Saturday, June 14, 2008


Mom and Dad

Gentle readers, feel your naked belly button where
you were tied to your mother. Kneel and thank
her for your jubilant but woebegone life. Don’t
for a moment think of the mood of your parents
when you were conceived which so vitally affects
your destiny. You have no control over that and
it’s unprofitable to wonder if they were pissed
off or drunk, bored, watching television news,
listening to country music, or hopefully out in
the orchard grass feeling the crunch of wind-
fall apples under their frantic bodies.

I love this poem. It makes me smile. In his gentle way, Jim Harrison engages his “gentle readers” and asks us to touch ourselves—our “naked belly button,” of all things. The intimacy of that directive sets the tone for a series of intimate musings about the moment of our conceptions.

Harrison’s casually-confident voice puts forward, as a statement of fact, that our parents’ mood at the moment of conception “so vitally affects / your destiny.” It’s the kind of statement I enjoy dismissing then chewing over for while. What if it were so? What if my destiny was shaped in that moment? That would explain a lot.

“Mom and Dad” is full of delightful contradictions, too. “Don’t / for a moment think about the mood of your parents,” he says, before we go on to thinking about their mood. He tells us “it’s unprofitable to wonder” while we wonder. Then goes so far as to hope they were “out in / the orchard grass feeling the crunch of wind- / fall apples under their frantic bodies.” How wonderful to wish that for one’s parents.

I am one of the lucky sons whose parents still love each other after fifty years of marriage. Not that it’s been easy. On my tenth wedding anniversary my mother said, “Now you can imagine what it takes to make fifty.” No small feat. Accomplished in part, Harrison’s poem makes me willing to muse, because they still feel the crunch of windfall apples.

“Mom and Dad” can be found in Saving Daylight, Harrison’s tenth collection of poems. It’s from Copper Canyon Press and worth reading from cover to cover.