The Necessary Dangers

My mother
was a prolific baker and
a terrible housekeeper.
She taught us to caramelize onions, to
light fires in our wood stove, to
throw our bodies upside-down against the walls
as we worked toward headstands of our own.
She taught us to count to ten in
French and Latin and Hungarian.
She taught us to revere the record player.

My mother, I think, was
never certain as to whether or not
she was suited
to motherhood,
but that didn’t stop her from
reading to us each time we asked,
endlessly reminding us of proper manners, and
knitting us mittens, scarves, and socks to protect agains the New England winters.

It was she, and not my father, who was
more likely to say,
“Oh, let them go.
They’ll have to learn some time,”
when we ran off toward
the necessary dangers of youth
while my father chuckled or grumbled or
furrowed his brow.

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