get knocked up,
plan a wedding in three months
and waddle down the aisle in white pumps
that fit you when you bought them.
Gain a total of forty-eight pounds
while throwing up for forty weeks,
and give birth to a nine-pound baby boy,
who is bigger and cries louder than any other
newborn in the maternity ward.
After you blink once or twice,
find yourself moving across the country
for your husband’s engineering job,
with three cats, the six-week old baby,
and all of their respective paraphernalia
crammed into a purple minivan.
Critical Step: Raising Your Boy
To do this, start learning more about more things than you knew existed;
begin appreciating that this cherubic, gorgeous,
but almost alien issue of your loins
sees individual ice crystals in distant clouds,
hears crickets chirping at dusk
over the sound of rush-hour traffic,
plays the piano with no lessons better than you ever will.
Have conversations with your boy (that he begins)
about the waxing gibbous moon
when he is still in diapers.
Don’t freak out when he runs to the garage to feel the water main
every time someone flushes the toilet
for an entire year.
Realize that this otherworldly child means no slight
when the Valentine’s Day card he makes for you in first grade says,
“Dear Mom, I love the plants from Chris Tuffli’s science project.”
Scoop your bottom jaw off the floor
when he inquires about how nerve impulses
not only respond to, but initiate thoughts
(you will have had about seven years
to prepare for this moment,
but your heart will still flutter dangerously).
Believe that you are the only one who notices
that he has decided not to “turn left”
during the ages of eight and nine.
Get comfortable slinging around terms
like high-functioning autism, echolalia,
sensory integration dysfunction, perfect pitch
and freaking genius.
Find a place deep in your understanding that “gets”
how he is not unloving, ungrateful, or deliberately obtuse,
but admirably, unprecedentedly honest and real.
Become very angry when his teachers and coaches
try to justify being put-out
and dare to assign blame to a child,
rather than consider how they, being the adults,
might assume responsibility
for their interactions with him.
Fall fiercely in love with your magnificent boy,
so that your heart screams, your scalp hurts,
and your vision blurs
in this unsympathetic, simple-minded world’s injustice.
It will then be easy for you
to put aside your concerns about ruffling feathers,
making waves, and rocking boats.
You will do anything necessary
to arm your son to thrive, shine,
and find his own joy.
Trust in his gift of seeing every moment
in terms of geological time––
of constantly holding the cycles of mountains
rising up and eroding away in his mind’s eye––
and strain in your every breath, step, and toss in your sleep
how his world is wholly un-glossed over
by super-imposed paradigms.
Never try to propagandize him
into a semblance of societal expectation.
Never believe for an instant that you
should temper your awe of him.
When he is a teenager,
endure an epic tongue-lashing
from your superego,
then fork out the dough,
for the camera of his dreams.
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
Thank you to Editor Dave Essinger for publishing “How to Take an Amazing Photo of a Solar Eclipse” alongside Matthew’s amazing photo (above) in the 2016 edition of Slippery Elm Literary Journal. This piece is also included in my forthcoming chapbook, This Being Done (Finishing Line Press). I will post information for ordering my new collection as soon as it becomes available!
Matthew Harper is an avid photographer and videographer of wildlife, weather, and astronomical phenomena, the more extreme—i.e., skunks and coyotes, thunderstorms, meteor showers and solar eclipses—the better. He is also an accomplished digital artist and musician. Matthew recently completed his high school studies as a home schooler, and earned a Certificate in Audio Technology from the Oregon Music School of Technology. He currently lives with his family in Hillsboro, OR.
Oh, yeah, he’s a gymnast, too! “Intense Matthew!”