After the children went to college and kept going
we became empty nesters, a term I dislike and a
ridiculous way to speak of oneself when the nest
is anything but empty. It’s full of the chaff they
winnowed when they packed what they needed
for the school years and the after that years.
There are beds we thought they’d want but don’t,
shoes hardly worn in every size and color, boy, girl,
formal, sport, tap, cleat, high and low heeled, leather
and canvas veiled with dust beneath racks of suits,
shirts, dresses and sweaters that slide to the edge of
hangers like snake skin draped on a rock.
There are reliquaries of baby teeth, and first shoes,
tiny forks and tiny spoons, thread-bare blankets that
they shucked and outgrew, games missing pieces, dolls
missing clothes, a billion bits of Legos and the huddle
of basketballs slowly growing cracked and flat. These
are the things that remain when fledglings have flown.
I built this nest like the other birds, lashing twig to twig
with spider web and lining the core with down and
leaves, but the sweat of my hands, the milk of my breast
and the underpinning of prayer were my invention, and
I bound the form with lengths of my hair, dark at the
center and white toward the rim.
This nest is hardly empty, holding much of them still,
but even more it holds the all of us, the we that we made
and the us that we were when we fluffed and feathered
a tender fortress made to cup them as they hatched,
a sanctuary built for us, to secure the first thing we birthed:
©Dana Hughes 9.22.16