All morning, you tugged on my nerves
and ran around the corner to hide,
giggling to yourself
at my red face and lumbering gait.
You scattered library books across the floor,
toppled the laundry,
bit the fleshy part of my arms
through my sensible long sleeves.
Frayed, I buckled you into the stroller
and headed to the gravel path
where I could stretch my legs,
deepen my breath.
You crunched contentedly on something
from a package that claimed
which I doubted very much,
but gave to you anyway,
broken from the day
hoping for a moment of uninterrupted thought.
You surprised me, though,
when we rounded the corner,
the eutrophic waterway laid out on our left
and brittle star thistles to the right.
I could hear the wonder in your voice when you said it—
“Mama! This is the place where we saw the ladybugs!”
That day must have been eight months ago,
fully a sixth of your lifetime.
And in that moment,
I knew that the map in your heart
worked just the same as mine:
Not troubled with the tedium
of highway numbers
or county lines
But tattooed with the precise coordinates
of eagles’ nests, creeks teeming with newts,
and, of course, blades of grass weighed down with ladybugs in the spring.
I stopped, then,
to show you a black walnut, its leaves yellow for the season.
I stopped to unbuckle you
and bend low with you beside the water
to see the depression of a raccoon’s hand
in the mud
To let you find the flooded homes of crawdads
and plumb their depths with a crooked twig.