My daughter/friend/actual cousin, Andrea England knows loss — her first loss was a doozy — her twin brother born dead. Her mother she lost to cancer during college, and her father passed during her Ph. D. Andrea became mine when I first held her — she then 3 months old when I was thirteen. She has been mine ever since.
Andrea grew up a competitive tennis player — pushed at times by her mother, a classical musician with a lovely singing voice, and a lover of words (a few saucy ones tossed in at random). She is now a learned and gifted poet, and loving mother of her own blended family. Her biological daughter is her spitting image — slender, petite, gifted in sports, music and life. As a mother, Andrea continually gifts her daughter with encouragement balanced with reality in all of her endeavors. For her daughter she holds open the doors to the wonders of nature, to the importance of the diversity of mankind in all its various forms, and worries, as all mothers do, about whether or not she is providing the right balance of encouragement versus reality for her child. Whether the death of a brother you never knew or the lack of physical stature to succeed in a sport for which you have a true talent and passion — loss is inevitable. The hard thing as a mother is to live through your child's first heart-wrenching loss and figure out how to encourage them to deal. I imagine that Andrea will just say "Screw it, if you want to do it — then let's do it." I also imagine her daughter will do just that.
— Julie McGinnis
Winter, First Loss
after Tori Amos and Robert Schumann
This can wait, wipe your nose,
You must learn to stand up for yourself
jump shot, free throw, two heads below
the other girls, your white skin glows your
fingers glimmer on the piano, on the court,
classical shimmer of two roads diverging
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself, a merging
between music and muscle, tell those
girls you can pivot and pass, show them
your hands, your hell no, your early birds
Cause things are going to change so fast
maybe that piano bench, that white horse
that layup, your first loss that isn't blood.
This poem happened at a time when my daughter was getting bullied at school for her height as it related to her playing basketball, her favorite sport. As parents, we try to stand up for our children, but ultimately we have to teach them to stand up for themselves. I was reminded of Tori Amos' "Winter" when faced with this task. At the time, she was also playing Schumann's, "First Loss" on the piano. These two disparate activities and musicians suddenly collided in this poem about recognizing self worth while navigating the loss that comes with growing up in our media and expectation saturated society.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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