A Prayer For Parents
By Rachel McKibbens

Just the other day you were working a comb
through her tangled hair, a riddle
of strawberry knots that took an hour
to unravel. Then you found a stubbed out
cigarette in the flower pot with a bright red stem.
The ladder outside her window.
That speeding ticket
beneath a fridge magnet.

One more year, then ten.
You ask the mirror all the wrong questions.
Wander the woods out back in search of
your makeshift Alice who’s vanished
into a mist of libraries, motorcycles,
misfits and kings.

O, parenthood.
There are so many rules to be bent
once the photos in the album
start moving too fast.
When we choose to become parents,
we don’t often mean to become heroic.
So much of our love is mistaken for bravery.

It’s January in Texas,
the deepest winter you’ve felt in years.
The mirrors hang in their silence.
Rabbit holes open up all over the yard,
in the pavement, the doorsteps
of every cathedral.
You dodge them in the supermarket,
find three outside your front door.
A neighbor back in Boston calls
to inform you your house has risen
eight inches off the ground.

Dear Mom & Dad,

I found my heart in Arizona. He rides
on two wheels and knows some wicked kung fu.
Says he can’t live without me. I sealed the divorce papers
with a lipstick’d kiss.
Last night I bought a one-way ticket to Seattle.
Did you know dancing in the rain
is a lot like being embraced by
six hundred mouths?

All the men open doors for me
here in Buffalo. Even the young boys.
Thank you for the bed time stories.
Next month, I’m gonna dig my heart
out of the snow and ride it to Texas.
This morning I fell head over high heels
for a circus bear, wrote a six-page manifesto
on garter belts.

Thank you for all forty-three birthday cards you sent,
my heart is a 24-hour chapel because of them.

Enclosed is an invitation to all of my friends.
Their hearts are a forest of tree houses.
My heart is everywhere,
so home is everywhere.

I love you. Please don’t worry.