Tell Your Mother
I grew up in a flash by your mother’s side.
Tell her I loved her deeply, like bells sounding in the distance, like the secret I had to rush to tell her. I loved your mother at the Lutheran summer camp where we got real with our Bibles, where we rehearsed on the Palace Theater stage in the wings while we murmured our parts and pantomimed our choreography before the curtain parted. As best friends, we made space for anything to happen to us, as long as it happened to us side by side, or was documented through letters that we posted in the mail that arrived steadily like ants creating a trail.
Tell your mother to tell you how we cut images of what you must be going to look like from magazine pages in the 1990s, how we clipped around your round face and big eyes from baby-food advertisements, certain it was going to be you.
The first I saw of you was a roiling under her skin, kicking while she filmed her belly, feet stretched far before her.
Tell your mother to tell you the time, in the charged balm of adolescence, when we lay in a hammock on the fourth of July, watched neighbors tilt back in lawn chairs and for some reason, while we rocked in the weave of the hammock, while sparklers crackled, and dry as a bone but intoxicated surely by the elation at simply being alive side by side, we laughed so hard at something that rocked us nearly over and to the ground, we peed our pants and tumbled down while fireworks shot up as the floodlight clicked on as the adults chatted, and I consider that place in the grass on the Clintonville lawn that exists with our imprint on it still, the sound of the dresser drawer opening for her to replace my clothes in the room she shared with her sister. We stayed up as late as the night would have us then paraded into the morning hours, just as we paraded from the hammock, our lack of shame like capes behind us.
Ask your mother if she remembers learning how to solve the problem of a house fire. The firemen brought a trailer filled with theatrical smoke to the library parking lot where we filed before the door like books to be shelved. There is a way out, we learned, if you crawl under the smoke, if you test the metal doorknob with the back of your hand. We crawled through the hallway, snickering always, toward the trailer exit where, successful, we’d hop out into the clear air having passed the test, and it was this way that we jumped from our tenth birthdays to our twelfth, and now years later we are here, the fire behind us, and you due in her arms in a matter of weeks.
When you arrive, she will feel your warm cheek with the back of her hand. Tell your mother that when you arrive, I will step back as she lights the firework fuse of your little life, that I will do my best to be a bellows to your flames.