October 12, 2016
To My Second Daughter
One day — if you do exist one day — when you are older,
already grown into your probable tallness, I will tell you
about your brief sister, how you stepped into a life vacated
by another, pruned face scrunching at the sudden air,
limbs punching and kicking after their long conservancy.
I'll tell you things you will already intuit, that I love you
with a heavy love, one that carries the expectancy
of past hopes. I'll have taken you apple and peach picking,
shown you how dry creek beds become trails in summer.
We'll have lugged spades to the beach to build outsized castles
by then and spun elaborate bedtime mythologies over years
of stories. All those things we will have done were planned
for another who didn't stay near long enough to do them.
Once your aunt Laurel asked me to tell her the best thing
that happened on the worst day of my life and I told her
about how I touched your sister's open palm — I thought
she had already gone — and she gripped my pinky so tightly
I couldn't believe. Then everything else happened.
I'll tell you all that if I'm lucky enough to have a future with you
in it. And you will know that we don't love anything wholly
for itself, that some of my affection for you is for her — no sense
pretending otherwise. When I see your hands tensing guitar frets
(as I imagine them), I'll remember your sister who had long fingers too.
It's hard writing about grief so I usually avoid doing so. Making something out of loss and suffering runs the risk of cheapening or exploiting the material. This poem came from Tupelo Press' 30/30 writing challenge, several poets writing a poem a day for a month. That headlong and heady challenge gave me the distance and space I needed to write about the death of my daughter, Gertrude, There was no time to think so what came out came from somewhere deeper than intellect. I sat at Pushcart Coffee in New York City and wrote draft after draft on paper and then borrowed a friends laptop and it coalesced into this.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published weekly by Glass Poetry Press.
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