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.

Kill That Fucking Clock

Just get through one day

Day One

Minute by minute

By one minute

Clock says it has been

Two minutes

Fill the space

Alone

Like forcing liquid insulation

Between the support beams

And the skeleton

My ribcage

Good bones

Waiting for the foam

To harden

Empty rafters

Leave space for

Air and rope

How can it only be two minutes?

I’ve gone through the entire script

Of Gone with the Wind

In my mind

Me playing Scarlett

My anxiety answering with

Rhett Butler

Scoundrel

Lazing like that clock

Always late

Making me pay for my

Ego and desertions

Stoic in my flirting

For an easiness

In minutes

I can’t find

Great balls of fire

How has it only been two minutes

And not another day

Another day

Another way

Not one by

One and then

One by Another

And then My Other

I can’t do it alone

Unless these next two minutes

go faster

than the last

Kill that fucking clock

It doesn’t understand

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

The Gone Side of Leaving

Take Care of Her – Chapter 9

Chapter 9

The red dots on her phone never went away.  Gretchen hadn’t taken a call or acknowledged a voicemail or text in almost two weeks. She just couldn’t bear it – couldn’t fathom spending the day, or even an hour away from the girl. It was a life better than Gretchen ever imagined. Until one night, when the girl started crying.

“Honey, what is it?” The girl shook her head. “Tell me. Please. I bet if we talk about it you’ll feel better.”

The little girl sniffed into her pillow, burrowing herself deeper into the big bed. “I’m afraid you won’t be here.”

“What?” Gretchen asked, her heart sinking. “Baby, no. I’ll always be here.”

“I’m alone sometimes. And I get scared. I don’t like to be alone.”

Gretchen wrapped the girl in her arms. “You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone. I promise you. I will always take care of you.” The girl trembled and Gretchen felt the tears on her own skin. They cried together. Sometime in the night, they both fell asleep. Together. In the morning, they both went to see Rachel.

“I’m glad to see you. You missed appointments. I was concerned.” Rachel sat in the chair, notebook in her lap.

“I should have come earlier,” Gretchen said. “As soon as she came. I should have brought her in. Should have made you take to her. You didn’t believe me and I should have fought harder. This has to be so scary for her. I wasn’t a good enough mom.”

“It’s a great initiative you’ve taken. Really embracing this concept of caring for your inner child. You should be very proud of yourself.”

“This isn’t about me. It’s about her.”

“Yes. This of it this way, that by protecting and empowering the child of your inner self-“

“No. Stop your therapy shit. Her. Right there. I brought her in today. You have to work with her. She’s afraid. I want you to help her.”

“I’m not sure I understand.” Rachel leaned in to Gretchen. “Explain it to me.”

“What am I not explaining? Her. I know she’s struggling and I want you to help her.”

Gretchen turned to the little girl. “This is my friend, Rachel. I talk to her sometimes. And she helps me. I wanted her to meet you. Maybe you’d like to talk to her.”

The little girl shook her head. “You. I only like talking to you.”

“Gretchen,” Rachel said, “what’s going on?”

“I want you to talk to her. She doesn’t like me to leave, so I have to stay in the room. But maybe we could all talk-“

“Are you requesting some role play, or some dissociated-“

“I’m requesting that you acknowledge, that you look at and talk to this little girl. Right here. Right now.”

“Gretchen,” Rachel said, “we are the only ones in this room.”

“What is wrong with you? This beautiful little girl, who is scared and needs help and you’re acting like she’s not even there.”

“There is no little girl, Gretchen. There’s only you and me.”

Gretchen kneeled on the floor so she could be as close to the girl as possible.

“I don’t like it here anymore. I want to go home.” The little girl looked up to Gretchen with tears in her eyes.

“We’re going home,” Gretchen said. She stood and took the girl by the hand.

“Wait. Please,” Rachel said. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening. Can you give me a minute? I’ll help. I just want to get something. Something for her. I’ll be right back. I promise. I’ll help.”

Rachel left the room. Gretchen squeezed the girl’s hand.

Take Care of Her – Chapter 8

Chapter 8

“What should we have for dinner?” Gretchen asked to the backseat.

“Pancakes,” the girl answered.

“Silly. We already had pancakes today.”

“Do you have to go to work?” the little girl asked. “My mommy always has to go to work.”

Shit. She hadn’t thought about that. What was she going to do about work?

“No,” she decided. “I don’t have to work tomorrow. We can play all day.”

And they did. All the next day. And the day after. And then for the rest of the week. No work. Lots of pancakes.

Eventually, the ladies moved on from breakfast sweets. Broccoli was less than okay, the girl had decided. There was more success with the organic cauliflower, but only because Gretchen had found frozen versions that were purple and orange. Food came pretty easily. Maybe she had the makings of a mother after all. Gretchen had never been sold on the whole thing. It was something they had talked about, her and him, in bed, late at night. That seemed like a lifetime ago. She hadn’t thought about him or those times in what seemed like ages. Her current life was better. She couldn’t believe it. The lonely was gone.

Luckily, it wasn’t time for Gretchen to figure out how to handle school yet. That was going to be a task for another day. It made her chest ache just thinking about sending the girl away for an entire day. Pushing her off to a cold cement building with teachers who would never appreciate this little girl in her green shirt? No. They would stay here at home. Settle into their life. The pair of them. Silly monkey and lazy giraffe dancing while teeth brushing. Naming their favorite city landmarks, the tower building, the funnel that glowed with the weather changes, while Gretchen combed the gnarls out of the girl’s hair. She slept beside her all night and Gretchen had no idea what that child did in her sleep. It looked like it involved having a goblin building nests for dragon eggs among the curls.

Bedtime was their only struggle. Probably what caused the knots and twists and brush-defying hair. The girl was scared. The first few nights, they slept with the overhead light blazing in the bedroom. The girl was still scared. They’d graduated to sleeping with the closet light on and the door open. She couldn’t bear to be alone. Gretchen once had a weeping sack in front of her as she sat on the toilet, when she’d gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and the little one was devastated to find herself under the covers without her grown-up.

No. No school. She’d keep the two of them cuddles up here for as long as it took until no one was scared anymore.