Friday, April 17, 2009

How can it take two months to mail a tube of goat lotion... my father-in-law in Mexico?! The excuses I jot down for him can’t do justice to the territory: stitches across my son’s eyelid, scabies scare, lice outbreak at the school, Easter vacation (kids home 24/7 for two weeks), great grandpa breaking his arm and fracturing his pelvis. Add the weekend demands of my husband’s schedule, and I’m fantasizing about beaming my father-in-law up, to float even with the stained glass lamp for that aerial view reserved for lucid dreams, acid trips or PMS: my son wringing out the sponge onto his little brother’s head while the paper airplanes soar and my daughter loses her second needle for the day: “Maybe by the couch?! I don’t know, Mom, but I’m not done and I need a new one!”

I’m not a bath-play-date mom but when my three year old and his friend can’t do without the windup scuba diver (the plastic turtle pool buried under a cord of madrone wood), I fill the upstairs tub with a foot of water. Of course, the little people end up stripping, hopping in. The next day, I get the call about the possibility of my son’s friend carrying an active case of scabies. I’m a river kid—please—I grew up being exposed to everything under the sun, but I also have the type of personality to err on the side of anal, so I pull the other two kids out of school until we can ascertain if we’re infected or contagious.

My father wryly reminds me that when my sister contracted it as a kid, my brother and I reduced her to tears by calling her “Scabes” and “Scaby Baby.” My mother, ever practical, says none of the rest of us caught it, which causes me to stop freaking out about my little family in the woods. With neither the freedom to fly nor the promise of the next day hangover wearing off when things right themselves and the world returns to its borders—I remain firmly lodged: yesterday a mother of three, today a mother of three, and tomorrow, damp towel around my head, eyes stinging with tea tree and pennyroyal oil, Patricia Hampl’s Burning Bright, An Anthology of Sacred Poetry to read.

Within moments, I’m in love with the Czeslow Milosz poem, On Angels, inspired by Hampl to go back to the making of my own “silva rerum (forest of things)”--a lifelong assignment begun years ago in Sandra McPherson’s undergraduate poetry class. (In addition to writing a poem a week, we compiled our own “favorite poems by others” reader). I bought a 11x7 sketchpad and handwrote out the first five stanzas of A Child’s Christmas in Wales (who can resist that Dylan Thomas headlong rush into image and sound, Mrs. Prothero, etc.), probably some stanzas from Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck, maybe a couple poems by the Carolyns (Kizer, Forche).

As if in response to psychic calm, things begin to right themselves in the household. My husband extracts, without skewering his thumb, all two inches of my daughter’s hot needle from the dryer. And waiting for me on the floor (beside the youngest’s night bottle curdling towards morning’s yogurt), Noelle Oxenhandler’s The Eros of Parenthood, Hampl’s Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime. Definitely worth waking for, and the feral cats will take the yogurt without complaint.

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