Friday, January 11, 2019

Poem: What I Can’t Tell My Son

What I Can’t Tell My Son

That I wait for his call every Sunday night,
though I pretend to myself that I don’t care.
I have lost the easy way I once had with him,
the nights I sat at the edge of his bed
and we’d talk in the soft dark of his bedroom
until he fell asleep, that time when I felt so close to him
we could have been in one skin.

But now his own children grown, it’s as though
a stranger has come to inhabit his body.
I struggle to find a story that will make him laugh
or some anecdote that will interest him.
I can’t tell my son that I cry often after these calls,
can’t tell him how much I need to hear his voice,
can’t tell him I can still feel his high cheekbones
under my hand, still remember his heavy head leaning
against me as I read to him when he was a child.

I wonder what words he holds back.
Is he sad, too, when he hangs up the phone?
Yet, even these 10-minute phone calls,
these painful, awkward attempts at touch,
even these I do not want to give up,
so that if he were five minutes late with his call, I’d worry
and when the call is over, such loss I feel, such loss,
this son I will never stop loving,
though I am afraid sometimes
that if he were to walk into a room
I would no longer recognize him,
and I do not have the courage to ask him
if these calls are as painful and necessary for him
as they are for me.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

This poem appears in What Blooms in Winter (NYQ Books, 2015) and was featured on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor -  listen to his reading of the poem

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

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