
In the art institute’s stock exchange trading room,
to an audience of two.
When I was a girl, I sang songs to myself
all the way from school to home.
Every day.
When you’re in a sunny mood, you hum
Christmas carols,
even in the summer.
Your father revs out “Jingle Bells”
with the brush cutter.
You come by it honestly.

VIII
Three weeks old,
September evening.
You and I had a day.
You were not yet you,
and I was still learning how to be a mother.

You sat in your buzzy seat,
my little growly monster,
and watched as I
hustled around the kitchen
piecing together a dinner
one-handed.

I stopped in my rush to
watch the slanted evening light fall
across your face.
Your eyes were wide
with some emotion neither of us knew.

I smiled to reassure you,
and said something, maybe your name.
I saw the twitch of your first smile
as subtle as the first flutter
I felt when you were a mere seed inside.
And I knew who you were.

IX
The iron-tinted river is flowing.
You must be swimming.

X
I love you this much.
I love you from here to the moon.
I love you from here to the moon and back.
I love you from here to the moon and back.
Plus infinity.

XI
The perseids were sailing across the sky
all night.
We were oblivious.
Focused only on the brewing storm,
of your arrival,
and the thunder outside.

XII
Your bedroom floor,
is littered with books
like leaves on a forest floor,
or bones around an ancient fire pit,
radiating out from your bed
where you devour one by one
toss the finished one away
and reach for the next course.

XIII
Every day, you
write, you breathe, you blink, you
write, you see, you eat, you
write, you laugh, you think, you
write, you furrow and bristle, you
write, you crave, you sleep, you
write, you write your
first sentence
of the novel
of your
life.

6 thoughts on “For Hyla

  1. I hadn’t read this before, so reading it now, finally, after almost five days away from home is making me even more badly homesick than I already was. Love you, mom.

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