1. Una, Grade One You are stalky arms and legs And a stiff green dress. You are a backpack And a broad rimmed hat. You are eyes peering out From under the rim. You are a cubby hole With your name on it. You are your lunchbox. You are the new girl on the mat Sitting closest to the teacher.
I am goodbye.
2. Fred, Grade Three You bounce on the balls of your feet.
Your worried smile shows a gap.
You ask me not to kiss you goodbye.
But your hand gives the secret signal: two quick pulses. A single heartbeat
to tell me you love me that right now you need to be loved.
3. Two girls vanish into a world made for them. I swim through a sea of parents, strangers, into the quiet of the deserted playground looking for my husband's face.
Yesterday Martin went back to work and I didn't write a poem. I took the girls shopping for school shoes and to have their haircut. The girl waved her scissors somewhere near Frederique's head and charged me $22. She was, admittedly, an excellent comber though. Fred almost cried because the only Mary Janes in her size had a buckle. The shoe shop girl was brisk, firm, and on my side, unlike the hairdresser. In the end Fred opted for clompy shoes with velcro fastenings. Una tried on every pair in her size, walked around very thoughtfully in each and settled on very fancy brown t-bars. I gave them all the moneys and then I went home.
At home I lost the baby twice. In fairness to myself, once before we went out, and once after - and by then I was a whole new person. The first time the front door (with a dicky latch) had swung open and he had quietly taken himself up to visit the chickens. Fred, Una and I ran madly around the house inside and outside. My heart pounded. I was so relieved when he showed up. They were a long two minutes. The second time, Fred found him almost straight away. He'd climbed up the steep ladder and got himself on the trampoline. For a baby who's not really walking yet (15 steps is his record to date), he sure can move. We are all on high alert. Also yesterday Avery, who is a veritable strap houdini, fell out of the high chair onto his head. It wasn't a great parenting day. Today he did this boneless thing in the supermarket and managed to stand up in the pram totally self-liberated, despite a firm five point harness. I remember there was a girl who went to my high school who was a skilled contortionist. She would perform sometimes at school concerts. It was sort of like that.
Where is she now, that contortionist girl? What bleak-hearted circus did she join? I can't remember her name, but I can clearly visualise the bendiness of her body, and the sharp angular face. Angela? Andrea? If we ever speak of her again, let's call her circus girl.
Every day of January, this is the sort of thinking that went on in my head just before I wrote a poem. I miss it.