Last week of Poetry Club, friends! I’m so happy everyone has played along.
In some ways Julia Kasdorf was the inspiration behind The Joy of Poetry. I took a workshop with her at Laity Lodge years ago, where I met one poet who became a friend, Sandra Heska King, and another who became a publisher, L.L. Barkat.
When I read this poem at The Writer’s Almanac, I printed it because it shows a mother’s weakness and a child’s response to it. There is so much more to this mother-child story than is explained in the poem. The bats in the office — really, bats? — suggest something darker than a flying mammal. The hope is in the beginning of the poem, that somehow all that the child has suffered will mean something “years from now.”
Years From Now When You Are Weary
and worn out, wondering how you’ll pay
a bill or make the rent or meet a deadline
set by some thoughtless boss—and kid,
such days will come—remember yourself
at five: hair light from the sun or just from
being young, new lunchbox pasted
with butterflies, how you hung your backpack
on a hook, then wouldn’t let me take your picture
on the first day of school, sending me
out of that classroom, to the car, to my job
where a pair of bats flapped in the hallway.
Bats may be just bats, but one darted
into my office, quick as the boxer’s head
that bobs and weaves and never gets hit.
It landed and hung from the drapes, upside
down, as you hung in my body for a while.
Bats are not the only flying mammals.
That afternoon in line for the bus, you cried,
so tired you thought you’d fall asleep
and miss your stop. Years from now, child,
in some helpless dusk, remember that fatigue
but how you made it home to me anyway
in the care of a kind farmer—bus driver.
Recall that once I arrived late, your bus
gone, and when I found you, carefully seated
by a coffeepot in a corner of a dim garage
at the school bus lot, you just said, Let’s go,
Mama. Don’t tell anyone about this.