This is a Day For

knee-falling, anything-pleading, pressure-relieving.

intercession, supplication, massage, and Tylenol.

good quietly appearing, a breadcrumb trail for morning, when heading home becomes all
you’ve got.

cheap pizza, letting your three-year-old paint your face, hoping your rain jacket catches
the drips.

finding your just-clothed baby, puddle-naked, pride-giggling

and happy.

watching her bent head analyze the paint, realizing how the spot between her hairline and her eyebrows is exactly right, and just how much she has your hair

and that your oldest needs you, even more than he knows.

breaking the rule
you created yesterday
about how much TV the kids can watch.

meeting a long blond woman gone platinum. Ankle-length skirt—denim—gold cross, and orthopedics, who asks you, unbidden,

if all four of yours are living,
because hers are not. And before you can answer, she says she can tell just by looking
that they are, and judging by the one at her feet,
that they are all
doing well.

realizing it’s all a metaphor, but refusing
to point it out.


Happy Birthday, Worm Lips

Worm Lips

That little boy at soccer:
I stare so much his mother pulls him closer to her side.
His hair is on fire.  The wind stirs the flames,
and I am blinded by ashes I try to blink away.
It looks like smog in a sunset
before the final light of day fades to dark.

Your smile suggested petals in spring,
lips new as a rose in bloom.
They looked like gummy worms:
stretched and lined with dry skin.
Worm lips don’t sound like much,
but sometimes they’re all I have.

Your skin was soft and white, at times translucent.
You were my burning Irish boy.
The day I took you fishing, your legs
stuck out from under your overalls,
turned red in less than an hour.
Had you grown older, freckles would have covered your nose.

The blue of your bright eyes stunned me
until I probed and found only gray.

The box lowered was enormously small,
stark against glittering rocks
almost as pale as the morning I found you,
swamp cooler humming and hiding my cries
made faint by cinder block walls.

This soccer-child climbs onto my lap.
I hold my arms loose around his slender boy-waist,
too afraid to hug any tighter.  His hair tickles my nose,
wafts Cherry Blast scent, and I struggle against this smell,
so clean and alive.

Related postsMy Son Jeremy, The Back of the Ambulance, For the Victims of Kermit Gosnell

10.10.94 Jeremy at birth

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I hope to write a few things about the importance of de-stigmatizing mental illness, what our communities could do to help support those suffering from mental illness, and how we can reign in the myths of mental illness and create a truer picture of those who suffer. I have a few things pending publication elsewhere, and I have to wait until those are a “go” before I can put them here. In the meantime, here is a poem about anorexia, a mental illness that some may push aside as a self-created condition of teenaged girls. It is, however, a very serious mental illness that kills approximately 20% of those who suffer. For more information, please visit the NAMI website.


Neon hotel
The computer blinks as you cough.
I am uncomfortable on the floor.

I saw my collarbones once: thin beauty burgeoning.

Ribs jauntily flaunt, waiting to be counted,
balanced atop hip bones blooming in thin-skin soil.

The triumph of emaciation.

The control of self-denial.

The superiority over everyone,
especially her

and her.

I will be better than your broken nose, childbearing hips.
I will fight your curse with knives,
beat you with my brittle femur.


For the Victims of Kermit Gosnell

I wrote this poem 12 years ago for a child who died at 8 months of age. The current trial of Kermit Gosnell, however, brought the poem to mind, as I thought of the birthdays that will never be had because of Gosnell. And while this poem will for every other day of existence still be for the child I wrote it for 12 years ago, today it is for the infants who died at the Women’s Medical Center under Gosnell’s hands.

October Tenth

I woke today feeling a tightness, a constriction in my womb,
like the final moment before birth
when a new life enters the world—blue, wet, screaming.

Today would be your sixth birthday.

A small hand holds up five fingers,
the other tentatively extending one more.

“I’m six today,” you say to strangers
as we walk to pick up your cake
topped with candles, awaiting your wish.

Dreaming of ice cream and Legos,
you forget your manners and stick a finger into the cake.

I shake my head at your silliness, never stopping
to kiss your nose,
swing you up high, or think

how lucky

that you are here to have a birthday at all.