Sitting on an Old Bedspread Under an Oak Tree,
Watching My Son’s Soccer Practice
by Maggie Smith
For reasons I can’t explain
—that’s what therapy is for—
I can be doing anything, anywhere,
and my mind slips away
without warning, an Irish exit,
and enters the dark room again.
Cross-legged in a lattice
of shade and sun, bits of acorn
in my hair from the squirrels overhead,
I’m watching my son in goal,
but my mind, in the dark, is busy
guessing the story his father tells
about our marriage. My money’s on
the one that goes, She didn’t love me enough.
But didn’t I? In the field the boys
are scrimmaging now, calling out
to each other—Here! I’m open!
And wasn’t I? Among the sentences
I sent him at the end are these,
and what a handsome pair they make:
Have some compassion.
This is not how you leave a person.
I’ll see what my therapist can do
with this couple in our next hour
together. When I say it now, it sounds
like an offering: Have some compassion.
Like, have some cake or have a seat.
All of these things can be refused.
My story goes something like this:
I loved him plenty. I loved
how life had stretched around us,
and how I knew it by its shape.
Now my son gives me a thumbs up,
a smile. Do I look whole to him,
or can he tell my mind has wandered off
in darkness? I call it back.
I know: I needed to love myself
more than I feared what that love
would do to me. What it might
require of me. What, in the end, it did.