"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.
The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.
And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.”"
So if your problems are seeds and I swallow them
will I grow something beautiful? Or just pretend
to be all right as I’m imploding. There’s no way of knowing.
I suppose my grave could be a garden – and that’s complicated,
but it might be better than carving headboards from
broken bones of men I’ve known
and strangers on the street who I have loved,
who I have cried for as their children
slam the door on their car. Behind the closed doors of loveless houses.
I have always been an extremist. As a child I would mourn
closed restaurants, for the hurt feelings of the owners
who set up shop and were unsuccessful. I would cry over stoplights
smashed during thunderstorms, over worms drying in the sun
and over the sun itself, setting every night, saying goodbye to me
though I begged it to stay.
My mom called it empathy. I called it pain,
but years later I’ve gained a little more insight. Tonight, when you call me,
I will not ignore it. I think that the more I close my lips
the darker it gets inside of me. I need to let the light in. And I will swallow your sadness like diamonds,
like the pills I take every morning to stop the panic attacks.
As for the worms on the sidewalks, and the birds and the people and the dogs who have suffered today, every day,
the sun holds a glorious funeral for them when she sets.
She is on my side.
I will not pray for you.