Thursday, August 24, 2006


My children are growing up...
I guess this shouldn't be a surprise to me. Pregnancies began and ended with three incredibly different births...the babies each held to their own patterns in those earliest days and months...I was there. I knew time would pass. All of those initial cliches people would spout off to me, the harried new mother,
"Oh, the days are long but the years are short."
"Enjoy them while they're small!"
"Celebrate each moment with them--time flies, you know."
And I would stare at the infant staring back at me and think,
We have a whole lifetime until you are grown.
The days and the years are long...they feel long.
Time doesn't fly--it crawls along on its belly. We have plenty of it.

It turns out...
I was wrong.
School comes for them and I am standing awkwardly to the side--the new place, it seems, for the mothers of older children. In infancy, we are the sun, the moon, the whole, we are clouds passing over unnoticed--fleeting shadows who move without the meaning or gravity we once knew. Or so it is for me...and for Barbara Crooker, the amazing poet who wrote this:

The Blue Snake Lies Curled in My Bowl Like Oatmeal

Coffee sticks like syrup in my throat.
I cannot let you go, my child, my love,
eyes liquid as marbles.
Tears hide in each cheek,
about to rain.

Your hand is as small as a wish,
waving to me,
who has belted you in securely
on each voyage all these years,
tightened the cord,
must I give you up so easily
to cold steel, flashing lights,
the teacher's chalky smile?

I hand you over;
time is given back to me:
two hours to fill
with black snaked lines
on fine, blue-veined pages,
while your stubby hands sweat
on crayon covers;
trying to redo, with circles and lines,
the spangled world behind your eyes;
making fat clay worms
that tangle and break.

Time is mine alone,
yet my arm crooks to hold you
young and babied once more.
My hand fights the discipline
of the page, and the cold snake within me
squeezes as though to burst.

Are we always to be wanting
what isn't:
the greenest grass
accord and principle
motherhood and career?
Yet our age lies to us
like an asp,
whispering, "Both."

But to work is to abandon
to indifferent, casual hands,
what I, the potter, have worked
this demi-decade to achieve in you,
soft claygirl.
You respond to my words
like a cobra to a flute,
like the wooden chimes on the porch
dance to the soft music of the wind
from our lake.

But these five years are spent, idle, and gone
with but a handful of poems to show.
No publications from Antaeus to Xanadu,
but you, my poemchild,
whose smile is all my sonnets.

--Barbara Crooker, 1978

My three masterpieces and I are indulging in the last dreams of the summer...time is fleeting. I want to grab every new mother on the street and tell her, "Hold on tightly now. It will all go so fast. You'll wake up to an empty morning, an empty notebook, and wonder how to begin again now that your stories have boarded a big yellow bus and gone."



Blogger Kim G. said...

That poem and your words capture that bitersweet feeling. I want them to be brave, courageous and walk boldly into their lives, and yet, part of me wants them to cling to me, look to me, WANT ME more than what's out there. But I must move them to the point where they're ready to fly, though I'd love them to stay in the nest! Your kids are beautiful - thanks for sharing this!

11:38 AM  
Blogger bizele said...

Your poem choice was great.
I am not a mother so I wouldn't know much about the topic. Right now I am witnessing my niece going to pre-k for the first time, and I can see her mother's bittersweet mixture of feelings as she sees her daughter grow up.

It must be difficult and exciting at the same time.

11:43 AM  
Blogger January said...

Such a great poem and post.

I'm not quite there yet but I know it's coming. How do we learn to let go, especially when our kids need us so much in the beginning.

Life is like that, isn't it? The ebb and flow of holding on and letting go.

Your kids are beautiful!

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That poem brought tears to my eyes. Yes...that is exactly what it feels like to be a mother. Watching my daughter become more independent has been more sweet than bitter, but I cannot deny a pang when I think of how totally she was a part of me, and everyday takes her a little further away from me.

Beautiful poem and post. I am SO glad you back to blogging.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

tears welled up as i read this.

we are here for you in those quiet, solitary moments in your home.

you are still and forever will be their sun and their moon. if you were my mother, you would be mine. i admire you so.

i've been meaning to tell you that i love your new profile picture. i love seeing your beautiful face. it is just how i imagined it. so fresh, fairy-like and lovely.


1:20 PM  
Blogger LJCohen said...

A wonderful poem. I had the chance to meet Barbara at a conference a few years ago. A gracious woman and talented poet.

1:40 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Lovely poem - it's so true that it's hard to let go, even though we've given them wings to fly. Enjoy every moment, because almost before you know it, they're flying off to university! Sigh. Wonderful photos of your cherubs.

2:09 PM  
Blogger bb said...

at first i thought the hardest part of motherlove would be to learn to give utterly of myself, but i soon discovered that was an instinct in me, not something to be learned.

the hardest part is to relinquish this utter love, or to be able to suspend it in those times that must be spent apart.

a beautful and timely post and thank you for sharing the pictures of your beautiful children x x x

2:39 PM  
Blogger tracey said...

I know now what it is that you know, for I too am there. Where has the time gone? Swiftly from my hands, that I recognize. I am happy and sad as this time has come...such bittersweet moments that are ours to carry with us even as our children grow too large to cradle, these days, these memories we will always have, no matter the time. I am holding on to that thought as I let my young ones go.

That poem was lovely. Like I always comment, thank you for your words and sharing the words of others.

6:32 PM  
Blogger jillypoet said...

I just want to wake up my babies and hug them. That poem is so right there! My son is heading off in two weeks to wrap chubby fingers around crayons and roll out blue snakes, only he'll be going to all day kindergarten and I feel like a mean mommy sending him off. Thanks for remindingme I can write it out, not just feel sad! Thanks for sharing this! What book is it from? I receive e-mails from Barbara Crooker sometimes about new poems, etc., but I don't have any of her work. Could you e-mail me?

10:17 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

This poem opened all kinds of feelings in me, bittersweet and slightly unclear. Children grow so fast.

I love the pictures of your kids - beautiful children - the one of your son made me smile, he looks just like a boy-o.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Beautiful post and great poem! This is something I don't know about first-hand, not having kids, but the other day for some reason I cannot recall I was thinking about how hard it must be to let kids go get on that schoolbus for the first time! I have pictures of my first day of school, and I vaguely remember the excitement, but I can't imagine what it was like for my mom to send us off. Well, I can imagine it better after this wonderful post!

2:08 AM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

I couldn't even read the it's entirety-this scares me so, I think I feel if I have more than my son it will make it a bt easier.

I love him so much-his little personality-his smile his chubby arm hugs-I savor every single moment because I know it will change as he grows up.
Oh it brings tears to my eyes.

You have such beautiful children and you made me feel validated for my feelings by writing this post.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Hugs and love

8:43 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

Even though it's been 21 years since my son went off to school for the first timem this poem brought the memory of that sadness right back to me. This poet is new to me, but I will be searching for more of her work. I'm glad you shared this.

The poignancy of separating from our childen continues even when they are adults. I just posted about it myself the other day (

Enjoy your time with your young ones...

7:39 AM  
Blogger Misty Mawn said...

sigh......what more is there to say! xo

11:11 PM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

Thank you all for your kind commments on this poem and my mama-reflections! Today is our big first day...these sweet words soften the "bittersweet" of the experience. --CDS--

7:39 AM  
Blogger Amber said...

Your children are so pretty, all of them. Even the boy! And the words... they speak what I feel so well, right now. Time has passed so fast with Wyatt, and now I find I am watching Georgia even more closely, wanting to eat up every moment with her while she is small. My baby.

I wish I could go back and hold him again when he was a fat little baby. Just once more...


2:00 AM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

Amber: I am with you!

9:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.