That’s a somebody else, 
god bless them, 

Thoughts and prayers
on repeat
for 24 hours.

An innocuous 
holiday trip
to the mall.

Thank you,
we’re just browsing
the belts.

Crowds of shoppers,
outside the store,
inside the mall — 

We’re all inside
these four walls
now screaming.

Clutching the browsed belts,
we crouch and cower
inside the counter square,

Where the young cashier
holds hands
with us.

Shots were firing,
people were screaming,
fleeing the scene.

We stayed contained
behind our counter,
safe by mere chance.

We chose the right store
at the wrong time

When I Became a Bird

Sitting on the back porch,

a nest of red cushions surrounds me,

the weight of 

The Count of Monte Cristo

drags down my hands, my arms

while scents of springtime

privet, honeysuckle, pending rain

collide in my seasonal sneezer.

Smiling spontaneously 

eavesdropping on conversations


the Titmouse, the Finch and the Wren.

Between friends

you can say anything.

Dropping my book

I join the flock,

my voice ascends

tinkling with laughter

from my nest to theirs.

Smells of Summer

My young feral instincts


raindrops’ residue on hot pavement

(without being told or taught)

meant summertime,

In the same way 

cut grass goodness

dictated and begged

our nightly revelries — 


(Ghost in the Graveyard

firefly chasing

front porch sleeping).

Working in the garden,

turned up dirt

lingering and clinging to

Daddy’s wrist and arm hairs

muddied the kitchen sink

spraying earth fumes, 

inhalation inevitable,



The Waiting Game

“Waiting for . . . the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No. . . just waiting.” From Dr. Suess’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go

she lost consciousness 
in my arms and I
thank any and all 
gods attending us — 
for our Nurse Practitioner friend,
(now family) 
reviving her, and 
for Gigi
(also now family)
who had the presence of mind and 
free hands to 
call 911, and 
for the paramedics 
who arrived in minutes,

They took her away 
for her second ambulance ride 
in as many weeks, and 
thus began the waiting, 
the longest day of my life.

Tears were cried,
hugs were given, and
more prayers were prayed,
calls were made, 
and we waited. 
Six am until ten pm on that 
longest day’s ever night 
for a conversation
with the doctor — 
any doctor — 
for news on my girl.

She was 
the doctor said, and 
thank goodness 
they had her 
right where she needed to be, 
back in a hospital bed with 
tubes going in, and 
PICC lines coming out,
for the myriad medicines going in.

They said she would be 
for a long 
long while — 
for this infection 
consuming her lungs,
was waiting, too.

We can play 
(and win)
the waiting game,
we cried,
hunkered down
for a long 
winter’s month — 
warming up 
phone lines,
and bowls of soup
between us —
the distance always too far
for our waiting hearts.

Days and nights
became weeks
for the medicines 
to work,
for the chest tube 
to drain,
for the doctor’s calls
to be non-emergent,
for the hospital
to let me in,
for my tears
to stop,
for my fear 
to dissolve,
for our nightmare
to be a bad dream,
for permission
to go home.

The waiting
(finally) and 
we drove away,
leaving the waiting,
(impossible to see)
behind us,
packed to the roof,
as we were,
with living.

The Leaving

I remember the leaving more than the being gone.

How my best friend drove us to the airport,

hours after he woke next to my sleepless night. I remember

how I watched him walk around the bed we shared, emotionless,

to kiss me goodbye like he was punching his timecard at the end of his final shift, and

then tossing it over his shoulder into the backseat of his car

as he drove away, never once looking in the rearview mirror. 

I remember feeling so much lighter when I heard his key turn the lock

from the outside, and how our windows faced south and the parking lot was

to the east, so I didn’t have to watch him walk away. All that was left was the leaving,

the packing was finished, and the instantly-grown-up baby, my girl, got to wake up

to Mommy’s kisses, filled with emotion at the start of our big adventure, together

just the two of us. Her brand-new toddler-sized suitcase was packed with her most important

possessions the night before I slept not at all, minus her bed friends — 

Jasmine, the bunny, and her yellow blanket — who got zipped up once she was up. I remember

the suitcase was red, yellow, and green with wheels and a handle she could push, or pull,  

next to me carrying everything else, on our way back east. The two women seated in front of 

our two seats, I remember spoke loudly about how their three-year-olds (40 years ago) 

would never have pushed the seat in front of them, or ever cry for any reason. 

And I remember feeling so much lighter when I drowned out their voices 

to comfort my terrified toddler, whose ears were exploding from too much pressure 

on the inside, and then I remembered how happy I was that my daughter was

using her voice.

First the Burning

I’m not the first
to get burned,
reduced to ash

didn’t just step
too close 
to the flame, but
walked myself — 
like Shadrach
Meshach, and
Abednego — 
into the furnace

learned firsthand, 
at his hand,
what love is not
through baptism by immersion in 
the crucible’s cradle of heat,
rocked into oblivion,
burned beyond recognition

looked one last time
for herself
reflected back, and
the image spoke of
recognition, of
a glimmer, of
hope in a
pile of ash

heard herself
through the looking glass
she rise — 
like a phoenix
with borrowed wings — 
to leave 
the burning

The One

Like sage gives its scent when you crush it,
I knew exactly what he meant
turning from heaven to
come home to me — 
like the fresh hope of morning.

(I want to say
how your heart pounds inside me)

We meet on the street,

(Nothing was common
about the way we
stared at one another)

jumble about with kisses,
blossom on the threshold of abundance.

(I want to tell you,
I’m desperate for you, and
if I had three lives,
I’d marry you in two)

I have come now,
just say the word

He gave me kisses
so tender.

a golden omen
encircling us,
I touch it.

(I say
everything I write
will be about

Sources: [Maxine Chernoff, Denise Levertov, Roger Robinson, Layli Long Soldier, RK Fauth, Ada Limón, Anne Carson, Wislawa Szymborska, Jericho Brown, Sarah Russell, Ellen Bass, Warsan Shire, Ovid, Chris Abani, Maggie Smith, Alina Stefanescu, Patricia Smith]

hell with a little heaven in it

“As I Lay Dying”
That’s what I’d call this chapter
His chapter
We’re just reading it
Out loud
As a group
Just go
Finish the chapter
We’ll write the next bit
On your behalf
So much material
With you


The bathtub’s water line exceeds its limit,
my body heavy with hot wet,
displaces to overflowing,
my ears full with rhythmic chants,
pound in time to my heart’s beat,
the candles’ lights flicker,
the dark chamber illuminated,
as if in collusion with
the heaviness
my heart

Knocking On Doors

Not to keep on about this
Door knocking and
Us opening said door

I hate to think it; let alone say it
But is it possible
You’re wearing out your welcome?

Not that we welcome you
Except when we do
Which of late is the case

House and heart guests can be wearying
Like fish, they say
But please, make yourself at home

We hear you banging
Beating repeatedly, incessantly
Coming heavy-hearted to the entry, or is it the exit? 

Opening to you
Closes us to him
The intersection of breath and death

By the way, we received your hostess gift:
Grief arrived before you
Barely visible beneath all that baggage