Brave outdoorsman, seventeen,
with tent designed to withstand
conditions on Mount. Everest,
what is this skittering scratching
sharp tooth smile in flashlight
beam? Huge. Did you not know
the first rule? Never bring food
into the tent? Yes, it did rain,
and the little Coleman stove
wouldn't light, but I, sixteen,
brave and true outdoorsgirl, hug
the silver handed beach ball
to my chest, set clever bandit
raccoon out in mist and dawn
rising off the stream. Get dressed.
No consumation here.
My daughter has a boyfriend. It's
their first date. They are going to
a movie. The family wants to see
the movie too so they are going on
a date with her mother and her
brother and her sister and-oh, no-
her mother's "Friend." She met him
at an art gallery opening. The boy friend.
That is--the daughter's boy friend.
They are holding hands. They kiss
at every corner. He eats pizza with
a knife and fork. The mother's
"Friend." How humiliating. Brother
and sister are hanging back. They
giggle a lot. Mother is buying six
movie tickets. Isn't the boy at least
supposed to pay his own way? Buy
pop corn? The man? Relief at last.
Sitting separate in a packed movie
theater. Still the ride home. She wishes
she'd get a goodnight kiss. The mother,
that is. Daughter in the rearview mirror
seems to have that covered.
Today there was a rose in my mailbox in a clear round vase.
We both laughed at your delivery.
Remember when we crawled on ice?
We grabbed roots.
Our toes pushed against the frozen hoof prints of a deer.
You knelt before me on a cave roof in the snow.
Your face was young, your hair was gold
(You knew how to be in the sun).
We could have fallen to our deaths! - -
slid to the frozen river hand and hand, breaking the ice.
You left messages that said you loved me.
My children played the tape, pushed the buttons over and over.
They could not bear to watch us waltz.
They told me they knew we were too old for that sex stuff anyway.
We snuck out at night. You promised to teach me the constellations.
The night wasn't dark enough. We hid in the tent.
We broke twigs on the mountain top:
a little grotto for Adam and Eve (past their prime)
pale, blue-berried and bruised.
In those days you sang to me,
you read me Irish plays, the books of Genesis and Isaiah.
Now I listen for your whistle across the yard.
Leaving your bed
two starlings argue.
into the gutter
GIRL OF THE NORTH COUNTRY
I drive out wailing into snow and dark and ice,
our children silent, pretending sleep. You have given me
a last gift, this song by a singer your never liked,
and I can cry it forever, my heart eating anger,
and bitter memory, and sweet.
Kelley White recently attended Peter Murphy's
Poetry and Prose Getaway in
May. She was born and raised in New Hampshire,
has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Medical School, and has been a pediatrician in
inner-city Philadelphia for the past twenty years. A book of her "medical" poems, The Patient
Presents, was published by The People's Press in Baltimore, and a chapbook,
I am going to walk toward the sanctuary, has just been published by
Nepenthe Books / Via Delorosa Press.