first person

First Person
a poem about mad chickens
narration
and finding your way around I


As he squirmed from my arms,
crawled out of reach,
and bolted to his bedroom, he announced:

Squirming!
Crawling!
Escaping!

Last week I held him on my lap
to keep him in the room.
Turning round and round in my arms, he said:

Power-struggling!
Power-struggling!
Power-struggling!

I can't tell if I am amused
or enraged.
He knows exactly what he's doing.

He knows
exactly
what he's doing.

This is his new conversational tic.
He's become the narrator
of maneuvers.

His narrator's voice is pinched and panting,
like he's battling something enormous,
slippery, and locked:

pinned under a whale
that's slipped from its hammock-on-a-winch, perhaps,
or sweating out the biggest poop of his life.

Fighting!
Pushing!
Writhing!

For awhile I smiled.
His diction was, after all,
both specific and accurate.

He said writhing,
and writhing he was.
Nice vocab, little man!

Nice emotional fluency!
I said "I'm proud of you,"
to us both.

All those parenting books
with detailed instructions
of how to become the person I must urgently become,

they must have done some trick.
We're here.
The boy knows every word for squirm.

It was a hard morning.
Something was wrong and
I didn't know what question to ask.

(Figuring out what question to ask
is 50% of love. The other 50%
is waiting quietly to hear the answer.)

I waited for him to answer
the question I hadn't asked yet -
Are you okay?

Do you have a poopy butt?
Did you wake up too early?
Are you an ass hole now, or what?

He kicked his brother in the throat
and bolted.
He knows that's not okay.

I caught him by the arm
and pulled him into my lap
and held him.

Pushing
Kicking
Fighting

Escaping
Squirming
Rolling

Diving
Hitting
Struggling

His eyelids clenched.
His fists shot.
His back arched, coiled, curved.

Struggling
Struggling
Struggling

Isn't it amazing
how many words he knows
for help

and how look it took me
waiting quietly
to hear the answer to the question I hadn't asked.

I imagine him in the dark
heart thundering as he calls out
"Mommy! I'm in the dark!"

I imagine my voice returning,
reedy through the dripping air,
"you're right! It is dark!"

Mommy, I don't care about right;
I want to be out of the dark,
back in the light.

I'd been thinking in first-person.
narrating his maneuvers
starting first, always, with me, my, I.

I'm the parent, the interpreter,
the reader of all the books.
"My son has a great vocabulary."

"I've been working hard
to support his emotional fluency."
"I hear your words, baby. I see your body."

But look at me,
Mommy.
Hear me.

Flailing
Squirming
Escaping
Running away
Fighting
Kicking
Help me

A train leaves Pittsburgh
traveling west at breakneck speed.
Oh God, oh God, we're going too fast!

The compass,
its arrow specific and accurate,
will point steadfastly west

all the way to the scene of the crash.

The compass,
its arrow precocious and bright,
cannot ease off the gas.

I sat in the big chair
with his desperate limbs thrashing
and said

Holding
Breathing
Calming

He slapped my arm
and kicked my chest
and panted

Kicking
Hitting
Scraping

I put my hand on his back
as hot and damp as a fresh loaf of bread wrapped up too soon
and said

Stroking
Helping
Loving

He slipped his arms around my neck,
his legs around my waist.
He pressed his face into my shoulder.

He bonded to my body
tight as a barnacle, suddenly stock still
in the whipping tides.

I waited, quietly.
He said
Loving, too.


loving
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