We were hungry in August Now in December’s dark we gather, Inoculating our words and souls against cold worlds.
Looking out at Christmas lights Your hand on my shoulder returns me, Out of the window’s reflection and back into the room. I can see your chemo-dented nails Bending the flakes of lights already bent by cold panes. My blurry foil turns away from the night Into your warmth—the cold outside forgotten. For now.
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy… Sometimes they cheer my name so loudly I am invincible, unstoppable. I answer.
Sometimes they moan my name in pain; I am warm healing, my hand a loving calm. I stay. Sometimes they spit my name hatefully, And I am weary, resentful. I answer anyway.
~ Amanda Szczesny
A diminutive girl is stricken
her youthful life ripped open, invaded by disease.
Too young to understand, she wants fun
but her ravaged ailing body betrays her—cancer.
Under downy golden hair reveals
her truth, her fight, her small, delicate, BEAUTIFUL head.
The monster seizes her, devouring,
she weakens losing the energy to giggle, play
This tiny beauty may lose her war
Her spirit will crash into heaven a sweet angel.
to push an endless quatrain
would be the way I do things
up hill most of the way
and out of control on the way down
notice the limp--no rhyme
to save face or grace
no eloquence or flair
no fleur de lis or redeeming moral
but still hard work
this uphill push
when alone and scarred
gravity seems to hold a grudge
for all the hellos
I count twice the goodbyes
queen's wave maintained
but mumbling under my breath
so . . . why is that?
each loss a tally on your belt?
some privileged growth opportunity
afforded me to heal my ways?
well, too many chats
with the moon and its reflection . . .
can't tell which is which anymore
would that inversion be a gift.
but I understand the rules
and I'll hold tight
in my mumblings and protests
until the full moon has its say.
~ Liane Quinn
(Found Poem from poems by Conrad Hilberry)
In the beginning
It is sticky with sweetness.
The danger of suffocation looms near.
The elephant sits on your heart.
One can make a wrong turn
And find herself
Drown in the tsunami of it.
Smashed under the rock of it.
Impaled on the pointy stick of it.
The painful flailing is never forgotten
But over time fades
Into a great collection
Of gentle days, months, years and minutes.
He is here
And the next he is gone.
Gone and buried on a bright, sunny, windy day.
In the end
Hold on tightly
To the knot of scarf under your chin
So you don’t blow away.
The vacant yard between my property line and the newly tilled field haunts me much like the phantom leg of an amputee. The emptiness of the space yields no shadow, no wind break, just an ache. I recall last November when John, a solid 40-something man with cheerful blue eyes and a permanently ruddy complexion, delivered the news that the 15 foot blue spruce behind our house was, at least partially, on his property. John executed the conversation in a practiced manner. Short factual sentences strung together like links on a chain. “Need two more rows. Prices are down. You can remove. I can do it next spring.” John adjusted the tip of his stained DeKalb hat and flashed his eyes toward his truck. Then, as if he had forgotten to grab his keys on his way out the door, he added “Sorry, mam.”
I wanted to tell him that my son Jake, then five, helped me plant the tree on Earth Day. I wanted to show him the photo of Jake, at 10, standing next to the tree that finally matched his height. I wanted to tell him about the Bassett Hound named Missy and the Border Collie named Nike buried just east of the tree. But I said nothing. Not even a plea for its life. I simply obliged with a blank “okay” and took the piece of paper containing the executioner’s decree.
The record snowfall of the winter offered a pristine stage for the lone blue spruce, perfectly positioned between our red barn and red shed. She alone kept spring’s green promise against the white backdrop. On weekend mornings, when the sunlight tipped its hat, I would find myself lingering in front of the sliding glass door, coffee in hand, concocting a plan to save her. This is what led to the red lights. I festooned her in a dress of scarlet, easily announcing her presence to the distant roadways. In some delusional Disney fashion, I imagined the community coming together to save her. But my breaking heart held little ground against the property lines sketched out in black and white.
One late March day, while I worked in a nearby county, I received a call from my panicked neighbor. “Your tree…a truck…yanked with a chain.” I closed my eyes and waited for his voice to silence. All day, I replayed the scene in my head, the lovely blue spruce violently plucked from life. Oddly, when I returned home to survey the site, I found no indication that the tree had even existed. No gaping hole, no roots begging for life, nothing but a barren space. I suppose the blue spruce gave up easily, resigning with no clutch on the ground that nourished her. Perhaps the farmer, with a moment’s remorse, preened the area, concealing the evidence of his deed.
Now the pleasant May weather pushes me into the garden—a place to contemplate on all fours. I reposition the rocks around the red shed that have been moved by the hands of winter. I feel the foreign sun on my back and the unbridled breeze tipping my hat. The absence of the blue spruce’s shadow casts me in light, fully exposed. I rest on my heels and regard the empty space. I imagine the beautiful blue spruce that once protected me from the elements. And for the first time, I wonder why I never thought about the imaginary line of what is mine and what is not.
The silo was filled, the combine greased and stored for another year, and frost covered the fields around our farmhouse when my Dad left for deer hunting. He would be gone a week, and he assured us he would return “before we knew it.” And he was right, of course, as soon our unshaven father was back, unloading his suitcase and telling us stories about the northern Michigan woods he walked, the animals he saw, and the people he met.
Listening and laughing, we excitedly watched Dad unpack, my youngest brother clinging to Dad’s legs.
“Oh kids, I brought you something,” Dad announced.
This, in itself, was amazing. Our mother was the gift arranger —with Dad’s support—so we had never received something that our father alone had selected. And we just didn’t receive presents unless it was our birthday or Christmas. Surprises, no matter how small, were a big, big deal. He handed each of my little brothers a container of Silly Putty-- perfect. We all loved Silly Putty, loved pressing the snappy clay on the Sunday comics, loved stretching the pictures—we even loved the plastic smell. My brothers smiled, enthusiastically working to open the red plastic eggs.
I waited quietly. Maybe Dad had forgotten to buy enough so that I could have one, too? I tried to be brave, to not show my disappointment.
“Kathleen, this is for you.”
He handed me a box. Beneath the tissue paper lay porcelain, horse-head bookends. I was stunned. I was speechless. I longed for a horse, reading every book in our tiny elementary library, researching—in my third grade way—what brushes I would need or how to cinch a saddle. I had listened to my dad’s stories of adventures on our farm with his boyhood pony. I had quietly dreamed of horses. I cradled those beautiful bookends and blushed, smiling at my dad. He had noticed. He knew.
Fifty years later, the bookends hold a place of honor in our guest bedroom. I won’t say that their position in our home was always secure: in one of my de-cluttering moods, I logically contemplated giving them to my nieces who had horses. And during an E-Bay phase, I considered listing them since they weren’t something I used. But still they remain, reminding me of one of my most precious, perfect gifts—my father’s love.
~Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe
Photo is the property of Leeanne Seaver Photographic
The yarn slides down my needle with an almost inaudible shhhhh
Slipping off the hook into the air
To be caught on the loop below.
Strands of snowy white insulate
Flecks of sunlight promising to glow this spring
Before settling under
A bath of midnight blue
The colors of a hat from my son
Of mittens from my daughter
Something warm to wrap around my neck now
Shielding my voice against the silence
Echoing through my heart
Cradling the invisible orphaned child
As I walk up the hill to a cozy house.
Twenty years it’s been--
Newly arrived with a new arrival,
We held hopes high but
Dreams soared even higher.
Together they settled into
A nest just outside the dining room window.
A cardinal stands sentry of
White sequined boughs
Then darts away.
His branch bobs in acknowledgement.
A chickadee tends the twigs then flutters off
Returning later to
Reclaim her place in our thoughts
Family has come and gone
Friends long gone have reappeared.
So strange how life loops in and around, back and through~
With holes throughout, two by twoSpaces
To be stitched together
Your hands never stopped.
They knitted and crocheted and kneaded.
They sowed and reaped and canned and pickled.
They twisted and pinned and permed and set.
Short and powerful, they soothed with love and pointed in anger.
When you napped,
head-erect on the couch on the darker side of dusk,
your thumbs would spin and spin and spin and spin, three times for every slow
When the occasion called for it, you would smooth the rough edges into
submission with quick, forceful strokes of that pointed Revlon file, buff them in
steady shuthing, shuthing rhythm, and paint them neatly in Peony pink.
They were never still, until finally you were completely quiet.
And now I am without the calm your work and restlessness provided,
sitting here in the quiet of almost-dark, swiping coats of glossy Peony over my
too-long motherless fingers.
~ Amanda Szczesny