Back to School Blues

I can’t lay my head down on the table at breakfast and sob, “I miss you!” or I’ll upset them as they are heading out for their second day of grade school.

(I also can’t say, “I’ve done so much.  Where’s the appreciation?” or, “Mama needs to nurture herself right now, and how’s she gonna do that?”)

We need a plumber for the sink, but I don’t even care.  I’m done with all that.

I go out into the world, like an amoeba or an infant who needs swaddling.

I drive to the library, one of the safest places I know.

I talk with the librarian as if she is an old friend.

I wander the children’s stacks, among familiar titles.

I run my finger along the spines of the books.

I don’t have the heart to check any out, like we did over the summer.

I head toward the exit where daylight glares through the tall windows.

I feel as if I could throw myself in blue splotches up to the mezzanine.

Beauty is Not Always Pretty

To my young daughter:

Notice the hydrangea,

both blue and purple.

Blue and purple

are the mealy veins

that line the bulb

of a nose

on that codger

who told you today

that you are not pretty.

Honey, he cannot see

beyond his small

square of green lawn.

You of the tender cheeks.

You of the soprano that rises

out the window as you play

your own piano songs.


The Whole of Them

When our daughters,

ages 5 and almost 8,

rest their weight on their elbows and

lean their chins into their cupped palms,

their cheeks fill up their hands,

spilling out between their fingers.


I can still scoop up these big girls from underneath,

cradling the backs of their knees

and their arm pits in my forearms,

and holding the whole of them to me.

I hold one of them and I sway back and forth,

rotating from the waist, saying to my husband,

“Remember when she was just a tiny baby?”


I do this because it feels good

and because I’m physically able to do it.

I do it because it’s a way

of reminding us that we’re all ok.

Daughter’s Song

by, Heather Keyser

On our hike

with another 7 year old

and her mom,

I refuse to let you

dictate every decision

the group makes

at every fork in the trail.



refuse to walk any further,

and instead you climb around

in a tree,

crouching up there

like one of our earliest ancestors

and shaking the branches at me.

I hate your




Every idea

you ever had

is so

dumb.  Huh!

I wish

I never

had you for a mom.  Huh!


The grass under my feet

is dead and crispy from the drought.


Then, this morning,

you wear your black velvet

tiered skirt

right below your bare shoulders

above your turquoise skirt

on your waist,

and you come into the backyard,

where Dad and I are talking,

to invite us to your concert.

You seat us behind the piano bench,

next to your teddy bear and princess doll, and

you take your seat at the keys

and play us a very long

and beautiful

song you composed just this morning,

entitled “Why Am I Without You.”

I assume that is the title,

because it is what you keep singing




as you play

up and down




The Shape of Your Face

The Shape of Your Face by, Heather Keyser

With the pad of my finger

I trace a line

around one side

of your round



I end under your chin,

and look


at you

as you look


at me.

I hope you can tell

how my heart


toward you,

almost trembling.


front teeth

that peek out

from slender lips,

your chubby chin,

your faint eyebrows

over starburst white-blue eyes:

it was the same face

6 years ago,

across from me,

bald headed,

in the bathtub

of our San Francisco flat,

as we splashy



It was the same face

that floated in the tub

the other day,

pink and serious,


by bath bubbles,

as you lay back,

trusting the water

to buoy you.

One time I carried you,

strapped to my chest in the

Baby Bjorn,

facing outward,

as I stood in our friend’s

surf shop

and chatted with

a couple of guys.

The top of your head

warmed my neck,


I couldn’t see your expression, but the two guys could.

“Look, she’s smiling,” one said to his friend and me.

The friend answered,

“I know why— it’s because you

just kissed her.”

And I had.

I had just

bowed my head

and kissed

one side

of your