the animal eats
the animal eats
Twice as many stars

Twice as many stars

Today, two poems designed to break your heart. In this way they are not unlike children. Or so I've been led to believe.

If you love your mother
If you loved your mother
If you miss your mother
If you are a mother
If you never wanted to be a mother
If you never could quite wrap your head around what it must mean to definitively want to be a mother or just as undoubtedly not be a mother
If the more you hear the word mother the less sure you are what it means
If you long to be mothered
If you cannot be a mother
If you had to mother someone else, and where did that leave you
If you’re learning to be your own mother
If your mother did her best and yet
If your mother was someone you didn’t call mother but did the things you liked to think a mother might do
If your mother is or has been or is becoming a stranger
If motherhood seems some days impossible, or implausible, or sublime, or a scam, or it took you years to understand your mother as someone more than your mother, or years to understand how desperately this country and this culture fails to support mothers, and caregivers, really anyone whose job we believe it is to provide care, which is wild isn’t it, because how and why on earth is it true that we withhold our care from those whose gift, we understand, is care, I mean, where do we think that love will come from, how will that cup be filled

If a day like today, or any other, makes you wonder at the small miracle of your existence and continued—some days it seems against all odds—survival, at the joy and bewildering fact that you are in fact capable—some days it seems against all odds—at keeping yourself and your living things alive, for as long as these bodies might stand it

If you are, were, will be a mother, had a mother, have a mother, call everything alive your mother

I found you these two poems.

Two-Headed Calf
by Laura Gilpin

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

The Lanyard
by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Today and everyday I am sending you love where you are.

the animal eats
the animal eats
a bi-weekly reading of a beloved poem or excerpt from my bedside table, accompanied by a few stray thoughts and, on occasion, work in progress.
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Kristin Lueke