Category Archives: poetry
Churning, something’s churning. Is that you,
Future, come to call? Knocking
at my door? Tickling
the glass? Let me in, let
me in. I’ve no hair on my chinny, chin, chin to
deny you entrance. You frighten me.
You’ve brought good, and
not so good. Horrendous, really.
That churning feels excited. It promises
something new, something
grand. But you’ve tricked me before,
fool me twice, and all that jazz.
You’ll get in, one way or another. I can
open the door, welcoming, give you
a plate of pasta, or some broccoli rabe.
I could try to bar the way, kick you and beat you back
but you’ll get in. You will, and then you’ll be vexed.
Are you set in stone? Or do I have some power
over you? A question Ages old, unanswerable. And yet–
There is only Future. Present already
has one foot in the grave the moment
it comes to be, and there it goes,
Already gone, that present at the start of this page. In
the Past, past, always the past. Memorable, not
relivable. Gone. Out of reach. So, come on at me
I open the door. Welcome! Welcome!
Have some pasta!
Give it all you got. Maybe we’ll even be friends. And
if we’re not, it’s on you; I tried.
I even made you broccoli rabe.
Their worlds and words are a part
of my days and my nights and my
in-betweens. They talk to me while
drive, and sleep. They give me
scenes and dialog and dilemmas; joy and sorrow and
horror. They give me
the impossible, and task me to make it plausible. At least
There’s Aggie and her mason jar, and
Rosemary’s wish, the one she won’t
take back. Then there’s
the woman who runs over the not-quite-a-man, in a town
on the edge
of forever. And crusty Queenie, who
never did much right, who
never thought it quite necessary, who
might manage to do some good.
There’s Yvonne and Jacob, back in 1949,
Bonnie-Jane and Hannelore, in 1985. And still,
in stories written and always calling, Nell and Ledanora,
Mabel and Frankie and Tracy. Back and back, to
Ethen and Zihariel, Linhare and Wait. There are
warriors and queens who knock on my skull–Remember us?
I do. I do. How can I forget? You were once
my everything. The foundation of
my everything. The beginning of
If not another book gets published, I will
write and write and write. There will be
mutiny, otherwise. Inside my head. In
dreams and waking. I’ll walk about like a character
from Wonderland, quite mad and rather glad to be so. Better
than the knowing, the abandoning, the void of a well
left to dry.
I prefer the parade never end, a continuous loop, of
characters and places already known, and those
slipping the red-ropes to join in, unannounced but
always welcome, to dance their dances and sing their songs, to
tell their tales and ask for my assistance in
ditching the parade for
It happened just yesterday, in
a box store, I
whisked through the aisles, wanting
to be out of there quickly, and
slipped into a time pocket.
It only lasted a moment, long
enough to steal my breath, to
make my eyes water, to
send me back in time. Smoked salmon,
of all things. I’d
buy it for him, even though it was
he’d eat it all in one sitting, because…
just because. I
slipped into that time pocket, I
reached for it, my
hand snagged on a thread that
pulled me back, out of the pocket, to
the now where he’s not here to
eat the whole package
in one sitting, while
I watch indulgently on.
There’s a fishing pole in the rafters
out on the front porch of this house on the river
He bought it one day, convinced it would quiet the chaos
Give him some zen
A fly rod, dancing the line out over the water
He tied a few flies. I wouldn’t know
If they’re any good. But he was proud of
He only went a couple of times. The zen didn’t happen
The calm didn’t come
But he had one perfect day on the water
With his dad, casting the line
Casting, dancing, searching
One day is something, at least
The rod stays with the house.
It’s where it belongs. Here in this haven that was his cage
His safety net
“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”
Those words, overheard just now, they
hurt. Sorrow welled up and
out of my throat.
I covered my face so
my husband wouldn’t hear, wouldn’t
know, because those words hadn’t hit him
The way they hit me.
Two nights ago, a phone call from Texas:
“I’m calling for Christofer J. DeFino,
About a car he just asked about online.”
“He’s gone three years now. It couldn’t have been him.”
“I’m sorry, so sorry.”
My husband said it was our boy pulling a prank, letting us know
he’s still around to do so. I feared someone using
That’s where we are, now. Him and me,
He and I,
“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”
Social Security, moments ago, assured my husband on the phone.
Upstairs, writing at my computer, I broke
into silent tears. He’ll read this and
He’ll know, silent will no longer
They’re here, on this page, screaming.
It doesn’t happen as often now,
those moments rolling
into tidal waves.
When they do, they hit harder
to my knees
hands clutching at my throat
to keep air in my lungs.
It doesn’t happen as often now
those dreams of visiting
in familiar places.
When they do, I know
just the wishing in my head
free as you are.
It’ll never not happen,
to fit those moments
into memories of who you were
in your best times
even in your worst.
I’ve tried being grateful
for the time I had,
that your pain is done,
about your next adventure.
I try and I try, and sometimes
succeed, and yet,
there are those moments.
It is ingrained in our DNA. Hide pain
so we don’t get eaten, picked out
of the herd, sent to
the bottom of the pack. Primitive instinct
at the core, always evolving.
We don’t want you to know.
We don’t want to see it in your face,
behind your eyes every time
you look at us. We don’t want conversations to stop,
or fall away when our subject is touched.
Eyes averted and cheeks pink, tongues stammering into silence.
We don’t want to be There but by the grace of god go I!
In your hearts and in your minds. But we are.
We are. Compassion and pity are so difficult to tell apart.
We don’t want you to know, to hate
those we love, who cause us pain, and so we hide
what they do from you. We want
them to have a place in your heart when the chaos is over.
If it’s ever over. Sometimes it never is.
Fractals growing ever inward, ever outward.
We hide our pain to spare ourselves, to spare
you the sometimes silent, sometimes shouted fury, to spare
us both pretending condolences don’t infuriate as much as
the blame, the co-dependent tags, the if-only-you-hads.
It all results in the same unavoidable circle.
You can’t do right. You can’t do wrong.
And so we hide behind smiles, behind tears, behind our own
averted eyes and pink cheeks and stammering tongues.
“I’m so sorry,” you say.
“Thank you,” say we.
Today, it may be just right. Tomorrow?
You don’t want to see our truth; trust me on that
You want us to hide; trust me on that.
Trust me. Trust me. Never trust me.
Pain hidden is an ugly thing, hideous, snarling
It’s contradictory and mean, pitiful and powerful.
Without an outlet, it’s deadly. This is mine, all
Mine. Borrow it if you need to, I give it freely, but don’t
worry it away from me. Don’t make me go silent. Don’t force me
I don’t even know the words I’m trying to find,
sitting here staring at the cursor blinking.
All my babies are sick, I wrote in a text
just yesterday. I hesitated over that line, that
simple line. All my babies. All
I couldn’t take it back and insert living
in between my and babies. It was too crude
too…just too. Many things. Real and
raw, and simple and true. All
my babies. All
three of them, not four. All
the ones left for me to aw, honey!
over their sniffles and sneezes, their relationship highs
and job lows, their new puppies and upcoming trips and
huge steps into all their tomorrows, like buying a house,
or a car, or a new brand of peanut butter.
There’s too much space between last time and next one,
That next one possibly the final burst of endorphins
released into my dying brain, or that wished for beyond of all beyonds
where a tunnel of light gives way to beloved ghosts, waiting.
It seems like too much wishing, and yet I will
on the off chance it happens to be the truth
And he’s waiting for me. They are. All of them, but mostly
him. Open arms (if arms we have) and brilliant smile
(if teeth are such a thing, lips curled up and over to flash in eyes once violet blue)
I’ll fall into them, and fall and fall and forever fall,
until the missing words fill in.
Your name rolls through my head, thunder
and wind; the gentle downpour after
My boy. My boy. My beautiful son.
Why did you…why didn’t you…?
I didn’t mean to go; I just didn’t want to stay.
‘Why’ is your name, without the gentle rain.
I fought too much
I fought too hard
I fought futile battles time would never ease.
You could have. You did. Over and over again.
You were stronger.
No. I wasn’t. And that’s the fact you can’t–
Won’t grasp. You hold up my mirror to those few
ideal years. Golden boy. King of the world. Anything
mine for the asking. The taking.
But it was a lie. The one you wanted to believe
I did too. I swear. But the other me was real. The one who thought.
The one who knew. The one who hid his fight behind a
smile. The one who fought for others
because the fight inside raged on. He was the one you wanted me to be,
And that made it all the worse.
It isn’t true. I wanted you. I wanted the best
version of you, whatever that was. You had so much to give–
I had nothing left…
You were only twenty-five!
And ancient beyond counting years.
Pain wears a body down. Exhausts the mind.
I know! I know! Don’t you think I know?
I watched you, every day. I took you to doctors.
I rubbed your leg. I dissected every cue into
every possibility. Until I didn’t.
And that should tell you something, shouldn’t it?
I don’t like what it says.
I didn’t mean to go. I just couldn’t stay.
When given my choice, I left everything behind
including you. Your worry. Your tears. Your love.
The bad, and the good. Sweet dreams, Turtle.
I dreamed my eldest daughter
was a teenager again,
tasked with buying cookies for a party. She chose
lemon, and lime, tomato and basil flavored,
in the box store where dinosaurs wrought havoc
among the patrons.
There had been a bridge, and a gate
between their world and ours.
Someone had opened the gate.
Someone had let them in.
While my daughter and I bought cookies
in a past that never was.