Dave and Todd were two poets we knew.
Dave snapped at me once for whispering to a friend during a reading he was giving.
I was fourteen and I didn't know his poem was about
a family he knew that died when rolls of steel bounced off a truck
one afternoon on a Canadian highway. "No, I don't think it's funny," I said in answer to his question.
Todd came to our high school writing class once and doubted aloud whether we were old enough to hear a more "mature" poem of his
so we all listened intently.
I remember two lines: "Now it's my turn to wear the vest/ feel of leather on my back."
That was me in high school. Literar-ily, not literally.
Sex and death came to us in verse
and I think I concluded that I would grow up to be
Dave and Todd or
Dave or
Now I am 36, biking around a Boston suburb with my precocious, gorgeous preschool daughter
she smells bread baking
on Thanksgiving day
so we follow our noses down an alley, standing high on our pedals
voluminous joy from the face of a young man, more of them in there by the ovens, loading the trucks
all of Middle Eastern descent
"Your bread smells AMAZING. Can I buy a loaf?" I ask
He laughs. "What kind?" and the variety of the bread in the alley on the carts seems infinite
Sweet Challah, I say and he bags a hot braid as I reach for my wallet.
"Next time you buy," he says, "today is gift."
It's dangling from my handlebars
as she asks, "But did you buy that, Mama? Did he not want you to pay for it?"
"It was a gift, my darling," I call as we coast around a parking lot, doing figure eights around the lampposts and shaking our heads in gratitude. "Can you believe that?"
"Set an example for Pearl," say those around me
and I cradle the new baby
his eyes, unending loving eyes
love like warm floured loaves of stacked bread
gazing up at me with that handsome smile
and I think
"Go to work, make an impact," but my impact is here with my son and my daughter, but I'm not making the impact
I want to make
at work
at 36
like Dave and Todd made
when they left their words ringing in my ears
at 14
The thing is, I want to be free, too.
I want to be free to float across empty parking spaces
and I don't know how to do that
and be an artist



The sunlight is getting paler on his little arm
as he reaches for leaves now turning red
the world is tilting
and we're sliding back into position
the leave is almost over,
the leaves are falling.
Last night, the children ran door to door in their costumes
beautiful smiles for every neighbor
I remember trick or treating until it felt wrong
at 13
unable to let go of all that approval
and sugar
I hungered for both
at the doorsteps of my neighbors
I had pitbulls
and alcoholics
and hippies
and abusers
and my children have nothing but safe and loving homes lighting up the night around them
but at 13 I didn't want to let go of my galaxy
because even if they didn't show love for themselves and each other
they still had the most minute love for me
when I knocked on their doors
and they gave me an offering
and I took it
abating my childhood loneliness for one more night

Now it's time to let go again
I hold the lesson of my second childbirth: trust
your intuition
and don't be afraid of discomfort
The shadows get longer as his smile gets wider and he reaches further for
the things that interest him
I bring him into his own galaxy
release him to this world
as my ultimate offering
of love
and trust

At 14 it was over. I put on green fishnet tights and went to a concert.
No one gave me candy. I ached for the loss of what it meant.
But I jumped in the mosh pit
and joined the combat-clad
and toughened, as is my way,
when time reveals itself