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.