How many times have I climbed these stairs,
pregnant with clean clothes,
trusting no toy lies careless near my foot?
How many times stood sorting in this hall?
Four children all busy at the school,
with not a thought of what I do and why,
nor have I thoughts of them, of where each sits,
speaks, hides his head, or laughs in play.
How clean the separation, yet every shirt,
each pair of socks or pants
brings some small wearer to my mind.
This skinny here who loves to talk, leans
restlessly on me or on my chair,
his brother commands I watch his prowess on a game,
the third just looks and smiles, goes off to draw.
The youngest is always ready for a lap,
her hands are quick to pair the socks,
quick to raise a skirt in peek-a-boo,
quick to snatch her father’s shirt and run.
Why do I see their father only in what she does?
Not see him as for myself,
how he would look at me, how smile, how speak?
I do not fear I love the children best.
Of course, I’m with them most!
Perhaps the separation between him and me
is incomplete because, in actuality, we’re one.
Thus as I sort the socks he’s by my side,
as I greet the littles coming through the door,
his love for them is mixed with mine,
as when, much later, we share Jim Lehrer and wine.
I do not wish for wealth or fickle fame,
it’s what I have I pray remains the same:
the voice of love in all our speaking of our names.