List poem: This day on Twitter

Cute kitty is cute. #kitty!
Evil Twitter is evil and so is Facebook. #addicted
Lonesome tree has no leaves and is lonesome

above brown grass that is dead brown. #haiku
Early, you left so early today. #sad
Hot tea is so hot I burned my tongue. #damnit
Junk mail came late full of junk

and too much paper and dead trees. #sad
Quiet lunch is a sandwich and soup quietly 

steaming until it’s gone. #haiku
Pithy texts sent to my husband are pithy. #random
Sad news is sad–>no more NPR. #sad
Loud kids after school are really loud! #parenting
Hateful homework is still hateful even
I’m a grownup. #homeworksuks #parenting
Evil Twitter is still evil–>so many 
to congenital heart defect stories. #chd #sad #addicted
Sarcastic teens are sarcastic and this is awesome. #not
Early, you came home so early. #love
Yummy dinner is yummy though kitty

stole morsel right from the pan. #badkitty!
Don’t tell my mom, but we can tell yours. #stillafraidofmom
Funny tv is funny, especially with sarcastic teens. #parenting
You say I am sleepy but so are you. #random #love
Cute kitty is so cute she must be dreaming. #kitty!

©2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

November poem-a first draft

Nine times four plus four
times I sing “Gloria” but god
sends no angels. I envision wings
and wind, feathers ruffling in the cold,
the November bluster dramatic as always,
but still no pale face, no stern demeanor.
If I am to be redeemed, I must save
myself. Emancipate the fingers, the skin
of the body, the bones beneath it all
until the heart is exposed, about to fly
off the spine and into the atmosphere,
but a cold front steps in before I can truly
conceive this winged organ. The last leaves
mutter as I walk the ridge, acknowledge
the view: a few storm clouds yet linger
while the fragile remnants of frost bite
at the ground. I kneel to remember
that hymn as I beseech the valley—
in excelsis. This part of the mountain
catches birds only to toss them out.
Sometimes they reach the ionosphere
where red sprites flee into thunder.
It’s a miracle any survive. No angel
could fly through such turbulence
though I imagine they try anyway.
Beneath me a stray feather jerks
between two rocks, a last transaction
destined to fail. I save it, splicing
the barbules together one last time
until suddenly, the wind catches it,
flicks it into the world, spinning
it madly away from me. I watch it fly
knowing I helped make that particular
moment, redemption unasked for,
the gift of freedom from a most
ordinary hand.
© 2009 Christine Klocek-Lim

for Mother’s Day 2009

I’ve been a mother for nearly fifteen years. I still remember the first shocking moment that I realized what I’d done, and no, it wasn’t in the hospital or even when I brought the kid home. It wasn’t even that night. It happened a few days later when he suddenly stopped staring adorably out at the world and began screaming non-stop for the next ten months. Well. Right then I learned my lesson: your child is not an extension of you. This small, helpless infant was his own person. Sure, his dad and I fed him and hugged him and made sure he didn’t die from lack of sunlight, but still, none of that is actually the point, is it? Really, the fact that I kept him and his younger brother alive for all these years isn’t the point either, even though I am justifiably proud of it since even now I can’t keep a plant green for longer than a year or so.

Now, I suppose I ought to get all sentimental and explain to my own mother (who will hopefully read this) how much she means to me and how grateful I am to her for feeding me and keeping me alive long enough to talk back at her and slam doors and all the other repellent teen stuff, but you know what? She already knows. Instead, I’d like to explain what I really think motherhood encompasses: the job is to teach your child how to ask questions. Really, it’s not anything more complicated than that. The truth is, the ability to survive has always depended on how good you are at solving problems. That used to mean understanding about winter and how to store food and learning enough about being charming to secure your status in the tribe. These things are still important, but one problem that seems to loom in our culture even larger than the issue of mere survival these days is how can I be happy? The funny thing? You can’t teach your kid how to be happy unless you’ve figured it out first. By the time you do figure it out, if ever, you have learned that teaching happiness is impossible (which, damnit, was a really aggravating discovery). You can only show them how to ask the questions that they find important, because remember, your kids are not you and what makes you happy will not necessarily make them happy. The trick is to teach them how to find their own answers. The other trick is to let them ask their own questions.

I wrote a poem a few years ago called, “The book of small treasures.” It’s the title poem from my unpublished chapbook in which all the poems are about motherhood:

The book of small treasures

Each day, he holds out his empty book,
the pages filled with blankness as if to ask:
so, now what? I have no answers. I am
a mother. Philosophy reveals itself slowly,
if at all, in the small things: a dark tree
suddenly clear in the fog, a tadpole
moving ecstatically in the roadside puddle.
I teach him to fold these little treasures
in his book, to save them forever, and he does
what I ask, mindlessly, but it is still not enough.
He needs more answers to fill up the landscape
he’s just discovered. He needs both love
and distance, like the garden that won’t bloom
until you step away. This is what I write
in my book, slowly, with much prodding
and resistance. These are the things my mother
taught me when I was a girl, when she let me hold
her book, its pages filled with thin drawings,
penciled resignation. The blankness punctuated
with the occasional, brilliant letter.

Ultimately, I think the question of how to be happy is really not a question so much as it is a walk somewhere. Along the way it’s helpful to note which things in life bring you joy. In the true perverseness that is life, they’re never what you expect and certainly not anything to do with “success” or “what you’re supposed to do.” Often, the stuff that really makes me happy are the things that take the most work, like learning how to write, drinking a perfect cup of tea (you would not believe how long it took me to get the temperature right), or finally realizing that every person I love isn’t perfect and forgiving them and myself for having expected the impossible. I could go on, but my explanations would be meaningless since every person’s happiness is, well, personal. This is the thing I want my boys to learn. This is what I’m teaching them when I ask: what are your questions? Go find them and don’t worry if you don’t figure it out right away. Life may often suck, but it’s cool, too. You get to try things more than once.

Some of this I learned on my own. Some of it I learned from my mother who stubbornly continues to listen to me, despite my insistent departure from her most familiar philosophies. That can’t be comfortable for her and I am always amazed when she tells me she has learned something from me. I want to be that kind of mother, the one who listens to her kids and respects their discoveries about happiness. Maybe it was her insistence that “contentment is boring” that made me ask and ask and read and move out and live completely differently than anyone else in the family that convinced me that the question is the answer. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t have managed it if she hadn’t had the fortitude to let me be my own person. Today I filled in some more pages of that blank book she gave me when I was born (hey, I’m speaking metaphorically here, don’t expect a photo, sheesh). This morning I wrote: Hey Mom? Thanks for the book.


Something beautiful, and something of mine

Tony Williams: DREAMING OF YOUR LOVE (KOFT video contest WINNER!!!) from MABONA ORIGAMI on Vimeo.


Wisdom becomes you

the paper crane says,
flaps its origami wings.

You have just finished folding it,
hands poised in midair
when again the words come out,
rustle the tiny beak like a leaf
on water.

You clutch the neck and feet,
think: oh delicate
this bird could break so easy.

The creases tickle your palms
as you smooth the paper.

Watch the baited hook

it speaks again
and you look around
like a folded puppet,
like you were really a fish
caught in water at Hiroshima.

But even a thousand cranes
cannot change history
so you squeeze the paper,
check for blood.

Carefully the wings fold down,
the legs retract.
The beak closes, holds its breath
until you look again:
an eye tiny as a speck
peers up.

This is no dancing crane
you muse quietly to yourself.
The crane speaks no more
as you tuck it onto a windowsill.

You leave it there for many years,
afraid it might speak again,
afraid it might not.

© 2004 Christine Klocek-Lim