The radio in Northern Missouri had little to offer me but vociferous gospel preachers and twangy Dobro plaintiffs, so I sang to myself and recited poetry. I sang the songs and recited the poems that I voiced when I rocked my children to sleep, they nuzzling on my lap, and me, nuzzling their soft hair. I would sing for hours this way because as soon as I would put them down in their crib, they would awaken again. Joyce thought they should cry themselves to sleep, but I said, which would you rather hear, my singing or their crying?
She never answered, which might tell you something about my singing.
When they got older, I would read to them in the same way, reading far into the night, long past their bedtime, until Joyce would say, stop it now, they need to go to bed. She thought she was the responsible one.
I would read to them from the Laura Ingles Wilder books; in the cabin in the big woods, in the dugout in the prairie. I little realized they would soon be moving on, like Laura, to Kansas. I had them draw their illustrations of the books, which I still have, brittle, yellowed, and faded, posted on my refrigerator door. It was too painful to take them down. I left them up where I’d be so used to having them, I wouldn’t see them anymore.
Older still, the week before my daughter started kindergarten, I took her apple picking, although the apples when not yet ripe. I don’t remember why my son didn’t come. A year later, they were gone; left with their mother.
I had written this poem, which I recited to myself as I drove through Northern Missouri:We picked our apples green, before the frost Dropped them, the week my daughter started school. Spiked by stubble, bruised by stones, and lost, What fell we left. We climbed the tree and tossed The best from branch’s arms to bushel’s lap. We picked our apples green, before the frost. She said, just as I hooked her rungs across A bough, she’ll bring her teacher apples; but not those, Spiked by stubble, bruised by stones, and lost. I hoped the teacher knew what grief it cost To send her apples, nurtured with such care. We picked our apples green, before the frost. Did Eve, when Eden’s gate she, fated, crossed, So chatter on, delight to be undone, Spiked by stubble, bruised by stones, and lost? Then I stood and waved in bus exhaust, Unseen. I turned, allayed We picked our apples green before the frost Spiked by stubble, bruised by stones, and lost.
- Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard (experimentaltheology.blogspot.com)