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One of my writing friends suggested I write blogs featuring my poems and what triggered them. I've decided to start the new year by doing just that.  Today I'm going to share a poem I wrote when my daughter was fourteen. It was triggered by a visit we made to a prison where the former president of her high school senior class was incarcerated. She was adamant in her desire to visit him. Being her mother, I was uncertain about allowing her to go inside an adult prison.


Being a persistent teenager, she eventually broke open my fear and made me realize what she wanted to do was a noble thing. Her caring for this 18-year-old boy was genuine. He'd been one of her brother's best friends--her brother had managed this boy's campaign for senior president. She knew him well. And she wasn't about to abandon him because he'd made a stupid mistake. I knew her compassion was real and right.  So I took her to visit him. 

As we were leaving the prison, walking across the asphalt parking lot, I had the clear, and somewhat painful, realization that she was not a little girl any longer. She was transforming into a woman--taking a giant step that day. My hand did reach out to touch her face.  And I knew, at that very moment, I would write a poem about this day, this transformation, this amazing child/woman who'd been entrusted to my care.  And so I went back in time and recaptured the many ways in which my daughter was destined to "catch the light." 

Catching the Light
                                                                     for Bonnie

At six, my daughter believed stars
could punch holes through the darkness.
For that fleeting second
when each new light stood still
she'd leap to catch it--
hold it briefly in the palms of her hands.


Two years later, the sky starless
and arranging itself for rain,
she held a shoebox coffin
lined with maple leaves,
air holes dotting the lid.


I remember the sound as it hit the earth
and the Siamese kitten shifted its weight--
settled into leaving.
Unwilling to cover it with dirt,
she held the small shovel
like a crutch beneath her arm.


Today, she visits a friend in prison.
"Thank you for bringing her,"
he mouths above an offered hand
she cannot take,
matching it to her own
pressed flat as a moth against the clear plastic wall.


Leaving, she pauses in front of the windows
and I feel her heart lift itself up.
She watches his fingers flutter--
catch her fading light--
through the narrow bars.


Somehow strange to me now,
neither child nor woman, 
my hand reaches out to touch her face.
This slow and painful rise into herself,
pure and fleeting as starlight.




It's a strange and beautiful thing to look back on the lives of my children--the ones I believed were mine to teach--and discover just how much they've taught me.  Not surprisingly, my daughter started her own business, providing mediation, training and counseling services for caregivers and families of patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimers' Disease. She calls it, "Shine Your Light."