As for the Heart

- 1967-

I am come to the age  
of pondering my lastness:  
buying what seems likely  
my final winter coat at Macy’s,  
or when a glossy magazine 
(so very blithely)  
asks me to renew. As for  

my heart, that pixilated  
tweener, how long  
I’ve been required to baby  
her complaints,  
(unLOVED unLOVED),  

alarmed and stubborn clock, 
refusing to listen even as  
the more intrepid tried.  

Now, she mostly mutters 
to herself, though  
occasionally there’s  
some clanging, a tinny sound,  
like the radiator in a Southie  
triple decker, fractious as  
a pair of cowboy boots 
in a laundromat’s dryer.  

It’s always been  
this joke old people know— 
in such a state  
of nearly doneness,  
the world grows sweeter,  
as if our later days  
are underscored with music  
from a concerto’s saddest  
oboe hidden in the trees. 

Just today,  
while standing in the kitchen,  
my son complained nonstop  
about his AP Psych class  
while wolfing warmed up  
bucatini from a crazed,  
pink china bowl.  

Shiny, kvetching creature.  
Even if I could tell him  
what he doesn’t want to know,  
I wouldn’t. But now,  

the pissy storm that’s spent  
all afternoon flapping like 
a dirty sheet  
has wandered off 
to spook some other  
neighborhood. 

There’s one barbed weed 
pushing up greenly through  
my scruffy loropetalum. 

And it falls on me, this little  
cold rain the day has left. 

More by Erin Belieu

Against Writing about Children

When I think of the many people
who privately despise children,
I can't say I'm completely shocked,

having been one. I was not
exceptional, uncomfortable as that is
to admit, and most children are not

exceptional. The particulars of 
cruelty, sizes Large and X-Large, 
memory gnawing it like

a fat dog, are ordinary: Mean Miss
Smigelsky from the sixth grade;
the orthodontist who 

slapped you for crying out. Children
frighten us, other people's and 
our own. They reflect

the virused figures in which failure
began. We feel accosted by their
vulnerable natures. Each child turns

into a problematic ocean, a mirrored
body growing denser and more
difficult to navigate until

sunlight merely bounces
off the surface. They become impossible
to sound. Like us, but even weaker.

Field

Field is pause   field is plot   field is red chigger bump where

the larvae feed   corn wig curled in your ear. Field cares not

a fig for your resistance   though kindly   gently   lay your

head down   girl   lay it down.
   When ready   storm   when

summer   kilned smoothly as a cake. Awake! Awake and

wide is field. And viral. Biotic. Field of patience   of percolation

and policy. Your human energy. Come again? What for? In

field   there is no time at all   no use   a relief   the effort done

which is   thank you   finally   the very lack of you.   Lay your

head down   girl   lay it down.
   In field   which has waited since

you first ascended to the raw end of your squared off world and

gazed upon your subjects:   congery of rat snake   corn snake

of all the low ribbons bandaging the stalks. Progress in field

foot sliding in matter   slick chaff in fall.   And always   field’s oboe

this sawing   a wind   that is drawing its nocturne through the 23rd

mansion of the moon. Field   is Requiel’s music and the Wild Hunt

of offer. In field   they are waiting   you are sounding. Go home.
 

Another Poem for Mothers

Mother, I'm trying
to write
a poem to you—


which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I've wanted
to say, Mother.
..but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them. Poems to
mothers make us feel

little again. How to describe
that world that mothers spin
and consume and trap

and love us in, that spreads
for years and men and miles?
Those particular hands that could

smooth anything: butter on bread,
cool sheets or weather. It's
the wonder of them, good or bad,

those mother-hands that pet
and shape and slap,
that sew you together
the pieces of a better house
or life in which you'll try
to live. Mother,

I've done no better
than the others, but for now,
here is your clever failure.