My Children Try to Teach Me to Love Unfinished Things

for example, 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
in motion –

They say 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
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 over 20 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (14) and Josef (12) 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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