essay

All the Same

Photo credit: Buck Sommerkamp

Photo credit: Buck Sommerkamp

I recently participated in the Listen to Your Mother show in Kansas City.  It was an indescribable experience (though we writers always try).  I’m working on a post about just that, but I wanted to share this poem as well.  Before the 14 of us went onstage to share our essays about motherhood (some funny, many heart-wrenching, all intensely personal), we shared some words with each other.  I read this aloud to my new friends.  I had written it (at 4 o’clock in the morning on the day of the show!) to process what we had all been going through together to prepare ourselves for this production.

All the Same

My chest wasn’t hard to rip open,

Superman-style, the big Clark Kent reveal.

My body had become so brittle, a husk and little more,

Shoulders sloping forward, arms wrapped tight in front,

A woman’s battle shield.

 

I reached in and put my hands around it,

Battered, scarlet,

Tirelessly beating away, like a ticking watch found on a roof after a tornado,

Unlikely but natural all the same.

 

I ripped it out and held it there before me.

I examined it, so many questions circling in my head

That none came through clearly, except this one:

We’re okay, right?

 

Then I looked right and looked left.

And you all had your hearts out, too,

Battered, scarlet,

Tirelessly beating away, like a ticking watch found on a roof after a tornado,

Unlikely but natural all the same.

 

Mine looked like yours,

And we held them carefully at first, like newborns,

Too small to cradle easily.

 

Something happened then.

We shared their history as we held them in our hands.

We told their stores to each other.

 

Without thinking, I lifted my arms and saw all of your arms were lifted, too.

We held them high like spears, like answers.

We held them high, out for everyone to examine.

Even those of us who were crying smiled then, and we nodded to each other.

 

Battered, scarlet,

Tirelessly beating away, like a ticking watch found on a roof after a tornado,

Unlikely but natural all the same.

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