The Heart Outside Your Body

At the grocery store
I saw a baby in the seat
of a cart and he smiled at me
with such delight
that he reminded me of my own baby
and I was instantly transported
back to those days
such a long time ago

when I was his favorite person in the world
and he would raise his little arms
with fingers pointing up
and a winning smile
knowing that I would lift him high
and swing him through the air
before settling him on my hip
and taking him to the next big thing.

He too would sit in the cart
and smile at people who walked by
always so friendly
and slightly mischievous

no words yet
but you always knew
just what he meant.

Now he is a grown man
overtopping me by a foot
with a man’s beard and muscles
and his expression is often hard to read.

He is one of the good ones
and as much as I would like
to claim credit for that
I must admit
he was born that way.

Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is
“forever to have your heart
go walking outside your body.”

Even long after they are grown
This is true.
I miss my sweet baby boy
but I love the man he has become
and I wish his heart didn’t walk
quite so far away
so much of the time

because even though
I am no longer his favorite person
he and his sister
(also grown)
are still mine.




Broken Open Again

For White people doing anti-racism work
Dedicated to my friends of color

God will break your heart again and again
until it remains

I thought my heart was already open
from so damned many breakings

But out here in the granite wilderness–
on the way to the promised land–
I find it has grown a stone shell
(wanting to be safe)
(wanting to be comfortable)

New life will push through the tiniest opening
New growth will split the hardest stone

But when granite exfoliates
the pieces are sharp
and fall with a crash
heedless of what is below.

On my knees in the rubble
dusty and sobbing
I search for you—
if only to say,
like J. Alfred Prufrock,

“That wasn’t what I meant at all, at all;
it wasn’t what I meant at all.”

I find you
covered in bruises
and I want to
hang my head
in shame.

But you take my hand, and say,
You are bleeding
from the heart!”

And I look down and see that God
has broken me open