18 August 2010


For him we batter our hands/ who won for once over the world’s weight.

She’d read the whole poem, stuck it out for once. It wasn’t a good time to read a whole poem. She was standing, bag on shoulder, waiting for the pastor in his study. Wasn’t sure why her anxiety moved her to a book of poems; that’s not where she’d normally find solace. And if the pastor should appear, she’d have felt like an intruder, rifling through books on his shelf. Why a rushed reading of a poem?

And why, after such haste, should the last line linger?

She elected to make herself comfortable. Book in hand, she settled in a chair and put down her bag, immediately noting the feeling of assurance, even buoyancy, that arose as she crossed her legs and opened the book. She would act like she belonged here. She smiled, and it defied the gravity she had brought in with her. Then she remembered that she was going back to read through the poem again.

Almost like deja vu, a tempting morsel of the vexing dream from last night fickered when she opened the book. Unable to recapture the lush dream upon waking, she now grasped at the memory. She had been at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and a gentleman fox had been guest as well, extolling the virtues of experience over innocence. His wooing had been quite persuasive, she thought. He poured a cup of tea and passed it across the table to her. There the memory disintegrated.

Her son Henry had not eaten his food again last night. Usually he ate healthy portions but lately he’d only picked and then pushed his plate away. This intermittent habit seemed to coincide with an increase in comments from others:

“He’s two?”

“A little small, isn’t he?”

“Looks like he might need a belt.”

“Aw, what a peanut!”

In a year of life when other children would change clothing sizes several times, he would be able to wear the same clothes all the way through, including shoes. It had saved money, but she gladly would have spent it to accommodate longer legs, a thicker waist, fatter feet. He was the happiest, most pleasant toddler anyone had ever met, smart and compliant, which, combined with her worry, broke her heart utterly. It broke her heart that something might be the matter with him and he played as though no care could ever touch him.

These thoughts left her heavier in her chair. She closed the book with gravity just as the pastor walked into his study. She rose timidly.

“Oh, Dick Wilbur!” said the pastor gregariously.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Excuse me; Richard Wilbur’s poems,” he said, indicating the book. “Any favorites?”


A pause.