Two Poems by Teresa Breeden

Looking Down
                  for Stephen

You can see, right at the edges of things,
the degradation: a chip here, a crevasse there,
a loss of perspective, or perhaps, a gain.
The flaws that form us
are glaring in this light, rising into view
like pillars, a temple of imperfections
our inadequacies writ large
and we think
everyone will see them, see
the wreckage that is us.

What we don’t remember, caught here
in our own fragility
is that the only people watching us
are those in love, the ones
who already hold us in their hearts
in a state
of unconditional
positive regard.

And what we don’t notice, focused in
on the shadow within each jagged crack
is the sky
vivid and endless
an expansive canvas, a mirror in which
we could see our whole selves reflected
if we only had the wherewithal
to look up.

Deliberate Practice

My daughter is practicing.
Every minute of every waking hour
she remains consistent, committed.
I can see her improving,
day after day of concentrated attention-
every detail accounted for.

When we walk she slows her steps
to let the world know with certainty
that she is not walking with me.
That there is no one else
wandering the sage, makes it clear that I
am the target of her silent discourse.
When I pause to show her a centipede
swarming the dirt, or an anthill
cratering the path, she speeds past until,
at the same set distance as before, she walks,
but not with me.

Back in the house she shifts
her shoulder from beneath my hand, and in the evening,
when I settle on the end of the couch where she’s sprawled,
she moves to a chair.
The breakfasts I make for her harden
until, dry and discolored, I scrape what remains
into the trash. And when I ask “What’s wrong?”
she says “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I’ll try,” I say.
Please let me try.

She doesn’t say, “I won’t”
but that’s what I hear
as she shrugs and turns away.

Until I realize that she is trying.
Trying as hard as she can
and improving with each deliberate effort,
honing an expertise in rebuke and hatred.
And, as when she was six and constantly calling “Watch me, mama!”
she’s working to make sure I notice.

I want to think of this as a connection rather
than a severing. But as she excels
day after practiced day, I worry she will become so skilled
at bearing grudges
that she’ll have no room to master anything else.
And I wonder
if I am her first true heartbreak
as she is mine.

Teresa Breeden earned her English (writing emphasis) degree from Loyal Marymount University and was awarded the 2007 NV Arts Council Fellowship for Literature. She has one published novel (Falling by Tori Briar) and over 60 poems published in various journals and anthologies including Best New Poets 2010.  Teresa is an active member of GCW, a writing critique group, and performs her poems several times a year at Carson City’s Jazz n Poetry events. The managing editor of a small vegetable garden, Teresa is always accepting seed submissions. 


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