letter to my transgender daughter

I made soup tonight, with cabbage, chard
and thyme picked outside our back door. 
For this moment the room is warm and light,
and I can presume you safe somewhere.
I know the night lives inside you. I know grave,
sad errors were made, dividing you, and hiding
you from you inside. I know a girl like you
was knifed last week, another set aflame.
I know I lack the words, or all the words I say
are wrong. I know I’ll call and you won’t answer,
and still I’ll call. I want to tell you 
you were loved with all I had, recklessly,
and with abandon, loved the way the cabbage
in my garden near-inverts itself, splayed
to catch each last ray of sun. And how
the feeling furling-in only makes the heart
more dense and green. Tonight it seems like
something one could bear.

Guess what, Dad and I finally figured out Pandora,
and after all those years of silence, our old music
fills the air. It fills the air, and somehow, here,
at this instant and for this instant only
—perhaps three bars—what I recall
equals all I feel, and I remember all the words.


Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Foust. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“During a spate of warm days last winter, I was struck by how the cabbage plants in my garden responded to the heat, nearly turning themselves inside out in an effort to maximize surface area sun exposure. I thought of how a cabbage’s growth—expressed first as a reckless, splayed vulnerability then as something that becomes more closely held and dense—was like a parent’s love for a child, and then the poem came.”
Rebecca Foust