Today I woke up in the dark bud of morning and laid there for a minute, grasping at last night’s dream. A call, “MOM!!!” interrupted my lingering. I popped up and shuffled down the hall with quiet urgency, like a nun on her way to matins. Eloise had had a bad dream. I smoothed her forehead and cooed about the dark, and just about had her back to sleep when the bathroom doorway flooded with light.
Gwendolyn had flipped the switch on the day. I looked up and she was brushing out her hair in long strokes, obediently upholding a tween girl’s duty.
The three of us tip-toed through the hall. It was still dark, not yet six, and though we were quiet, we could not mask the breeze of our scent. The dog was awake now too, hauling her old bones down the stairs with us in a noisy tangle of claws and hardwood floor. Loud enough to wake up Chloe who always makes it her business to remind me of the next thing. She calls from her bed “Mom, don’t forget to undo the alarm.” Because sometimes I do forget, and I let out the dog. On those mornings I am the culprit who blasts our family into the day.
By the time we all get to the kitchen I am wistful for the morning I didn’t have. For the quiet hour to myself, for the few lines of writing, for the cup of tea with the small indulgence of honey, and yes, Facebook.
I put on the hot water and warm the milk for Eloise. Gwendolyn, ever-duty bound, is face down in her homework. She is checking off boxes and then looks up to ask me this, “Mom, what is figurative language?” I pull around behind her to see what she sees:
Introduction to Poetry
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
I am surprised. I did not expect this. I fell asleep reading Billy Collins, circling over and over his poem called After the Storm.
“What does he mean to walk inside the poem’s room? Can a poem have a room?”
And so I say, “Well, let’s say this poem is a room--is it mean or friendly?” She says “friendly.” I follow up “What do you think happens when the light switch turns on in a poem.” She says, “well the room fills with light and something pops out at you.” Yes, my dear one, exactly.
We are so deep into The Introduction to Poetry that I don’t hear Chloe slip into her morning nook at the breakfast table. She chimes into the scene with her own question, “Mom, do you like it?” She’s drawn a race car. It’s rounded at the edges, but toughened up with a spoiler, a huge tailpipe, and flaming decals, that, in truth, look more like the wings of an eagle.
“Henry, draws much better cars than me,” she says. “Chloe, I love it. I see you’ve drawn flames and a spoiler. Very cool.”
Now my cup of tea is half gone, an egg is sputtering on the stove and it looks like the contents of the refrigerator have fought a small battle on my counter. The dark bud of morning has opened into full bloom. No writing got done in the dark, it is true. But a golden sensation rises on the crown of my heart and I wonder what else in the world could I have written about today, but this?