For my husband and granddaughter
The other night, I gazed at what I’d won–
you, tethered to the couch and growling deep
with dinner, treating all within your realm
to symphonies of snorts and poots and winds
and afterward, you’d smile, as if you were
a child, with innocence your one excuse.
And did I say I love you? Yes, I do.
I love the you who loves the you in me,
I love the one we are, the two we were,
the stains that bloom on every shirt you own,
the waddle in your walk, your stubborn stance,
your belly pushing out from under T’s
and body music I first thought was crass.
I love that we’re so comfortable with us,
our crevices, and dips and droops and scars,
our sprouting hairs and balding spots and nights
of churned tequila failing to stay down.
I love that you have seen me so collapsed
that all I was was air, and that right now
I’m naked, menopausal, sweating stink
and close to tears, and still you hold me tight
as if somebody else would want the me
you have. I love the blatant man in you–
your shining armor, and the certain way
you make a circle safe around our lives,
our sloppy lives, our wild blues lyric lives,
our sunken chairs and all our mismatched cups
our million books in pieced-together rooms
our nights of belch and burp and whiskey shots
and pie and bags of Twizzlers gobbled down
while TV slaps us numb and dulls our brains
with thrilling lives so far outside of ours.
I love that you’re a singer, sans a key,
who warbles, screeches, hums and drives me mad
with painfully dumb lyrics you create
to songs I thought I knew. And sometimes we
just stop and stare and wonder, How did this
work out? I had a husband, you a wife,
and then, all gone. We shoved aside whole lives
for days of nothing but ourselves, and yes
our girl, the one who came to us a child
of separate parts. Not ours but all of ours,
she charmed us with her sweet disarming smile
and days of raven hair. You opened wide your arms
and pulled her in, our orphan girl, our light,
our sudden daughter brandishing her wounds
and trusting us to heal. And now, of course,
she’s you, an entertainer, droll and wise,
laughing loud at things that no one else
can see. I’m more than blessed to have you both,
although the blessing’s hard for most to see.
I wander through these messy rooms of love,
astounded by my one. The he. We three.
Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize;Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. She is a Guggenheim fellow, a Civitellian, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program.