Every time I read the poem ‘B’ by Sarah Key, I think of Elfie.
If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s going to call me, “Point B.” Because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me.
It is beautiful, the most beautiful piece of writing I have ever read. And not just because the similes and metaphors tumble together in a symphony like I have never read before, so much that I find myself going back, re-reading sentences and enjoying the way they sound. The poem speaks to me. Forget Ted Hughes, Wordsworth, John Keats… it is musical, magical.
And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.
When I look at Elfie’s face, trapped in the limbo between babyhood and childhood, I see the whole world. Here is my little girl, my little girl who I grew from scratch, waiting to be taught. She is waiting for me to mould her into the person she will be forever. She is full to the brim of innocence, wonder, delight and excitement. I wish I could stop time, capture it. Make it last longer.
There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I can’t describe the feeling that is knowing she will be hurt. Knowing she has been hurt and I couldn’t do anything about it. This little person, when she is hurting I want to dive in, remove every single bad thought and feeling and feel it myself. But I can’t, and that is one of the very worst things about being a mother.
There’ll be days like this,” my mama said. When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly, and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape.
How do I even go about telling my little girl there are bad things in the world? Admitting this means I am admitting they are real, the baddies are real and we can’t stop them from hurting us.
Your voice is small, but don’t ever stop singing. And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.
Elfie, you are the girl with the small hands and the big eyes and every day I will kiss those hands and you will know I am always here to look after you.
And don’t you EVER apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.
I wrote more thoughts on this poem over here. Another huge thank-you to Charlotte for introducing me to the most beautiful piece of literature I’ve ever read.