SUMMERTIME: A SEQUENCE OF EIGHT SONNETS
Summertime, and the living is easy
Coming between us to bring us together
little bean. Your role; as mine was to go
trippingly, maternal bulk aglow- –
warm with sweet thoughts of becoming your mother.
So comfortable-hazy then I thought I knew
what a pleasure it would be: summer
all year long; long days of lengthening wonder
and serious play. No tropical storms blew
in my fantasy! But sleeplessness day
after weary day left our tempers raw,
hearts subdued by responsibility.
“Family” displaced “romance”, as others foresaw.
(Novices, we made the trade willingly- –
what greater joy than being Dada, Mama?)
Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high
At first the slightest ripple, unfamiliar
as all sensations are below the chin
in this body I stubbornly call “mine”
then something fiercer; newer; was it your
knee or elbow WHOOPS there it goes again I
never experienced anything so odd —
this must be what it feels like to be God
with all creation rattling round your belly!
I like your Aunt Lisa’s description best:
a goldfish nosing up against the glass.
Blind appetite? Affection? Wanderlust?
Perhaps all three. I know; I too have wished
to be both in and out; to get some rest
and yet to have you always here like this
Your Daddy’s rich, and your Mama’s good-looking
And “the earth is all before you where to choose.”
Fat chance! But without such illusions
who’d sacrifice a baby to pollution,
lies and violence; the tightening global noose?
Not us. For ages we used these fears
to put off more personal confrontations
till nature hit us with the revelation
of what was passing us by with the passing years.
So, yes, I’m grateful, dazed by the miracle
I’m not sure I deserve, but wondering
if what we’ve done is very selfish still.
Do you want to be here, little wrinkled thing,
cold and sleepless; lonely; never full?
All we can do is hold you now, and sing.
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry
In fact, you wailed before you were fully born.
Appalled by hospital noise, electric light
and chilly air? Or maybe it wasn’t fright
but eagerness: blowing your own horn?
We’d like to think so, though you cried a lot
for someone simply announcing his arrival –
six weeks worth; the record is archival
if hastily scrawled, tear-smeared, poorly blotted.
Your baby book’s the only thing I wrote
those early months, too bewildered, almost,
to talk. The occasional thank-you note
depleted what little fluency I’d boast
I had; had had; would have again — I hoped.
For now we clung to each other: both lost.
One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing
At nine months old, you conduct opera
to the radio; point to the CD player
when you want to dance. We say we don’t care
what you do when you grow up, etcetera,
but seize each bogus clue with true conviction —
your very diapers oracular. Forgive us.
Your Mom and Dad are daft, inanely curious
about who you are, will be; a prediction
anyone could have made, and did, but we
thumbed our noses at a year ago.
Like everyone who’s ever had a baby
we find our best intentions hard to follow;
to do right by you is not so easy
(which we thought we knew – but then, how could we know?).
You’re gonna spread your wings, and take to the sky
It kind of caught us sideways, your first word:
in the midst of undistinguished babble
and humming (mouth full) at the kitchen table
you pointed out the window and said “bird!”
Then for three weeks your vocabulary
flourished daily – “up” & “down” & “apple”
“Daddy” & “Mama,” “octopus” & “ball” —
until those first steps, tentative and wary.
I’m like that too, I have to concentrate
on one thing at a time; in this case, you.
Which is why I’ve done so little work of late
or exercise, or anything you can’t do
with me or on me. You’ll have to liberate
us from each other before the year is through.
But till that morning, ain’t no one gonna harm you
The little boy’s hand, his hand full of trust,
trustingly offered to the bigger boy
as, without looking back, he walked away
from his mother to be beaten to death. Almost
more than I could bear, seeing in that slight back
turned forever, leaving forever, yours
as you walk off innocently towards
some horror I will fail to expect
or, worse, anticipate but not forestall.
Whenever I’m not holding you I know
nothing’s childproof – no house, school, shopping mall,
no car, no bicycle. Nowhere to go
on God’s green earth where children cannot fall
from mothers’ arms. No. Nowhere to go.
With Mommy and Daddy standing by
Next week’s your Happy Birthday, monkey boy.
Uncanny how these past twelve months have flown!
Back then I thought I’d never last till noon
nursing you, changing you, every hour or two;
today you prefer to take milk from a cup
and try to join our dinner conversation,
or disrupt it with perpetual motion.
From your perch you screech “go down,” then holler “UP!”
fervently ambivalent. Desire
is what you’re all about. Even Mother
is no longer just a fact of nature —
you choose me; other times you choose your father.
Last year we were entranced. But this summer
we’ll become a family truly, and together.
© copyright Susan Glickman 1995