23 July 2022

Shelf life

When dreams die
in a convenient place
between boxes
of dried milk, you understand
the sacrifice--
the cupboard unlatched,

Some items aren't ready
to be discarded.
They aren't meant
for donation, either.
So your Greed
plans the trajectory,
the shelf life
of your grandest wishes,
and decides that

sure, we won't prepare these
we daresn't use them
but when my daughter is grown

they can be among
the shit that gets thrown away
for being spoiled.

21 July 2022

Not in the cards

I would love to be gentle all the time,
stroke the surface of each day,
coax it into light and being.
I would love to take the warm chemicals
of my womb and alchemize it--
with your assistance--
to bring forth, eventually,
from this kiln of chance
some new beauty, scared and loved.
But no.
That's not what
I've been asked to do.
Goal posts move feet, not inches--
with your assistance--
and gentleness has become
an inappropriate response
with your bear traps
along the path.
Like your weapons,
you show teeth
and greedily
grab chunks of light
from each hour.
How much can be replaced?
How can we fix what is broken
when you don't want us to live?

26 May 2022

I did not know

i did not know 
the death rattle 
would come 
so soon after 
the plastic one 
was gifted
as a hand-me-down. 

i did not know 
you would be stolen in an afternoon, 
before a summer vacation. 

how dare anyone do this to you. 

to deny you the discomfort
of growing into 
odd features, 
gaps in smiles, fixed. 

no. instead, 
you were stolen. 
no one had that right. 

and out will come 
the phrases 
we have heard before, 
about heaven 
gaining little angels, 
about prayers, 
"let me know if you need anything,"
"i am so sorry for your loss," 

and none of these
words, these deaths 
will serve 
as a unifying action, just 
separate fingers 
dancing, as they do, 
across little keys, 
until we say enough.

how many are enough

08 May 2022

Mother's Day, 2022

Dear V,

It's been two years since you left. It also just so happens to be Mother's Day today. 

To say I think about you every day is an understatement: there are moments, feelings, that are super-glued to tasks. I worry, for instance, about your disapproval of my poor housekeeping, of not making my bed, of not getting out the pots and pans when I'm depressed. 

I worry about the white lies I tell to spend more time resting. Then I remember that you used to do that, too, when people would take and take. You wouldn't tell them to stop. You would be softer, surprisingly. You would just tell them to pause, via a little white lie...

I think about you every time I see an animal. I saw a fox tonight, disoriented or perhaps hit by the car ahead of me. I prayed for it. I cried for it.

I prayed, also, for the sick cat, one of yours, now under Dad's care. I pray and pray. I pray for more capable hands than mine to tend to these wounds.

I can give love and a couple of resources here and there, but I can't often give my time or my physical self, and I'm so sorry.

I hope you can forgive me. I hope you're still proud of me, of what I can do...

I miss your stories, even the ones I've heard over and over. A night owl, you would rock back and forth, spill secrets until 3:00am. And, oh, my guilt for feeling weary and tired... My guilt for not wanting to spend breakfast with you those last days, after you'd gone and bought those Wheat Chex and that soy milk... You didn't know I had plans in the morning. I probably hurt you in small moments like these -- when you made choices that were meant to be surprises for me, but I'd already made plans. Damned plans, interrupting play, interrupting opportunities to laugh with you, or help you...

I hope you can forgive my broken promises and unreturned calls. I tried to catch them all, but I'm sure I missed quite a few.

Now, I picture you rocking in your chair, with a book, killing time until one of your granddaughters called you back. Beautiful lady, so generous with her time, never bored, always thinking aloud -- I hope you know that I always appreciated you, and I always tried to say so.

I miss you so much.

Love, Shanny

26 February 2022

The worst of the artificial tempest


Hitting that main artery,
only just,
the shot still matters-- 
incomplete and harsh and cold. 

A small morsel 
among the rubble 
with ringing in her ears
knows not where

her dog is,
so she calls out
hoping someone can hear her.


The body dies gradually--
nerves tingling, as if waking up--
but communication is complete.

Arteries jam, then close,
but she can still pull herself 
up and out 
of the shell
as cold gives way to heat, then fire--

a burst of activity and noise
as the ringing stops 
and the sirens begin.


She is the tiniest thing,
the most fragile package,
the most scared little girl
with lungs rattling
and eyes burning.

Her city, her surrogate, 
could no longer
hold her and patiently answer 
her many questions.

So, she waited,
between crying out
a name she knew.

She waited for a friend

16 February 2022

Estate Matters

Grief is love and
love is grief and
this house held you
until you grew
your grief--
and when
you are quiet,
you can hear
the floors
with the womb
at the center,
wide and much too warm.
Love is grief and
it calluses over and
you try to let it
but you can't.
This house held you
until you
grew up and out,
arms outstretched
and aching.

Can you ever forgive me?

29 January 2022

A Miscalculation

God's mouth gulps,
breathes into a burner phone:
Maybe this spell
will ignite the torch,
the fire illuminating the scene
of the accident,
and maybe they will be moved.
Maybe they will act with more
than the occasional pail,
the occasional dropperful
of tears.
Maybe they will witness
that light reflecting in
a neighbor's scared black eyes
and see themselves, a mirror
suggesting more than sympathy.

The sharp crackle
on the other end of the line
gave away
the listener's position.
"Even after all this time,"
the listener responded,
"your trust in them
is stronger than their love."

09 November 2021


i have no excuse
lying on my back,
an ache behind each eye,
sand coating my throat.

i have no excuse
for this recurring dream
in which i am covered
by the dirt,
making the mistake

of opening my mouth.

i remember you tried
to burn your prints away
but the groves, the loops
healed back, revealing
there's no such thing
as starting over

just again,
and a third time,
as if this were practice,
as if life were practice.

why not be here now
before we cough up
the mud of the past?

26 May 2021

if we go back

long before there were knives, there were teeth
to shred through flesh and crunch through bone

if we go back to "olden times,"
you have to put your weapons away

use what god gave you to impress survive

there is no cutting room floor
everything goes live

part with the club by the entrance
when you are done using it for the day

scrape the mud from your feet

await a return
to the same pattern of violence

18 April 2021

Your Own Medicine

like an ornament
on the uvula--
to swallow
one's pride
is like hiding
to a crime

15 February 2021

The Drawbridge

On either side of a memory,
I wait
until the drawbridge closes
and the gap is filled--
without pleasantries,
without remorse,
just a pure, seamless destination
in front and behind--
from one town to the next,
and we can travel freely.
Until that bridge
serves its purpose,
I'll wait.
Between black and white,
between life and death,
I'll wait.

08 February 2021


the light isn't coming back on--
too much trust for something
with invisible wires.
too much honesty for something
that pretends 
to be the sun.

I don't think I'm brave.
before your eyes knew me,
you thought I was--
skating into each tiny dream
on ice as black as fear...

when the light burnt out
I went to bed and
never got up
because it never came back.

a slight glimmer came, once,
a trick from my window--
or from my eye.

optic nerves, invisible wires tied so gently,
mapped by God and science...

too much trust for something
that is not guaranteed.

before your eyes knew me,
I philosophized.
I evangelized.
but then the ice cracked beneath my feet,
and I plunged
with you above me, 
so far away,
light-years away

16 September 2020

black cards

I no longer hear
from your friends,
all flat
in black and gray.
I've made peace
with their absence,
but not with yours.
maybe one day
we can talk about it.
until then, outlines and stains,
shadows of our potential chats,
clump in the bottom
of my tea cup.
fools suck it up,
but you sucked it up.
maybe hiding was a bad idea.
you believe in heaven,
so that is where
I will find you.

09 September 2020

blue light

 that soft blue light

has a way of creeping

      where it shouldn't.

and the click and punch

     of the typewriter

has a way of hypnotizing

when it shouldn't.

it's almost as if 

  you are speaking to me

from the next room,

but you are not here.

      it's almost as if

the blue light knows

whom to summon,

whom to follow 

       when inspiration calls.

uneven spaces, blue 

in the cracks, 

try to ease my hand,

ease my worry, 

  but no softness 

has enough force

to hit the keys,

and I am left with

your whispers,

your shadows

        where they shouldn't


28 August 2020


the shape of grief?
there is no shape.
there is no road,
only interruptions
of quicksand.
there is no destination
only scattered paths
leading nowhere.
the shape of grief?
it's sand in the lungs.
it's sand in the eyes.
it takes the shape
of any open space,

24 August 2020


it's the decay
that finds me
and all of my
soft places--
a bruised fruit
on the ground,
only enjoyed
by those
whose only purpose
is to take.

02 August 2020


I don't wish I were dead
even when I feel buried alive,
small rocks of grief in my mouth.
I don't wish I were dead.
I can't remember the last time I was awake,
a comb scratching the surface of my head,
wrestling tangles and knots so that
I can look OK, so that I can look
presentable when someone confides in me
only to forget to ask if I'm alright.
But no, I don't wish I were dead.
Just another person's wallet
would be emptied, then;
as if I never borrow.
As if I always borrow,
feathers for blood,
an endless well that goes
all the way down but fails to echo.
I don't wish I were dead,
but I keep having dreams
about the dead, bubbling in my ear,
fresh water myths rushing
so much I cannot hear my thoughts.
The dreams are always about it being a farce,
a prank, that she is gone.
"Who told you that?" She'd explain, exasperated,
and I would wake up, thinking I'd been lied to,
a penny bouncing off the wall of the deepest well.
I can't remember the last time I was awake,
floating in the water, feathers shiny,
emerging from a bloody wound.
When the light hits the back of her eyes
she'll know that she has been found.
Why would I ever wish I were dead
even when the mind is a trap?

22 May 2020

Two Weeks

Grief is the worst type of heartbreak--
there is no promise of spring,
just leaves crumbled into dust.

And the days move ever forward.
And I feel left behind.
And I am looking for you,

listening for your voice--
but you are dust.
Death is the ultimate promise.

It is the worst type of promise.

17 May 2020

May 8

There are not enough artifacts
nor trinkets
nor letters written
nor rough maps drawn

blue ink
a "T" forgotten,

There is not enough time
hands ticking
coming closer together
three or four clocks, at least,
I count
while sitting
where you last rested

Somewhere, I will find
your memory boxes,
your address books,
your yellow legal pads

Somewhere, I will find
your bookmarked Bibles
with tear-stained pages,
your 91st Psalm

But today, nothing I will find
will be enough
I am selfish
I want soft arms
I want more than
to save and replay...
"He is risen--he is risen indeed!"

I want your songs
your hums
your interruptions
your "not only that"s

I knew this day would come
but seeing you
in robin's egg blue
head tilted
as if napping
I was not ready
I guess we never are

Whose stories
will ring in my ears

Whose loud, persistent voice?

All the time in the world
still wouldn't be enough
with you--

big brown eyes
now closed

I can ask why you left
and if you'll be back
but these questions
are for children

I am so small
facing vast darkness
"But the light returns,"
I can hear you say
"Everything will be okay
I promise"

01 May 2020


My vote
is a Molotov cocktail
thrown at your sneering,
sweaty face.
How dare you;
like you are entitled
to my trust.
This flaming liquid,
these glass knives
jab your throat.
They are all
you are entitled to,
Yell then, won't you.
Maybe someone
will cover your mouth,
when you scream.