For My Daughter

I missed out on feeling
your handprints, sticky with doughtnut frosting,
on my face, on the face of my days.

I missed out on being your personal dragon
slayer, the guard at your childhood door,
the one who saw, and did something.

Sometimes I rewrite it
and I’m at the kitchen window
and you come spilling out of the school bus.

You make your way across the cattle guard,
walk down the gravel road. I’m there
at the window and you see me.

You walk in smelling of sagebrush and sneakers,
full of your day. I feed you warm cookies
and all the listening you could ask for.

If I’d been a better mother,
I wouldn’t make the bed
of grief every day.

If I’d been a better mother,
I would have pulled that dragon out
of your little pink book bag,

and my mouth, suddenly a blowtorch of rage,
would have incinerated him into a smoking wheelbarrow
of ashes before you even knew he was there.

If I’d been a better mother, you
would know the rightness of anyone loving you.
Or at least you would have slept, and slept well.