My Children Try to Teach Me to Love Unfinished Things

markers with lids half-on, coloring books
set out with pages like butterflies, half-beautiful;
my hands covered in raw meat, dripping and
dangerous – or dirt, with the torch lilly barely out of
the pot, ready to be surrounded and
held by something familiar, to take root;
my hand caught on their other
mother’s hip, before the crash of the
front screen door, and the request
for referee, score-keeper, coach;
their adolescent bodies, no longer kid-
sized, and the words that come out of their lazy lips
unpurposefully, except the sting that brings me
from my world
into theirs
interrupting whatever unimportant
tale I’d been running, with the sort of
ferocious love they know
how to bump up against,
to feel a part of something already
in motion –

They say to pray here, to place
my knees at the altar of
dandelions, and mud, and nerf bullets leftover
from my son’s last birthday party, not
as an act of giving up
on beauty, or to stop seeing all that is possible,
but to see also the wholeness of something wild, and unbalanced,
something not easily told, or shared, or explained
when my mother comes to visit –
to believe that this could be
enough, this incomplete world, in the middle
of the day, the summer, my life, their lives,
the story of the earth, this planet –
to feel the relief in knowing
we are all only half-done –

They come offering
themselves as a lesson,
like the poem I’ve been writing,
wanting to be made sense of,
unresolved, mid-breath,
to be loved
not for what will be but
for every unfinished part, now –

I want to tell them, of course,
to gobble them up in my arms
like when they were infants,
to agree with ease, life is not
arrival, but becoming –
I want to turn the prayers into hymns,
to say amen and to ready it all
for Sunday,
but they tell me this one’s not
for sale, and besides,
no one’s buying I’ve been well-
taught –

They send me back for tutoring, and
summer school, loads of laundry, and the kitchen
sink filled again, and their urgent need
for a clean spoon,
remedial lessons for a stubborn
student, still secretly drafting
a happy ending.

About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley is relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy of pop culture (reflected in this blog by random posts on Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Scandal, Orphan Black, or the latest Marvel movie). She has an audacious ambition for the liberal church, believing in its capacity to transform lives and our world by way of hyper-local relationships and partnerships that inspire the unleashing of courageous love. She's all in on adrienne maree brown's emergent strategy, and finds solace in the trails in and around Fort Collins Colorado where she serves with the brilliant Rev. Sean Neil-Barron as one of the ministers of the Foothills Unitarian Church. She and her amazing partner of 19 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (13) and Josef (11) who both relish and resent being PKs, and who keep her grounded, frustrated, inspired, and humbled, everyday. She is basically obsessed with her puppy, a large sized mutt, Charlie.
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