Choked

I walked to work

with a wet scarf

choked

taut

pulled

from both

side

dampness

in two directions

moisture

most of it rain

but

little

least of it

was tears

More of it was snot

I’m sure

That’s what parenting is

Some days

Rain

Tears

Snot

If you’re lucky

you also get

a shower

a different sort of wet

a smile

and a hug at

the end of the night

uncloaked

unchoked

dry

As It Should

It’s unnerving

The first time the nerves

Don’t fire pain and

Fire as they

Not that they should

Falling asleep myopic

But waking up and not reaching

For glasses because you find

you don’t need them

Not as it should

But is it

If it doesn’t hurt

How can you remember

If my brain fires

Synapse strikes

But I pull my hand back

Before it reaches out

Then another hand isn’t

Reaching from

The other side

Anymore

And that’s not

as lonely

Not as I should

As I am.

My new poetry collection The Gone Side of Leaving is now available.

The Gone Side of Leaving

Safety

Some parents use their kids as an excuse. Gets them out of work dinners, their own dental visits or unenthusiastic sex. The young creatures are marvelous scapegoats for these tasks. I know. I’ve done it all.

I’m afraid I’ve knit my child into my own safety net.

Didn’t chase the career I wanted?

It’s okay. I had a kid.

Tanked relationships?

It’s okay. I had a kid.

Another rejection letter for a writing piece?

It’s okay. I had a kid.

Except it’s not always okay.

My son is my life. And I don’t know if that’s always a good thing.

Some parents do incredible work with child raising as their primary focus. My mother was one of these parents. It’s still mind-boggling to me, remembering and watching to this day the sacrifice and giving she extending to caregiving.

I’m far more selfish.

Or maybe not.

There are many things about this life that aren’t enough for me. I want to swing and fly and walk the right rope. And I do it all with a net, just in case.

I don’t think that makes any more or less. Parents who strictly parent are awe-inspiring. Parents who run companies and are in love and volunteer to feed sick kittens are equally miraculous.

Me? I don’t fit in either box. I’m the one flat on her back, bouncing on a stretch of ropes and knots, still reeling from my most recent fall.

I hope there’s still time to get back up on the high wire again.

What I Didn’t

What I Didn’t

Learn to spell believer

Change to os to as for feminine

Include Ferdinand with Isabella
but that may have been intentional

That’s what I didn’t do in fifth grade today

Didn’t distinguish capability from intention
work from talent
strength from indulgence

He sees what I didn’t
make dinner
wash my hair
clean the crumbs

What’s the worse didn’t
That I didn’t

He can learn
because he watches
what I didn’t
and see his same
didn’t

And then he does
Lie in bed with a book
That others think
Is meant for another

Didn’t like I didn’t

He senses my shaking
and knows when I’m crying
even though
I like to pretend bathroom walls
are thicker than they are

Didn’t stop like I didn’t

He doesn’t want my reminders
but it’s my fault
when I don’t give them

Didn’t stand up because I didn’t

I watch him parent
what I didn’t
I try to take the blame
that he shouldn’t

I didn’t enough

I hope he knows it was my didn’t

Not his

I Don’t Know

It is said that in these times, we need our poets. There is nothing I can give, but words and love. 

I Don’t Know

I don’t know how a man lies in bed tonight
when his wife is dead.

I don’t know how hate is cultivated and cared
for and nurtured like a hot house orchid.

Hate can’t come this easy.

Can it?

Isn’t it something that needs attention
and support to flourish?

I hate myself every day and
I know how much work that takes.
It’s exhausting.

And this seemed effortless.

Wasn’t it?

Hate – it’s planting a tree,
from barely a sapling
and feeding and covering
and measuring water
by the dropful and
the moment it reaches
its height.

Then bringing to slaughter
with slashes and gashes
and hacks
enough to draw blood.

I don’t know where the
next blood is.

Walking home?
buying a book?
Saying a prayer?

To which gods?
To which men?

Is it this hard?

The sun rose in the city today
even though we couldn’t see it,
keeping itself grey and quiet, rain for tears
as the names were read.

I don’t know when we’ll see
the sun again.

I don’t know how we
learn to put love in
place of policies and
protection.

I don’t know how to
not be afraid and look
for exits before even entering.

I don’t know how we build a
bridge in this city so full of them
without each other.

I don’t know.
Maybe together,
we learn.

Take Care of Her – The End

Chapter 11 – The End

“Ow,” Gretchen said, plucking a white strand out of the part of her hair. There were so many white hairs now. She put the tweezers down. It was silly. Let it go. It had been years. The woman had become older and achier and heavier. The little girl hadn’t changed. Still five. Still wearing her bikini with the woman’s green t-shirt as a dress. Still only seen inside their home.

Their apartment was tiny now. Three rooms. They stayed close to home most days. Gretchen had found a job at the convenience store down the block. No one minded that the little girl came with her. Or if they did, no one said anything. The girl still liked to play in water. They left the city with the museum. She never got to play in the fountain again. There was a tub and the girl played in that. They walked to get groceries. They read books in bed. They saw no one but each other.

“Can we have pancakes?” the girl asked.

“Are we ever going to have something besides pancakes?” Gretchen asked.

“No,” the girl said. Then she laughed. It was the high, free giggle of pure happiness. Gretchen couldn’t help but laugh with her. But the work of laughing showed on the woman’s lined face.

“Honey, I’m tired. Is it okay if I lie down for another minute?”

“You won’t be too long?”

“I won’t be too long.” Gretchen shuffled down the hall to her bedroom. Her head ached. It did that a lot these days. They girl was sweet and tried to keep quiet when the woman needed the lights off. That lovely girl. Gretchen didn’t change clothes. Didn’t even take off her robe. I took all her strength to stand, so she lay down in bed, on top of the covers. The little girl was hunched on the edge of the bed. She always liked to stay close.

“I love you,” the little girl said.

“I love you,” Gretchen said. “I’ll see you when I wake up. Just a few minutes.”

The little girl scooted from the edge of the bed up to the pillow. She didn’t lie down, but sat up, holding Gretchen’s hand. The woman had squeezed the tiny hand once. It was tight. Too tight. Then the fingers relaxed.

When the men came to take the woman away in the black bag, there was no one else in the apartment. It took them hours to stomp around the tiny home. They talked too loud and were nosy. Everything got moved. The little girl stayed in the bed, still and quiet. No one saw her. Once they were gone, the little girl climbed under the covers and waited for the woman to come back. She hoped it wouldn’t take long. She didn’t like being alone.

Take Care of Her – Chapter 10

Chapter 10

When Gretchen woke up three hours later, she was lying on a hospital bed. The little girl sat on a chair in the corner of the room. Gretchen’s matted eyes opened and she smiled through her haze. The girl ran to her and collapsed against the stiff patterned gown. Gretchen cried and wrapped her arms around the small shaky body.

“Hi,” Gretchen said.

“I missed you,” the girl said.

“I missed you. Bunches.”

“Can we go home? You were asleep so long. I don’t like it here.”

“Me neither,” Gretchen said. “Let’s go.” She pulled down the covers and swung her legs over the edge. Her muscles pricked and pounded. She kicked and squirmed against the neural torture. The girl copied her spastic movements with twitches of her own squishy legs.

“Good morning,” the voice said as the nurse entered the room. “I have your meds.”

The little girl shook her head. She tucked herself behind the chair and started whispering. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. If you take those, then I have to go away. For more than a long time. For longer than you were asleep. For forever. I don’t want to go away. I want to go home. I want to stay with you.”

The nurse handed Gretchen the pills in a small paper cup and a tiny plastic cup of water. Gretchen took them and hid them in cheek, then took a pretend drink of water. After she put down the water and the empty pill cup, she coughed into her fist.

“Hard to get those down,” she said, showing the lady in scrubs a wide-open and empty mouth.

Good job,” the nurse said. “Doctor Brandon is going to be in later. Ring if you need anything.” The nurse left and the room was quiet.

The little girl crept out from behind the chair. There were tears in her eyes. Gretchen showed the girl her hand. In her palm were the pills. Gretchen threw them across the room and they plinked against the linoleum floor. The girl smiled. Gretchen looked around the room. There was a cabinet in the corner. The girls ran to the door and inside in a pile were some regular street clothes. Gretchen pulled them on and shoved her feet in the shoes. She wasn’t sure that anything in this room was hers, but she didn’t care.

“Let’s go. Quick and quiet as you can now. Let’s see if we can sneak out without anyone seeing us. Think we can do it?” The little girl nodded with vigor. Gretchen squeezed the girl’s hand and they left.

They did it. They left together and went home. No one saw them.