The Belly of the Sky: When Children Make You Write Poetry

I've written before about how being a mom makes you interested in things you never thought you do or say or care about. But this week in parenting elevated that to a whole new level. A RHYMING level.

Like many writers-to-be, I had my adolescent spate with poetry in high school (that's not my entire oeuvre, it's just the only sample that didn't make me want to crawl right under the couch when I reread it), and ever since then I tend to steer clear of it. In fact, during Richard Blanco's reading at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, I tweeted, "Poetry makes me snarky."

Because it does. It's not that I don't understand and/or appreciate poetry -- I mean, I have favorite poems -- but I don't get all soulful and earnest and starry-eyed about it. In fact, before becoming a mom there wasn't much that got me soulful and earnest and starry-eyed.

Yesterday, on the way home from school my three-year-old pointed out clouds he saw "in the belly of the sky." Let me tell you, I almost stopped the car and had a breakdown at the sheer beauty and originality of his words, because, I mean, whatever, he's only going to be the next poet laureate IS ALL!

"The belly of the sky." I kept turning the phrase over and over in my mind. While he had moved on to building the world's longest train layout and bugging me about watching TV, I was still tasting "the belly of the sky." I had to do something with it.

Credit: monkeyatlarge.

So I did.

At the spin of a day, we surge out
just Henry and I
"Mama, look at the clouds"

"In the belly of the sky!"

Side by side on a bench, we watched for his trains

just Henry and I
with whistles that blew through

the belly of the sky

Heavy lead high above, we biked in the rain
just Henry and I
Seven colors that girdled

the belly of the sky

With toes squinched in sand, we tap-danced the beach
just Henry and I
teasing water ebbs back

the belly of the sky

In gathering dusk, we sat on cold steps
just Henry and I
seeking fires that pricked

the belly of the sky.

Tucked into bed, we're enclosed by the night
just Henry and I
I palmed his chunked cheeks
I smiled in his eyes
finding his color blue

in the belly of the sky

So one day, one of the most solemn and reverent moments of our nation has me bagging on poetry, and the next day I'm WRITING the damn stuff. All because of being a mom.

(Did I mention that after I finished the last line I cried? Yeah, that happened, too.)


Author of Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, and writes The Grub Report, New York Times Motherlode and whoever else will have me.

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