The chair broke years ago
leaving jagged oak
at its topmost edge.
Repairs never held and
here my youngest son sits
his face lit from within
like all God’s children.
If I could I’d fashion everything broken
into a greater whole, forming
a bridge to his highest possibilities.
Instead he eats supper
with sharp wood bristling at his ear
and when I suffer it aloud
the boy says, “It’s perfectly good.”
This was the mantra of my childhood.
Spoken over fat and gristle
left on my plate till I forked those last bites
in my reluctant mouth. Invoked with each
hand-me-down, though Jennifer Kling’s
mother always made me wear suspenders
at her house to spare her
my sagging trousers. Implied
in a fistful of stubby No. 2 pencils
my schoolteacher father saved
from the classroom trash can,
the same ones my mother darkened
her eyebrows with each morning.
Today my son helped with yard work
at my childhood home, then stopped
CSI-faced, to hold up a dark loamy figure.
My mother dismissed it casually,
“Oh, the overcoat in the azaleas.”
Her father’s moth-eaten wool coat,
good tailoring still apparent in the shoulders,
was too good to discard, but perfectly suited
to smother weeds forty long years.
Standing next to her in the doorway
I knew identity as something
broader than a name.
This is who we are.
to chew the fat, hitch up our pants,
and raise our brows— smoothing the way
for our children the best we can.
I grew up missing my grandfather,
yet all the while his coat
lay right outside the window
arms spread wide,
keeping a place for flowers to grow.
Laura Grace Weldon
Find more poems in my collection, Tending.