The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Through their eyes

Rachael Conlin Levy

The weatherman promised us one single balmy day during the entire Spring Vacation, so while my daughter spent it with a friend, my boys and I hightailed it to the city arboretum. We inhaled the perfume of a Thundercloud Plum, marveled at how blossoms fell like snow from the trees, and had a long discussion about the group of juvenile delinquents wearing vests and hard hats as bright as poppies.

“What are they doing?”

“Community service. They got in trouble because they did something like steal or drink alcohol or spray graffiti.”

“How do you know they’re not Boy Scouts?”

“Because. They’re not having fun. They’re not laughing or talking to each other. And do you see that guy over there with the walkie-talkie, he’s watching them to make sure they work.”


Then I could see the wheels of their brains whirling. The oldest son worrying over the small glass of wine and water he drank at special dinners: Could he be arrested for that? The middle-by-a-minute son hoping he will never get caught. And the baby drawn like a butterfly to the orange vests.

I may be a strong-willed woman raising an opinionated daughter who is training her brothers to enjoy tea parties, but ours is a house of men. There’s no sense fighting the domination of balls, karate kicks, Legos and Captain Underpants, which only will give way to stinky feet, loud music, dark rooms and porno magazines under beds. This I know because I had two brothers of my own. On days when I feel buffeted about by this maelstrom of maleness, I think of my grandmother, who raised five (!) boys, of my favorite poem by Billy Collins where he attempts to repay his mother’s gift of life with a lanyard, and of my own sons’ currency of painted rocks and dandelions. To listen to the poet read The Lanyard, click here.

One response to “Through their eyes”

  1. Jammer says:

    I love that Billy Collins poem. Choosing him as a poet laureate was one of the very few things I ever agreed with Bush on.

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