“Saved for your twenty-fifth”
You saved his life in a way,
but you never
All because of one thrilling ride
with fifteen beers, your mama’s babies in
the back seat, one blue and sweaty—you.
At the hospital, your mama gripped your
hands as they shot you not once but twice to
jumpstart your breathing. They had told her
the flu shot would save your life but they
were wrong. It almost took you and she
would have changed places with you
if not for the fact that there were three
others that needed caring for and the daddy
was yupping it up with the nurses in the
ER. I need to tell you because you never
know when the Coach de Bauer will roll in
and I’ll be riding in the back like Darby
O’Gill. But you saved his life that night.
When ya’ll got home your mama carried
all four babies into the house and left him
to sleep it off in the back of the car but
you and him got her thinking how
wrong all of this was. How wrong it was
to remain under this drinking regime.
Maybe you wonder
why she married him in the first place,
it takes some sight to see
sometimes when a person woos you with
secrets and entices you with a new way
of thinking that is different from your own
and promises that he believes you are
glorious, a special hold-out just for him,
then you think that this must be the door
that is opening but the truth is you held
that door open for yourself while it was
closing all because of pride or yearning
or needing, and the other truth is you just
can’t see because the light is different here.
It’s a strong light, a gripping light, but not
a true light. In the morning she told him
she was leaving him if he didn’t quit drinking.
And she meant it and he did. He did because
he loved you more. So, they reached out for
one of them mercy threads cascading
from heaven and she learnt herself a few
lessons too about light and dark.
You made it to your fifth birthday safe
in his arms because he loved you more
than a saucy bottle of nectar,
that strong gripping light that
promised him the moon, but he found a
new love and that was you. And he is
more proud of you than any father has
a right to be and he’s totally over that
moon for you, as is your mama, but this
new light you live for has him baffled,
your mama baffled, because they both see
that is strong and gripping but not true and
you don’t see it. Do you see that he can only
see it because you saved his life once? You
saved him from the false light
his mind and body that would be wasted by
now if not for you.
The scar your mama bares across her belly
still pains her from time to time but she
rejoices when she feels that pain because
her baby was saved that night.
her fifth birthday, her eleventh birthday,
her eighteenth, her twenty-first, and now her
twenty-fifth. It’s a heavy load at times to grow
up. We start like a willow that bends in the
breeze but with some soul-searching, with
some grace, we will end like a redwood.
It starts at about that quarter of a century
marker. That is my prayer—that you’ll end
like a redwood if it takes a full century.
Your beauty surpasses any wilderness
of willows and your daddy
would fight bear, lion, or panther
for you no matter
what forest you get lost in
even if he doesn’t have the words.
I just needed to tell you this because you
never know when the Coach de Bauer will
roll into town calling my name.
Ap. 28, 2012
(for a beautiful young woman
in Charlestown, SC or Atlanta