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  • Writer's pictureaeraustol

I Can't Stop Smiling


I can’t stop smiling

when my son lands his side rails.

When a whole room

of boys cheer

for one.

One kid wears a flat billed hat

and jeans so baggy

the pockets form little hummingbird bowls.

Flaring out to the sides

of his adolescent hips.

I can’t stop smiling at the way the cheers are as loud and long

as if a prisoner has been liberated.

The collaboration.

Elaboration of love.

The sound of wheels across a weathered floor.

Pride the shape of sweat droplets

Love the shape of cheeks pushed out forming

joy out of flesh and

bone structure

of a face thirteen years out of a womb.

Rewiring of hate and unacceptance

from hundreds of years of epigenetics of competition.

Synaptic repair in human proximity.

Human connection.

Understanding pain and oddities.


I can’t stop smiling

At the sound of trampoline springs in my backyard.

The dogs barking at a hawk flying across their stretch of sky.


I can’t stop smiling during

dinner-making conversation

from the boy who couldn’t make

eye contact for his first five years,

who struggled to form thoughts into words

who ran away from his class.

I can’t stop smiling when that son sings

at the piano -

his voice unfettered unrestrained


fills my living room

makes me wonder what else is possible.


I can’t stop smiling when I see my girlfriend

from across the grocery store

coming toward me, lingering by the lemons

trying NOT to smile but who can

keep on pushing away what wraps around.

Like the gentle current of ocean water.

What lurks beneath is no match for this.


I can’t stop smiling

when my daughter comes home

from work with a story.

She drops chips and queso on the coffee table.

I pat the couch next to me.

She flops down.

The story rattles out of her

like open mic night.

And she’s the star.

Her red curls frame the butter soft

of her face.


I can’t help but smile.

When the wind blows outside my window

the walls creek and the baby tree

on the other side of the fence

sways this way and that.

Like a woman in love with

her own limbs.

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