your friends dispersed
like seeds scooped from a sack,
a few slipping through fingers
and back in the bag with you —
the rest flying out, pitched to far cities,
to root down in places
other than here.
Here, you inch forward
in a line of cars, wondering if
the other mothers dropping off kids
are like you, or if they would like you —
and pondering the irony
that you are alike at least in this:
each of you has narrowed
the scope of your focus
to encompass only
the most pressing needs
of your family.
But you remember
when you’d woven your living
in with the weft of your friends’ —
not planning social events
in the cracks of packed schedules,
but pooling your leftovers
to share improvised meals.
Most days, now, you improvise alone —
if you don’t mind defining alone
as shadowed by a chattering child —
and later you commune with friends
through a cold screen.
You spend your time observing
your child’s likes and dislikes
and which scraps of thought
she chooses to voice;
you try to see these
as seeds of her adult self —
like fiddlehead ferns
with their Fibonacci spirals,
You can picture, down the line,
the fully opened fronds
and how they’ll form a crown of green —
this is how you remind yourself
that in time, and with luck,
she’ll become your dear friend.
But it’s not enough, or it’s too much
that you’ve concentrated on one spot,
like a magnifying glass
clutched in patient suspension,
intensifying the rays of the sun
to the point of combustion.
You must widen your gaze.
Recall the critical importance
of dropping your shoulders
and allowing your chest to rise,
to draw open your lungs,
to permit the intake
of a full breath. And then —
remember your need
for friends to stand beside you
and breathe too.
© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.