Sick Day

Dawn sun streaks through the blinds and I would rather be sleeping
But I am reading, sipping echinacea lemon tea with honey
And remembering when I was ill as a child, terrified of the flu
I prayed Mom would stay home with me because
When I was sick she would be there there. And if she wasn’t
All I had to do was get a little sicker. I could call her
And she would let me watch TV on weekdays in a sleeping bag
While she ran to the store for popsicles and Saltines
Knowing she would return to pore over paperwork at the table
Or chat with her sister on the phone, hushing Kari’s sick
Checking on me when I didn’t get out of bed
One time she was still at work when I threw up and I cleaned
My own vomit off the sink. And cried because I wanted her there
To sit on the edge of my bed and smooth my hair
When she got home she said You didn’t have to do that, but I did
And I sank into her arms because breathing finally came easy again
Today I lie in a sleeping bag alone, writing poems and papers
Today I am an adult, taking care of myself
And missing my mother

Child

I spy anger in the sharp of her eyes
and the flash of tongue over teeth.
She sinks, thumbs plastic cusp of cup
and growls a deep theatric moan.

I know her mind’s still wild. Her child brain
hides black desires and fragile dreams
from our adult eyes. We pry.

She says she wants to be a vet. She wants
to rescue horses, save pets from fevers
and wrap wailing puppies in blankets.

She doesn’t yet know chemistry labs,
love rolled up in sex, the sting of
the first swallow with your so-called friends.
Of Mom’s secret shelves and Dad of the past.

Now she has the trouble of finding
a bus buddy. Of spelling C-L-O-S-E
and writing a’s, circle first.

She’s angry and it pulls at me-
the urge to grab her straw blonde head
and kiss the silky dirty hair in disarray.
She’s angry and for that I love her.

all the wrong places

encircled by a ring of wine on teak
from where you set your glass in february

on the tattered page of a violent novel

nestled at the foot of my winter bed, beneath
an afghan crocheted by sorrowful tales

ringing in the woodpecker’s persistent rap
on our iron chimney cowl

atop a Zeppelin of the dreams I set free

masked in a wing of scarlet paint
across a bum’s haggard jaw

sealed in ironed wax paper
next to a frozen four-leaf clover

i search for that girl
in all the wrong places

Keep Your Hope

My small spirits:
the animals, the young children
who do not yet know the word oppression.

Sweet innocence, utter curiosity,
brave and trusting hearts.
Those sunny faces and bright eyes
don’t yet know depression.

They don’t need to know.
Please God, don’t show them.

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Believe in all the good things,
the magic that turns leaves red and gold
and morphs clouds into dragons.

Watch the sky for rain; laugh hard
when someone sneezes.
You can find delight in anything.

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Keep your dreams close, little ones.

Hold onto joy and travel through this world
slowly, and with those open eyes
that give me such hope.

Searching

Hello,
I’m trying to find a place
where I won’t be lonely. I’m trying
to find a place where I can be myself.
I’ve been looking for a long time for somewhere
people will understand me.

Hello,
I’m trying to find a person
who I won’t be lonely with. I’m trying
to find a person I can show myself to.
I’ve been looking for a long time for this person,
and I know the search will last a while
yet.

Hello,
have you seen happiness? I think
I lost it. Have you happened upon a smile?
I think I forgot mine, a few years ago. On a shelf
in a closet, when I was thirteen.
Can you show me where my
laughter ran away to?