Breaking Silence - For My Son

The night you were conceived
your father drove up Avon Mountain
and into the roadside rest
that looked over the little city,
its handful of scattered sparks.
I was eighteen and thin then
but the front seat of the 1956 Dodge
seemed cramped and dark,
the new diamond, I hadn't known
how to refuse, trapping flecks of light.
Even then the blackness was thick
as a muck you could swim through.
Your father pushed me down
on the scratchy seat, not roughly
but as if staking a claim,
and his face rose like
a thin-shadowed moon above me.
My legs ached in those peculiar angles,
my head bumped against the door.
I know you want me to say I loved him
but I wanted only to belong—to anyone.
So I let it happen,
the way I let all of it happen—
the marriage, his drinking, the rage.
This is not to say I loved you any less—
only I was young and didn't know yet
we can choose our lives.
It was dark in the car.
Such weight and pressure,
the wet earthy smell of night,
a slickness like glue.
And in a distant inviolate place,
as though it had nothing at all
to do with him, you were a spark
in silence catching.


The children walk off
into crowds of strangers,
their laces are tied,
their backs straight.
They wave to you
from platforms you cannot reach.
You want to hang on.
Running after them,
you thrust out small packages:
vitamins, a new blouse, guilt.
But they keep discarding
your dreams for their own.
They carry your admonitions
in their pockets
and their children will sing
your lullabies,
so that, finally, knowing this,
you let go.
They blur, fade.
You settle back.
The years pass, silent as clouds.
Sundays, they come for dinner,
serve up slices of their lives,
but it's not the same.
Sometimes, in a crowd,
you will catch a glimpse
of long braids,
a ribbon streaming,
and you will remember--
a head beneath your hand,
a quilt tucked in,
small things snapping on a line.

Patricia Fargnoli is an award-winning American poet and retired psychotherapist.

Fargnoli's books of poetry include Necessary Light (Utah State University Press, 1999), winner of the May Swenson Book Award; Lives of Others (Oyster River Press, 2001); Small Songs of Pain (Pecan Grove Press, 2003); and most recently, Duties of the Spirit (Tupelo Press, 2005), which won the Jane Kenyon Literary Award for Outstanding Poetry by a New Hampshire poet.

She is the recipient of a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. Her poems have appeared in magazines and literary journals including Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Nimrod, and others.

Both poems were originally published in Necessary Light and appear here by permission of Utah State University Press.

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