Monday, April 2, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Reilly, Escaping

A blur of blond curls between houses,
scrape of an elbow, heel of a shoe around a corner:
Reilly runs from any open door.
When we install trick locks
six feet up, he opens them
with the tip of a plastic sword,
a wooden spoon, anything long enough.

Today he runs panting from the alley with
a branch of apple blossoms torn from a neighbor's tree,
its pink extravagance waving in the blue May air.

How can I be angry:
This child plies me with flowers.
At five, already he knows about love,
which gifts to bring,
what small penance we must serve.

© T. Clear 1991


At a party last Saturday was a woman to whom I hadn't spoken since a conflict arose between her husband and my late husband, many years ago, concerning a flooring installment gone bad and the ensuing repayment. There was intrigue and deception (not on my husband's part) which resulted in late-night threats of violence. Scary stuff, which has lingered and left me uneasy whenever I'm reminded of it.

So when she entered the party, our eyes met, and I offered a courteous hello, hoping to avoid her after that. But no: she sat down across from me, said hello again, asked me how I was, and said,

"I have a wonderful memory of you, T. There was a neighborhood party, and you read some poems, and I remember one particularly, a poem about your son Reilly, and his running off, and apple blossoms. In fact, it's stayed with me all this time. It really touched me."

I think my mouth dropped open in amazement. The poem (appearing above) was written years ago, and I'd long left it forgotten in a box in my basement, not even in the current roster of work on my computer.

I told her as much. I was stunned — both that she'd remembered the poem and that she'd decided to sidestep the uncomfortable issue between us and moved instead directly to something founded in love. I told her that I hadn't thought of that poem in years, and expressed gratitude that she mentioned it at all. I know that, without saying, the unmentionable incident was dancing in front of us, flashing red lights.

Instead, she offered a gift of inestimable worth.

She added, "It's so rare that one remembers a poem so clearly as I remember that one."

And even better: it's my son's birthday tomorrow.
I can't believe I have a 26-year-old son.

Poetry — with all its mystery and enduring power — healed a long-simmering feud.

I bow down
at the altar of the poem,
in humble gratitude.


  1. Love the poem and the hope that the story holds. Thank you for that this morning.

  2. I LOVE how the Universe works!
    Ima Mazed

  3. That is indeed an experience to treasure.

    Love, C.

  4. it's a wonderful poem T. Not surprising that your neighbour remembered it. it captures the moment and your son is like an elfin sprite ..magical. Thankyou for sharing it and the story which adds to the magic. Happy Birthday to your son. Helen Mck.

  5. A remarkable story--but it is quite a remarkable poem--that middle stanza is especially good.

  6. Hey T - she-who-baked-our-birthday-cake. Just coming by on our Tuesday Poem birthday to say thank you for all your support of the blog - the wonderful poets you bring to us - your lovely poems like this one - especially this past year which has been so very tough for you. It's April 17 today and our birthday poem is completed - and your line is in there. What a lovely thing it is. Here's to more poems this coming year - Mary & Claire.