To My Son (A Poem)

To My Son

Last winter as snow banks

rose high above us

and we clutched our coats

tight against our necks to

fight off the cold,

 

you were cradled in the warmth

of your mother’s belly.

 

Sinew formed, bonesOtis Cole

calcified, fingers sprouted at the

ends of your tiny arms,

and the synapses in your

brain began to spark and fire.

 

When your mother

laid on the couch to relieve

the kernel of pain in her back

I rested my head on her stomach

and talked to you.

 

Sometimes you’d respond with

a kick or a punch, as if

the universe had spoken.

 

At night I’d lay awake and

listen to the whisper of snow

falling outside. I’d run through my

fears about fatherhood,

of which there are too many

to list now. And when my heart

began to beat so hard

I thought it might wake your

mother sleeping next to me,

I’d reach across the darkness,

rest my hand

on your mother’s belly,

and dream about what your

voice would sound like one day.

 

Then you were born

in the violent miracle

of childbirth. Your mother

was a warrior, bringing

you into the world

with unmedicated grace.

 

Like most of us, you will never2015-06-27 13.45.48

understand what your mother

went through so you could

come into this world. Be nice to her.

Always.

 

And now you’re here,

and I feel this world more fully

than I ever have. I cry easily.

I laugh loudly. I say things

I never thought I would.

 

You are the purest part of God.

 

I don’t know exactly what that

means, but my gut tells me it’s

true. And if you’ve taught me

anything, it’s to trust my gut

when it speaks.

 

What I’m trying to say

is that when you were born

the bones protecting my heart

were removed and thrown

away for good, and I live my life

with my heart exposed to the world,

vulnerable, aching, present.

 

When you cry, the seismographDadOtis

in the left atrium of my heart

goes off. I fear that as you get

older its sensors will become

so acute that if your heart breaks

a thousand miles away

it will shake me to my core.

 

But your heart will break.

You will try things and fail.

That’s the way life works.

But know that when the bad

things happen, as they inevitably will,

I’m here for you with my naked heart

beating to a song written by you.

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