On Top Of

On Top Of

If I hold my pose

And hold my breath

Lean into the pain

Away from stability


And peak

And peer

I can almost see

on top of

What’s on top

I don’t remember

another dust I forgot

On top of

The paper

That was suggested

Not mandatory

Not have-to

More half-two

Meant to be three

But I’m lucky

To see one

So I guess that

Does it

Like that last

That did it

Can’t remember

When I did it


Gather my


My books

Secreted away


I like their dust

My wrinkles match

Favorite pages

Begging to be


While I’m


To be forgotten

Doors and


And a






Right there

On top of


While I’m below




Every breath

Is a pose

Toes curling

Not releasing


For control

On top of

All that

I have to

Maybe when I’m




I guess I’m supposed to be embarrassed

Everyone else seems to be

For me

I don’t go to law school

So I missed the instruction


Over forty

divorced existence

In public

Is a crime

Only whispered about

And only slightly


To manslaughter

Which I understand

I’m also meant to



Wished-for revenge

Through my teeth

Like the glass of

Malbec I had to

Buy myself

You just haven’t

Found him yet

They pat and


And cringe

ever so slightly

Under concerned


And above

relieved shoulders

I guess I’m supposed

To be sad

That BBC and flannel

Was my real trauma

That checking an

Unclaimed box

At hospital admission

Was my real crisis

That an empty box

In the back of my


Was worse

Than a backyard of bones

I guess I’m not



There’s a branch

A net

A blanket

Held by a family

Waiting to catch

He’s dead

And much

too distracted

She’d try

If the cells weren’t

Unstable and mutinous

He’s just like me

Looks and despondent


Godless seeker

All anchor

No raft

Swim toward

The chorus echoes

Behind masked


Blank in front

Of blank


For the Pagan

In your bed

Or the

Rope sent

From the heavens

What if you believe

In neither?

In faith was long

Ago burned by

Emulsion of misplaced

Trust, rendered fat

And a spark that

Refused to


Reach to


Arms tight


A poor

Sailor’s knot

And try to




Didn’t See

Who does your hair?

He asked me from the hospital bed

What size shoe do you wear?


Size 9. Maybe bigger.

How do you get it to stay like that?

Days of oil and a rubber band.

Why did you look away?

I didn’t.

No, listen, I need you to believe I didn’t look away.

That’s not me.

I don’t look away from ugly scars.

Blood doesn’t bother me.

Decay and shit and desperation.

I don’t look away.


What did you see?

Tell me.

What did I let you see?

Before you leave.


Tell me what you didn’t see.


Sometimes I have to step away from those I love to follow what I love.

Shook off the attachments of cellular and developed family.

Crawled out of my own skin to fill another body, to speak other words, to feel another pain.

Seems absurd and unreasonable and false.

Sometimes I follow my heart even when I know I breaks others and I shouldn’t even bother to begin crafting the apology.

Because I’d make the choice again.

Sometimes my own words aren’t enough and I have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

It’s a kindness to be able to walk amongst other dreamers for a while and to build beautiful castles from wishes and poetry.

Among the things I left behind were my own words. I stranded my characters on a back road in Virginia, gasping for breath and driving hell for leather.

My son is next to me and I’m in love to be there.

But my book, my Jack and his cronies, they need me back and I’m anxious to talk to them again.


When I was in eighth grade, I got detention. The only one I ever would.

With another girl who also went on to be a writer. A good one. A real one.

We were not detention girls.

The plan was to create a time capsule. Capture the essence and sparkle and unrest of 1991and save it from decay for a rainy day.

Keep a time that was so hard in the living but might be passingly pleasant with distant remembering.

What about putting something precious on a shelf while you still want it in your hands

Like taking freshly delivered flowers and hanging them upside down instead on a wall instead of right way up in a vase of water.

Keeping something to remember before it wilts. A memory of beauty before you put your hands around and turn it ugly with oiled prints

Shelf out of the way

Shelf I can’t see

Shelf I’d like to build in my heart if only

I had the support beams

To handle the screws


Enough to get a hand on

Enough that if it fell the

Memory would break

At least one bone

Want to know it’s there

But not know

Because I don’t know

Leave it there long enough

Might be there for

The next tenant

Cobwebs and dust

Encroach and envelop

So it becomes part

Of the timber

That maybe you’ll forget

When you pack your boxes

And downsize

When your life

Moves on

Or you pry the wood

And take it



Paint chips

Reaffix to ribs

And fascia


And brittle

Carry your shelf

Until it becomes


Dust in your veins

Cobwebs in your valves

And the memory

Is all that lives

Can’t Talk Yet

Sometimes, World Poetry Day is missed because of brutal fucking ignorant mental illness lapses. Anxiety and depression. The pneumonia was easier, gang. By a mile.

Listening to confessions from a mother

And songs respecting the struggle of abortion

I cried

At least the baby didn’t die

She said

I smiled for the first time

In miles

She’s been in

The car with



Half of


Many times

Can’t talk about it

Not to someone

Being so nice

To me

An indicator

Of true illness

Doing it again

Misplacing comfort and kindness

Where I want spark

Two lengths of jumper cables

Battery leads corroded


A color I knew

Wearing it in the crowd

Staring the stage

Wanting my own light

Coveting conversation

Forsaken for

Hugs that don’t need feet

Those come from both

Sets of Arms

I’m told

Cemented you chipped me

Not enough to be broken

But enough to be surrounded

By ceramic pieces


Disconnected enough

That every edges finds

Your soles

When you get out of bed

In the morning.

Can you sprain your

Diaphragm crying?

Or is that just


Setting up housekeeping?

Rattling pans

And nailing down


Planning to stay

Until the foundation


Tucked with wool

Set aside from

The destruction

Handed gently


Purpled with


Color of a fresh


Waiting for the

Ease of pain

That comes with

Greens and yellows.

Twitching to a


Melting to a


Stealing comfort

Even though

It’s freely given.

Some things

Can’t talk about.

Not yet.


Flowing down my leg

Just like my book

No pain

That I can feel

Only what

I can see

Should see



If only

I’d stop

Looking at myself

Pouring out of me

Like feelings


Like purulence from

A re-opened scar

Like rancid

Avalanche of garbage water

From the truck I

Backed up to your door

Dumped my shit

Without ever giving

Ever yours

In exasperation

And exhaustion and

Maddening spinning

And swirling

This side of intolerable

Around the same





Drain that

I felt

That I was

Bivalves w(hole)

letting out

The rot

Sucking up

The reassurances

Leaving a mess

No casual plumber

Could possibly


Everyone in the room

Is frustrated

And wet

My stain

More than Neptune’s ocean

Could fathom correction

You called them ours

Spilling so I wouldn’t

Be the only clumsy


Drain in the room

And I loved that

I would have sat

With you all night

Smelling like our scotch

Letting our shower

Wash it all

Down the drain


Key in hand

Matches the one to my

Mothers house

My dad isn’t there any more

Another one gone so

It’s hers

But this key

This key


Fits in my hand

Right away

No carving

Scars next to my finger

Wonder how that is

I walk in the door with

Problems and sadness

Sometimes food and

Poetry of



A room of rugs

I tried to kill

And powders and


And guitars that aren’t mine

Unless I want them

Access and trust

And how do I pay

That back with words

And pastries

And promises of love

I can’t prove but can


And I do

More every day

How can I trust

This turn

This metal cut

To fit me

When my brain

Screams to change

The fissures that I

Dug myself

Deep and wrong

Can a key

Tooth and bite

Fit a cracked and

Clefted doorway

Can it lock out

What blew off the door

And froze the room

The metal warms

And matches my skin

When I hold it

So maybe

It can’t


It can turn

If I can

Take Care of Her – Chapter 6

Chapter 6

“Why do you think you had the dream?” Rachel asked.

“I’m telling you,” Gretchen said. “It wasn’t a dream.”

“Okay. What do you think it was?”

“It was a girl. It was me. It is her. From my picture.”

“Why do you think-“

“I’m sorry, but this wasn’t my idea.” Gretchen said. You told me. You suggested this idea of taking care of myself. Of her. She’s here now I’m taking care of her. ”

“Do you think it’s reasonable, for a capable woman like you, to be so eager for a solution to her grief that she would invent this? To not think of caring for an inner child as a metaphor, but to start believing in a created-“

“She was always here. I don’t think my grief had anything to do with it.”

“She was there. I don’t think my grief had anything to do with it.”

“Is she here now?”

Gretchen was silent.

“Can I see her?”

“She’s right there.” Gretchen gestured to the girl in the corner, her legs in a ring, her fingers playing twiddle games. The register in the wall behind her kicked on and she jumped when the air hit her skin. She giggled and her pigtails shook when she laughed. Gretchen had put them in crooked, but neither her nor the girl seemed bothered by that.

“I don’t see her, Gretchen,” Rachel said. “It’s only you and me in the room.”

“You don’t have to make fun of me.”

“I’m not. I’m really not.  I’m concerned. I’m trying to map out what this coping strategy is. If it’s the best avenue for your work and energy now.”

Gretchen wished she could make Rachel see the girl. She’d love to show her that she wasn’t crazy.

Maybe she was.

But, for now, Gretchen chose to play along. Yes. There were only the grown-ups in the room. Yes. It was just a dream that crossed a boundary. Yes. She would come back in two days to talk again.

Until then, she decided that she wanted to really play for a while. So she left. And she took the little girl with her.

Driving through the city calmed her. Not the bridges. The bridges themselves were fine, but the crossing lanes and jockeying frazzled her. The neighborhoods, she liked. Her hands and feet steered on autopilot and she watched the brownstones and the people on their stoops pass her windows.

“You took a long time,” the voice said from the back seat.

“I know,” Gretchen said. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m glad you left. I didn’t like that lady talking about me. It made me sad.”

Gretchen glanced in the rear-view mirror and smiled. The little girl was there, still in her oversized green shirt. Her legs bounced the front passenger seat as she talked.

“That’s why I left,” Gretchen said. “I didn’t want you to be sad.”

“Are you tired?” the girl asked.

“No. Why? Are you sleepy? Do you need a nap?”

“I don’t like naps. They make me sad too.”

Gretchen smiled.

“You like to take naps. When you come home.”

“What would you like to do?” Gretchen asked.

“Play,” the little girl said.

“Okay,” Gretchen said. “Let’s go play.”