One assurance of life, as factual as death, is the loss of innocence that arrives with the loss of childhood. I am not a child anymore, and never will be again. I am staggered, struck, thrown down beneath this blinding weight: that the bliss I once handled and tasted, ran through with arms spread wide, smelling of sun and glee, that romance, that utter independence on nothing except the day itself, long and brilliant, that total sheer delight blind of time, oblivious and unaware of death, all that
My mother and I both experienced a certain heaviness in my transition from a child to a man. My mother lost a boy, and what did she gain?
“I don’t know”, she said to me once ” I don’t know who you are anymore. It’s like I woke up and found a stranger living in the same house as me. Who are you? Who is this stranger you have become?”
At the time I couldn’t answer. I was 19, less inarticulate and less self aware. I processed her words for several months and wrote two or three poems all dealing in various ways with the loss of childhood and the turning of time. These poems were saw-toothed, forbidding, full of doom and chaos. Think of them as “articulately inarticulate”, if you will. All of them attempted expressing a thought too deep for tears, or tongues. Over the years, (I am four years older now) most of the poetry I have written deals with the loss of innocence and childhood stemming from that moment.
This poem is another lament. It tells you how to look for lost things. Read it.
My mother used to tell me,
look for lost objects, things like pins
and hammers, love, or moments of childhood
the way a woman looks for them.
Women overturn things, moving where they saw it last
peering into dark corners with a lamp in their eyes. Hope
compels them, she said, to search the attic, behind
book shelves and all the beds, or sifting the grass
then peering through the trees through which
the lane comes. Men are like giants, she said,
when they lose something they stalk over
the blue mountains scattering glances
down between the valleys but never stooping,
never bending their eyes to really look because
men know they can always build a new thing, recover from
their losses, turn away from pain, treating sorrow as weakness.
Women can’t help loving what they have
with a fierce mother’s mercy. And when they
lose something, they fall on their knees peel back
the carpet, overturn the asphalt in the lane, bend the trees,
or sweep up the dog hairs and pins to see if what they love
hides there, behind. They dip their fingers into the river,
dredging and saying, “my son, my son, where are you?”
The most accessible moral from this blog post is that transition for my mother and I has been difficult. The person I was as a child and later when 16 or 17 is nearly unrecognizable now. He has changed, becoming darker, more intense of humor. He is more independent and solitary. His arguments, now, are as sharp as a snake’s teeth. His head is as heavy as an anvil. He changes little for others and loves few people. Yet he laments with his mother because they both remember a young boy, easy going, naive, innocent, blithe. They both stagger beneath the thought that he is lost now. He won’t come home again. They dredge their fingers in the same river, wondering and searching, separated by a thousand miles of tears and loss.