Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Tender this Ache

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Silence sanctioned with bird's song.
Sandalwood smoke oscillates snake-like
from altar into air.

Gong resounds, a break! A break!
Stealthily, I check my phone, the screen
displays: Car totalled.
I am ok.

Squealing sounds flash, red, red, head
slams against windshield, burnt rubber smell,
only in my mind's eye.

My arms flail, groundless. Body
aches to grab you, rock you, as a babe,
protect you from all harm.

Visions of you diving off
the timber tower, your twin brother,
two years old, holds my hand,

your slow motion, headfirst fall,
other mothers' eyes wide in horror.
Somehow,
you are ok.

Visions, your forehead swollen
as if a melon, eye shut, your twin
brother, ten, holds your hand.

He looks guilty, "She hit rocks.
We were twirling, looking at the stars."
Somehow,
you are ok.

Visions, the first time you flew,
me alongside. Better I am with
you if the plane goes down.

You laugh, it is easier
than driving a car, no traffic, just
miles of open space.

Senseless this ache to shield you,
my rock-climbing, life-loving daughter,
It's childish even,

as you are too large to rock,
too spirited to contain, too far
away to hug, to hold.

Tender this ache, not a wound
to heal, but to expose, a tearful
joyful ache, which lets you

go, careening, spiraling,
hurtling into space, like the rocket
you plan, one day, to fly.

My gaze moves upward, outward.
Glazed ceramic blue sky, idle clouds
above the verdant green.

I remember to breathe,
to love this capricious, amusing
perilous, tender world.


Barbara Heffernan is a psychotherapist and writer. She is the founder of Mindful Psychotherapy, a private practice in Norwalk, CT which specializes in trauma and anxiety. Barbara has been a feminist since the age of five, and a Buddhist since the age of 31. She has three children, four stepchildren, a husband, an English sheepdog and a rotund orange cat. Her poetry explores the complexity of love and the impact of trauma on individuals and society.


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I love the title "Tender this Ache" and particularly this simple refrain: "Somehow, you are okay." Because we don't know how, in the end, anyone is okay, especially those more vulnerable--children--but we breathe deeply and take peace and comfort in the fact that they are. A beautiful poem!
Love this- 'not a wound to heal, but to expose'- so beautifully put! Even if it's our job to see our children launched out into the world, the worry is still there, a raw open wound. Stay vulnerable and let them live their lives-
Wonderful poem! Loved these lines: Senseless this ache to shield you, my rock-climbing, life-loving daughter, It's childish even, as you are too large to rock, too spirited to contain, too f Though I loved it all
I too am so moved by the title. Even more so after reading the poem, being in it. It guides me to care for myself and others just a little bit differently. Tenderly. Thank you, Barbara.
What a beautiful poem. I remember to breathe...
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