Photograph by Marianne Leek

4518 Miles

A poem for my daughter

4518 miles.
That is the distance between us
door to door, in a straight line.
Strange how distance can feel measured
and random at the same time.
But your heart is tethered to my heart,
and on days like today,
the distance between us is achingly apparent.

28 years ago,
you came into the world
on a beautiful and bright spring morning.
“The world is yours,” I told you.
And I wished you love, and peace, and happiness.
You grew empathetic and loving,
soft and strong,
intelligent and independent.

And then one day you tore down the fences
you had built to hold in the familiar
and gathered feathers scattered
aimlessly along the forest floor,
left behind by colorful birds
flying farther south
for the winter.
“They’re beautiful,” you said.

You tied them together
with twine woven from late nights and conversations,
laughter and pain,
friendships and solitude,
and the stubborn vines of kudzu
that grew on the sides of the mountains
of these small towns
that threatened to swallow you up.

You made wings—
large and strong and brilliant—
constructed from a late summer harvest of experience and grief,
and broken promises, and love.
and sunrises that collapsed into sunsets that kissed the canopy of sky
over the Blue Ridge Mountains a flaming red.
“The world is yours,” I told you.
And I wished you love and peace and happiness.

I hugged you—
you with one suitcase and
a little yellow backpack—
and silently prayed for God to watch over you.
I watched you walk toward your plane,
until your little yellow backpack
became just a tiny golden dot on the horizon
before finally disappearing into the distance.

Sometimes, 4518 miles
doesn’t seem so far,
because I know you’re happy.
And no matter the
miles between us,
your heart is tethered to my heart,
and that tiny tug from time to time lets me know
you’re okay.

Author Profile
Marianne Leek

Marianne Leek is a retired English educator who teaches part-time in western North Carolina. She contributes frequently to Salvation South and her work has appeared in Our State, Okra, Good Grit, Plateau and WNC Magazine.

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