March 1, 2009

Suzanne Lehmkuhl-Beste

it is only now that i can go there, those dark places

it was 2001, night driving on the 101
a bend in the road and then headlights straight on
in an instant, life so sure became
tenuous and fragile
oh my babies, my darling babies,
girl baby of one year and another unborn

i swerved the car,
tossed weightlessly by the 18-wheeler,
like the tumbleweeds so prevalent here
the contents of a life strewn like litter on the highway
darkness, piercing lights and silence, bent and sobbing,
arms cradling my belly and my sleeping baby...

my third baby was barely one when he left us
but no, he left me long before,
the untouchable always bent
two steps behind him to pick up the pieces
only this time, it was my life lay in pieces at my feet

and three little ones clung to me as if to life itself

if it weren't for Mother, Sister,
and the women who closed in around me
to pick up the pieces
who got me out of bed some days
who knew when to put the drink in my hand
and when to take it away
who bathed me
who knew when to let me cry
and when to say "enough"
who were my eyes and ears
who cradled me as the lawyers and judges
decided the fate of my children

there were the small kindnesses that moved me immeasurably
a made bed emerging from a tumbled mass of sheets
good food, wood stacked and brought inside
letters bringing chocolate bars,
books and wisdom and strength
turning over and over in my hands
errant trash cans and recycling bins tucked in

and there were great kindnesses too
myriad twinkling boxes that appeared under the tree
our first Christmas alone prompting my oldest to say
"wow, Mama, you MUST have been good!"
planes and cars bringing loved ones from afar

nature has its way and the soil turns under and grows hard
the winter is long here, cold and interminable
bright yellow daffodils are the first
to emerge through the snow and mud
unlike these, I chose to emerge from my dark places
or it's no life worth living

but i make a pilgrimage to those places, revering them
they will forever be a part of me
and from where i write now,
i feel a fondness for the darkness

for the joy born of it


Suzanne Lehmkuhl-Beste, a native of California, currently lives on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, with her three young children, two cats, four newts, and six chickens. In her spare time she is a systems engineer, and in her not-so-spare time, she enjoys running, Telemark skiing, hiking, backpacking, and volunteering as a math and Spanish teacher.

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