I always thought that at some point I would have children, but by the time I finally found the man I wanted have them with, I was thirty-eight, and he already had eight living children. Four of these children were under the age of eight when we met. When I married their dad, I married them, too. This poem was written at a time when, as inept as I was at entertaining small children in an L.A. condo, I still believed in a sort of magic wherein stepfamilies could become real families.
“When a woman is cut out of the process of creation, she becomes crazed.” –author unknown
Your daughter breaks her arm and something breaks with it.
She becomes manageable.
Her laugh, softer now sometimes.
She loves writing with her other hand.
Her broken one grows fingernails for the first time
which we manicure once a week.
Sometimes, I drive home slower
on the nights I know we’re going to have the kids,
hoarding a few more minutes alone.
My key in the lock brings them, wanting games at once.
You, exhausted, irritable on the sofa,
wanting them yet wanting them gone.
In a movie, Mary Tyler Moore saying
she can’t love the son who needs her love too much.
Can’t love on demand?
Dirty fingernails, torn knees on Levis—
the kids always looking like something your ex-wife dragged in—
driven down to our city life where they demand the mall.
Not the way I pictured it.
They call me Mom immediately after the wedding.
I scrub their fingernails,
put medicine on cold sores,
tell Jodie not to wear those torn-out pants to school anymore.
The other kids, I say, will talk—
what my mother would have said to me.
When I tell them at the office
about the homemade Easter decorations
hung on our refrigerator,
about the one that reads “to Mom,”
Jim says he prefers Elliott’s stories.
When I tell them that the littlest grabbed my knees
and hugged and said, “I just love you,”
the clever crowd around the copier groans.
I’m not a mother, they all understand,
and once a week, I barely get good practice in.
But when your daughter breaks her arm,
I try to find a spell to stick us all together—
paper, scissors, colored pens.
I say, “Try to keep the glue off the dining room table.”
I say, “Try not to drop the magic markers on the floor.”
“Take off your shoes when walking on the white sofa.”
The NaPoWriMo Day 8 prompt: write poems in which mysterious and magical things occur. Your poem could take the form of a spell, for example, or simply describe an event that can’t be understood literally.