Archive for January, 2012

Dear Leeden

January 24, 2012

Oh my child—my child who is not my child
But who sits in my heart just the same
You are so grown up now, just looking at you
Walking with your own two feet and talking in complete sentences
and no, you don’t need to hold my hand anymore—
but maybe just in parking lots.
My sweet baby—the one I held so many times in the so many
places that I lived in, on funny street names
and in big tall houses and smelly apartment buildings.
I carried your pack and play crib up two flights
just to bring you home again at 2am because I
couldn’t get you settled and asleep. I didn’t know as much
as I know now about rocking children to sleep and
cradling their little frames and singing songs
to put their minds at ease.
Oh my child, all the nights I spent reading to you
when you were two and could pick out the books you wanted.
And we would read and read
until you fell asleep on me with your arms spread out, mouth a gap,
and dreaming inside that sweet little mind of yours.
I prayed and prayed so hard to every God and spirit out there
that you would be protected and nurtured as your mind developed
and bloomed all the beautiful thoughts, plans,
and ideas I know are in store for you. 
I have watched you grown from total innocence
to complete fearlessness and you, my dear, can conquer anything
your heart so desires–
I hope you acknowledge that truth every day of your life.
I will never forget the many adventures we had or lakes we conquered
or how you ran that day with determination,
bottle still clenched between your teeth, into
those waves and chased them until they disappeared on the shoreline.
I watched in amazement as your little mind tried to wrap itself
around the idea of water and movement.
Oh my child—my child who is not my child
But who sits in my heart just the same
Who can write his own name and count so many numbers
and point out different shapes
You are going to school soon and you are growing up.
Not a baby anymore, but always my baby—no matter how big you get,
I will always hold you close.
I love you more than sleep and more than books
and more than any wave of water on this earth.


Helen Told Me So

January 13, 2012

Helen rose above the ashes of her dead family
She tells me I can do the same
We sit, sipping coffee and I cry to her
She tells me I am not to blame.

The bitter truth has become this:
I am no longer your one
I sleep alone at night,
Tucked in between the bed sheets tight
And I don’t move over the places
Your body has already been

Nobody wants to talk to me about you anymore
It’s been three weeks
And, even the dog turns away
I wake up in the morning to the coldness
And make myself pull through another day
I’ve worn the same lipstick all month
I’ve said all the same lines
But nothing draws you closer to me anymore
Nothing fills the void.

Helen rose above the ashes of her dead family
She tells me I can do the same
I’m urged to gather my strength at the grave
And push on into another day

You have become dead to me, now
You have become dead to me, now

I leave my sorrow at the stone.

There Goes My Mother

January 12, 2012

There goes my mother.
Over to the clearance hair care color
Me? I just turn my cart the other way
And walk down the aisle collecting item after item
Of things she already has but won’t tell me she has until we have
Left the store and the city and have gone home.
While we are unpacking the things onto the kitchen counter
She’ll glance over at a bottle of Dawn dish soap and
Get a quizzical look on her face, walk over the sink
Bend down to the cupboard, open it, and pull out a
Brand new one, freshly sealed, never opened.
She will smile.
Me, I will sigh.
You see, this is my mother.
Carrying and collecting things she herself will never need
Saving them for a later date or in my case
Another person, another household.
Because she always did shop at thrift stores and
The excitement of buying school clothes was never more
Than a chore for her. This is my mother.
Using her resources wisely and sharing them with a daughter
Who has yet to understand the value of a dollar.


January 11, 2012

Sometimes I think
That you aren’t really in love
That you are more in…
That you followed a sequence
First college, then marriage
and finally baby.
I glance over your profile
Of pictures of you and your kid
That you took
with your free hand
And I wonder how it must feel
to stop working at the age
of merely 23.
And to be something like a
pawn in someone else’s game
Telling yourself everyday
That you make the rules
That your husband is
the head, but you are the neck
and I’ve heard that phrase so many
times it puts a bullet through my heart
To think you all believe it.
It rips the core of my being
to see you smile in every picture
Like, hey world– look at me!
Look what I did!
Look what this ring
this house
this baby
Makes me!
I say to it all:


January 10, 2012

Only one eye has that small spec of golden brown
within the blue
I see it when you laugh, and your eyes light up, and your body presses against mine

We’ve sat on this couch so many times already
That our shape has become familiar to it

Like— the couch is not compete with both our bodies on it
Watching TV or slanting over the small, wooden coffee table
sharing a meal

On this couch. I sit here. Impatiently
Questioning your eyes as if to surprise my own doubts

Do you still love me like you did that summer?

…or was it all made up in my mind? Did we lose love in between that time
that we spent so many months apart, separated by the big cities?

Does love forget?

Do our movements, slowly over time, start to fall away and our memories
start to fade of what it felt like to sit next to you that night under the stars, near the hospital
on the park swing, when you told me where you were from and where you were going?

Or is it all like that spec of golden brown? So cleverly put in one
of your eyes by our creator? Like it’s so special, only one eye
can hold it. If it were two, it would be too much.
I don’t know the answers anymore.

I look at you and you are laying with your head rested back, eyes closed. Content.
I do the same.

Upon Learning My Love Has to Wait

January 9, 2012

I stand here in the black hawk night
And swear that I can touch your eyelids
Closed— so closed and still I wonder
Just what kind of sleep are you sleeping?
Hush child, the desert air whispers to me
In breezes of sand and smoldering decay
Your Father will not forsake you
Beseech him and rejoice, be glad
But 125 more days, and I cannot so much as shout a hallelujah
No—there is no rejoicing in this sanctuary

Cold—so cold and blankets will not do.
Not even this fleece blanket I have carefully wrapped around my body
Not even my country—America—that I have wrapped around me
Can keep me warm

I breathe, shallow breaths and turn my head to side
To let the rivers of solitude wind their way out
Of my body and on to my silk pillowcase mom gave me
For Christmas last year. I wish they could have
Disappeared into the sleeve of the shirt you wore
When we shared the same breath
the same college
the same city.

And here I am.
And there you are.

Your face only in the pictures
Present only in the images I see on the TV
“We’re winning,” the President tells me.
“Who is we?” I beg. “You?”

And I shake their hands
Sinking flesh I meet the bone and feel their age
Protesters on 2nd Street.
They hold up signs and I never thought I would shake their hands
For this reason in my lifetime.

19 and a Day

January 8, 2012

Nineteen and a day
You took my breath away
As I listened to snowplows
Scrape down Main Street
This has to be love, I thought
As I sealed the envelope up
And mailed it an address somewhere in Iraq
Looking back I can see
It was love between you and me
Just not the kind I had planned
He’s still out there, I know it
And in a way you tend to show it
Just how much I really deserve.

This is Where We Go

January 7, 2012

With our bellies full of macaroni, we would hop into the back of
Dad’s red 1981 Chevy pick up truck
And belt it down the string of highway to a park we called our own
Singing Beach Boys and theme songs from our favourite cartoon show.
The sun was still giving off enough light to find it
As we hopped out and Dad called for us to not go too far
We knew this place was not a place he would approve of
But still, if we tipped our heads just right we could hear him call “girls, let’s go!”
When it would be time to leave. But it was not time to leave. So we went

To the foot of the bridge, to the covered trail beside it, down underneath it
This is where we go.
In our jelly sandals and hair pulled into ponies
This is where we go.
To our secret place of rock tossing, dream talking, sisterly fun.
This is where we go.

And after accidentally stepping into the water, we would wander back
Up to the real world in search of dad and the question of whether or not
We had been good so we could go meet mom for ice cream at ten.
Messy haired and muddy to the knee, we would slip back into the Chevy
And buckle up till Dad heard the click or would have to turn around and check.
The sun now in sleeping, we would sit back and watch the trees
Flutter their good-byes in the night until the lights from town could be seen
And Sally’s smile would become illuminated by the neon light of the DQ sign.

She Is Alone With the Cookies

January 6, 2012

She is alone with the cookies
In a kitchen she finds solace and
The grace of God
She is like the oven
Hot and closed
But on a timer and to a certain degree
She is convinced that she will only to amount to
This kitchen
Those dishes in the sink
The pots
The pans
The silverware
And of course
The cookies

Dear Walker,

January 5, 2012

This is my favorite photograph of us
You were at the age where you were learning to walk and not fall
As we lounge in the front yard on a beautiful Sunday afternoon
Our bare feet tickled by the spring grass
I will never forget the feel of your bald little head
And the back of your tiny little neck that held it up
I would often run one of my hands over the top of your head and down to the back of your neck
I was so appreciative and amazed at life.
Those were the first images and senses that came to my mind
When I was transferred that phone call late that night in my office
And I begged my sister to tell me what had happened through her tears and strain
“Just come home,” was all she could say
After a minute of pleading it came out. “Walker died.”
Suddenly my world of springtime disappeared into darkness.
Everything became as black as the night sky on my 40 minute drive from work to my parent’s house.
I hugged my father as he cried.
Three days later we had your funeral. I drove seven hours to see your body
I listened to your mother weep in despair. I will never forget that cry.
I held your big brother, age three, over the casket and we talked to you
I wanted to lift you up out of that box
I wanted to show everyone your beautiful bald head, and how small the back of your neck was that held it up.
But I knew it would be foolish. So I sat your brother on my lap
And I ran my fingers over the top of his head, through his wispy golden hair and down the back of his neck.
I whispered in his ear about the time last spring when we lounged in the front yard after church
And taught Walker how to walk.
He smiled up at me like he remembered.
I always will.