The Unbearable Sadness of Parenthood… Poetry on 9/11

Safety

On a Friday night
when I was drinking gin
and tonics on a restaurant lawn,
at the moment
my children
began to fight
and I realized, too late,
it was time to go,
a boy drowned
in our town.

His mother ran across
seven lanes of traffic
while his body
traveled beneath the road
and cars and buildings
on a private river.

Weeks pass.
It’s 9/11, and
I haven’t thought
about the boy for awhile,
but today he’s back
as I remember
driving my babies to daycare
and hearing the first report
on the morning radio.

Each day
I’ve grown towards knowing
there is no safety,
mourning, not the many
but the one
beautiful
beloved body.

I wrote this poem on September 11th last year, but I’ve returned to it many times since then trying to get it right.  As always, poetry is a good, but not perfect, vehicle for conveying my thoughts and feelings about parenthood. The last stanza has been the hardest on this poem; I’ve written at least four or five variations.  The ending posted here is not the one that was most popular with my poetry group (which has already seen and commented on this poem), but it still seems to get the closest to my feelings.

There is a selfishness in parenting.  No matter what the tragedy, there is a small (or large) part of us that is flooded with relief that it was not our child who was harmed.  But there is also a powerful universality to parenting, which creates intense empathy for any parent whose child has been hurt.  Individual events, as well as large, dramatic ones, remind us that there are no guarantees of safety for our children.  This mix of emotions extends beyond our community to the world at large.  Similarly, our reactions to global events, even when they don’t pose an immediate risk to our own family, create a feeling of unease that we are raising our children in a dangerous and out-of-balance world.

On days like today, these kinds of thoughts swirl around in my head more than usual, even as I enjoy a serene morning in my sunny home and plan the day’s mundane activities.  What are other parents feeling today?

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