I recently reworked a poem I wrote ten years ago, one that’s based on a true story from our time living in rural Connecticut, where Liam was born. One day when he was a few months old, I was in a local market to pick up a few things I didn’t really need, but it gave me an outing, which I did need. I’m sure cheese wasn’t on my list that day, but if you’re wondering whether or not I bought the Parmesan anyway, you’d better believe I did.
Gift for a New Mother
A hard freeze New England
morning, baby woven against
my chest and local grocery music
tuned to uptempo trebling,
found a boy maybe fifteen (braces,
letter jacket, voice plenty deep)
standing before the open chest of cheeses.
Next to him his mother,
silver-shot hard carefully cut,
wore her son’s long arm flung
casually across the Fair Isle
pattern of her sweater’s shoulder.
They stood many minutes
considering the options arrayed
in the case, fluorescent lit, bejeweled
with tidy parcels of geometric dairy,
his elbow the whole time comfortably
crooked around the narrow of her neck.
I parked my cart to watch near
the terraced shelves of eggs,
infant son tucked up warm
heartbeat to heartbeat,
while they turned wheels and wedges
over in their hands, comparing
price, perhaps, or merit.
He was so confident, so natural,
so sure, as she shrugged against
the loose-limbed bulk of his body
full of bone and blood and promise,
the aura of familiarity surrounding
them so potent it could almost carry color.
Not sure which words to use,
I walked just to the edge of their energy,
unfolded one hand toward them
with the other against my baby’s spine
inside his sling and chose these:
“This is what I want for us.”
And the boy who was almost not a boy
anymore, arm still draped
across the wishbone of his mother’s shoulder,
looked down at me, smiled, and placed
in my upturned palm the prism
of Parmesan he had been holding.
“You can have it,” he said.
I took the cheese and thanked him
though I’m almost certain
he didn’t understand
everything I was thanking him for.