How would I know age

If youth had not come first

If I never loved my mother’s hands

Her graceful Itsy Bitsy Spider

Whirling on the waterspout

How would I cherish

My own tendons and lines

Would I know need

If I never read Lassie Come Home

Or yearned for feelings I couldn’t hold

Cried for a sadness that might have been anger

Or grief

Or simply a puppy

I couldn’t name and keep

Would my thirties know sorrow and loss

And regret

If my teens didn’t know them first

If I never found my private brook

And memorized its every curve

And thought myself the only girl

To ever walk its banks

Would age be like stepping into water

Blind and deaf

Barely sensate

Unaware of how I once

Leapt far from the bank

Without needing to know

What depths would find me

Would age come at all

If youth didn’t long for it

Search for ways to hurry it

For the simple freedom

Of knowing grief from anger

And choosing what things

To name and keep

Like the memory of my mother’s hands

Trying to explain

The nature of longing

How I would always be

That Itsy Bitsy Spider

Yearning for whatever waits

Atop the waterspout

Rae Spencer is a writer and veterinarian living in Virginia. Her poetry has been published in Willows Wept Review, The Driftwood Review, Melusine, Five Fishes Journal, vox poetica, and elsewhere. In 2009, she received a Pushcart Prize nomination. She can be found online at

When I study my hands, I am tempted to resent the wrinkles and spots that betray age. Except I remember a time when growing older felt wonderful. "Longing" is the result.



Copyright 2009