Thursday, June 14, 2012

Watching Them Sleep

I've always liked watching my children sleep. There's something about seeing them in those unguarded moments that links the present with the past.  My 22-year-old son was home over the weekend, and when I saw him stretched out on the couch, time collapsed, and I remembered him not only at fifteen, when I wrote the lines below, but also at all the ages he's ever been. 

A mother sits
watching her son sleep.
She thinks back to when
he napped curled up on
just one cushion of the couch.
She thinks farther back to when
he slept in her arms.
She remembers how his little body
relaxed against hers when
he dropped off to sleep.  She
recalls the sweet curve of his cheek,
the tickle of his soft baby hair
against her lips when
she kissed his head.
Now his fifteen-year-old body
stretches the full length of the couch,
his feet still in T-Mac sneakers
dangle off the arm.
She hardly ever gets to watch
him sleep anymore.  At night
he sleeps behind a tightly closed door.
She wants to smooth back
the blondish hair that hangs
over his forehead
and kiss his teenage brow.
But she knows she can't.
It would wake him,
he would object.
He wouldn't like the idea of
being watched while he slept
(or being the subject of a poem).
Instead she sits in silence watching him
for as long as she can,
fixing the image in her mind,
so she can pull it out
years from now
and remember.

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