The Expanding Universe – by Kristin Laurel

~after the poem by Rebecca Elson

He is almost two, speaks
in monosyllables, mostly vowels.
Sometimes, when I talk to him
he looks at me curiously, other times
he does not seem to hear or see me at all.

We are in the northern woods, he is taking
it all in, his eyes are lit up spheres.
I tell him, this is the forest, these are the trees.

A heavy rain has just passed,
and the leaves are small, wet

I wonder what he is thinking,
but I don’t think he is thinking
like me, always wanting to analyze.
Define. Control. Confine.

His small hand lets go of my grip,
he yells Weeeeeeee
and runs with his arms wide open.

Nothing quite prepares us
for awe: How could I have known
that this small child
would teach me so much?

When the wind picks up, the trees shake off
their moisture; they rustle and creak
as he comes running back, holds
my leg with both arms
as if he might be blown away.
I place my hand on his head
as we stand there and sway

with the leaves, the trees; everything is
an eruption of green in fluid movement,
the smell of earth, the forest floor
tinted with mayapples, violets, bloodroot;
petals, leaves, flying: fronds and sprigs—fragments
of beauty bursting. All is right: light,
this young life hanging on
as we listen to the white noise,
the big bang. Steady hum.
Static. Forest drum.

A native Minnesotan, with a decade spent in California and in Texas, Kristin Laurel currently lives in Asheville, NC with her spouse and two dogs. She is the mother of three adult children and the proud grandmother of Sterling, for whom this poem was written. She has been published in Chautauqua, Glassworks, The Portland Review, The Raleigh Review, Water Stone Review, and numerous others. Her poetry has been featured on NPR and she is the author of two books of poetry: Giving Them All Away and Questions about the Ride.