Taking Your Measure

Kim Vanderlaan

When you were small

we were in between times--

photographs were physical, developed;

requiring an actual room to process.

You were a child of absolute light:

the aperture and your smile always wide open.

I keep drawers full of those pictures: You --

propped on pillows in straight-backed chairs,

reaching for a shiny ring, a floppy doll, or my face

(you used to gum my chin, the drool glistening on its point.)

In each, your right fist is tightly clenched, just as it was in utero.

All forty weeks I wondered:

does that fist mean

he’ll be fierce and battle-happy?

– or just fiercely focused on the many tasks ahead of him?

As a toddler, walk-hopping across the summer grasses,

all ten fingers spread as if to steady your neatly packaged bulk

against the very air--you have blond wispy hair.

In another you are snuggle- hugged against

dad in the hammock,

hap-clapping hands,

you had

no sense

of the


To have you, an hour or two a day,

sleep-purring against my mother chest,

your whole self as perfect as a water color,

emitting even then your own odd fruity smell,

I can tell as your downy face

relaxes into animal slumber

that time will insist on working

against my wishes

(to have you

always like


Now, how many years of you have I had in my life?

Far too few.

If you only knew

the many versions of you

I dreamed of seeing

in the World


(none of them

compare to


These days I brush my teeth, catching a view of you in the mirror behind me as you bathe:

you are singing “The Room Where It Happens” with voicy glee.

I cannot avert my eyes:

your slack, low sacks, relaxed in the water and the dark curling tendrils—

Manhood’s turf -- and the world begins to claim you.

Where to put my Mother Grief,

now, as it begins to blossom?