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Sunday, October 23, 2011

DRIVING INTO THE CITY

Lee Friedlander

This poem followed upon the drive into Chicago where our daughter had chosen to go to college.   Thanks to Magpie Tales for reminding me of that experience.


Empty 



                          So tender, I said, “Remember this.
                                 It will be good for you to retrace this path
                                  when you have grown away and stand at last
                                  at the very centre of the empty city.”   

                                                      Seamus Heaney,  “Changes”               
                 


                     Crossing the Skyway bridge
        for the first time, I see what she’s chosen,
       alabaster city  floating clear of my clinging
 as  station by toll station, we drop our  coins into baskets,
         a half dozen lanes running over with cars.

        I forget to look over the railing at lake water,
       bright  sails, I forget everything but my mother,
before the train left for New York,  pinning even more money
   inside my bra, warning:  “Don’t wander  too far
     from the group. Don’t get caught in the subway doors,
 don’t stand too close to the tracks. Always deadbolt 
     the hotel door.”  That was the last year our school
sent its Seniors to  New York.  It’s  nothing but  jungle now
  I hear my  father  say.  Wouldn’t want one of mine living there.
   
            This is Chicago,  I tell him. Not New York.
 And isn’t your grandson now living in Brooklyn?  My father shrugs,
              settles  back into the hum of my own questions.
Where will she live and how far from the campus?  How many
            armed  robberies this year? And  traffic,
               how will she cross streets without 
         being run down?   “Lock your doors,” I say
       as we exit the Skyway.   She  laughs at me.

               Let her.  I can’t let her go without leaving my
    mother’s fears with her, they’re all I can muster right now.
                   We will  climb in our empty car soon enough
    and drive   home without her.   So let us unload  books
           and clothing, her numerous boxes of earrings,
                    my bundles of medicines she shrugs aside
                when I warn her she’ll need them come bitter
                       times.  Icy stairs.  Frigid streets she’ll walk 
                without my knowing where.   This is her city now,
                     let her stand at the heart of it, hearing its
                sirens,  arterial rumblings of El trains
                      and buses.  Its  welcoming emptiness.
from Coming to Rest, LSU Press

20 comments:

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

there will really come a time that we have to let our kids walk their own life, face their own tracks. Sad but nicely expressed. For sure each one's love will be a guide to one another. Love it!

JJRod'z

Martin said...

As soon as I read "...alabaster city floating clear of my clinging..." I was right there.

Kathy Bischoping said...

It brings back memories of being dropped off at my undergrad destination.

Mary Ann Potter said...

Motherly, a little melancholy, obviously realistic. A memorable trip to Chicago. My son is 39, and I remember when he went off to college all those years ago. This triggered something I'd almost forgotten, so your poem did its work. Wonderful!!! (And hello from Windy Hollow Farm in rural Oxford, NC. Noticed you live in Cullowhee - so beautiful there, too!)

Vicki Lane said...

Gorgeous, Kay. I still worry about my boys -- grown men in their thirties -- and they indulge me...

But I wonder if mothers worry even more about daughters? Not having one, I don't know.

Glenda C. Beall said...

I have always enjoyed this poem from the first time I read it. I think I relate to the mother and to the dauthter because I remember how my mother worried about me when I went away, for the first time, to college. She probably would have died had I gone to Chicago. I remember my first time going into chicago scared to death of all those lanes of traffic and my needless fear of walking on the streets at night. Great poem.

Ann Grenier said...

Wonderful poem. My children didn't go to a big city to college, nevertheless the sentiments of leaving them on their own are the same and resonate.

Tess Kincaid said...

Gorgeous telling of these emotions, this memory, Kay. My daughter lives in Manhattan and I still worry about her...

Mama Zen said...

This is really gorgeous.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

I'm overwhelmed by these responses. Thanks so much for visiting me. I'm such a slow writer and this is such an old poem that I feel somehow revitalized by your engagement with that long ago yet still close to heart time.
Let's keep visiting each other!

Jo Bryant said...

it is so hard to let them go - I've had to with mine and it really brought back memories of my own fledgling steps in to life

Brian Miller said...

wow...really well written...i have two boys of my own that will one day be released into the wilds to live on their own...for now i will cherish the time...i like the descriptors....

Helen said...

I enjoyed this ... I was raised in southern Illinois and spent many wonderful holidays in the Windy City! I love Chicago!

Tumblewords: said...

Raw with unknowing and the hope parents carry for their children and generations after.

Isabel Doyle said...

well captured universal feelings - I liked the line giving her mother's fears especially

Arnab Majumdar said...

Big cities seem so nice from a distance, don't they...?

Cheers,
Arnab Majumdar on SribbleFest.com

Suz said...

"leaving my mother's fears with her"
gosh, I loved that line...a stopper
a turn...loved this entire poem
so well written

Dave King said...

Superb poem, very moving and totally compelling.

Morning said...

it takes time to let go,
well captured struggles,

deep and thought provoking magpie.

Caddoc Trellis said...

And so history repeats itself...