The Sisters

In the late days of long wars.

We wanted to mend, so kept company with our mothers’ ghosts. Our yesterdays were wounded and came to us until every bed was full. 

O muse. Your song was bleeding out. 

We brought cloths and went to you. We wrapped you tight and held against the flow. It entered then.

We are still, holding. 

The Grounded

Regarding nearby deaths.

We would smell it sometimes, just outside, beneath the porch. Once we heard its scream at midday. We were in somber clothes with serious faces, lining at a wake. To pay our respects, we said. Until it called us out. 

Still, each of us held our private reserves of deflection. We flexed budding wings beneath dark clothes, planned our escapes. We dreamed in altitudes, had ideas about the next to go. We watched for drape of eyes over landscapes and their shine at recollections of near brushes. These almost always involved driving, when the rush of speed before it ended promised to finally know its peak.


The stories we keep.

Which history? The people, or the book? Language or lens? A soul reveals itself by the memory it keeps. It is less like the cementing of bricks than the stitching of squares. The quilters’ collective eye has its aesthetic aim, an effort of seasonal return. It is a functional art. But to forget either one of these––function or art–––is to make it something else.

Shelter Lullaby

Praise song for the dancers.

Face buried in her warm bread smell,

I cannonballed into dreams of flying;

she kept watch with one good eye

trained on roaches in the ceiling.

As I cannonballed into the next flight

she said Just a little while,

good eye trained on roaches in the ceiling,

in the room beneath the church of the sisters.

Just a little while, she said, 

bandage over other eye

applied by sisters after landing,

and changed it when she thought I could not see.

Bandage over blinded eye,

she left the bed when I slept

to change it somewhere where I could not see,

and then she danced.

She left the bed when I slept

for a basement where music played

and then she danced

with the women in a circle, and they laughed.

In a basement where music played

danced Leti, and Patrice, Maria and Janae,

these women in a circle and they laughed,

away from the men they had survived.

Danced Gina and Kira, Shondra and Renee,

and my mother, and I, for the time being,

away from the men we had survived —

and you should have seen her dance.


This one first appeared in High Shelf, 2019.


Suspensions in time.

Visit: to go and see. How casually we speak of the act, and yet. To see anything as it was before is to replace memory for presence. Some images have a way of offering reminders. For example, here is the edge of a sleeve, slightly frayed. Here a new scar. There, a cracked pot under a drain. I thought I knew this place, but where are these objects in time? I cannot place them, so I hold here, suspended.

The New World

Naming ceremonies.

When we went without counting, light shows played across our eyelid curtains, and language curled around us like cats, love-biting our hands, ears, toes–––inclined neither to obey or defy us. We would lick its back in turn. It would sleep on our bare chests. The water taught us flight. If the clock watched us then, we never met its gaze.

It was so, so, so.

[Much? Or little? Who thought to measure? Not us.]

We grew spaces from the back alleys of our breaths, filled them with song. Laughing, we spilled it everywhere, the new world baptized, each feeling a benediction.

To Hold in Space

This early awe.

I remember a wooded womb with a smooth sitting rock in the center, the dappled light of its dirt floor, where I watched pill bugs. May I not squander those astonishments that would come so often, visitors in shadow and shine––the laughing leaves, the squirrel’s knowing look. The kiss of ladybug against spring sweat in the hiding pause after here I come, with a seeker in full force, not yet arriving.


Inspired by Jorie Graham’s Cagnes-Sur-Mer 1950: “May I not squander the astonishments.” 

Our T.

Life between aftermaths.

Tornado. The word strikes fear in most people, but when you live in a region that sees a lot of them, you learn. Outsiders already thought us ignorant for staying, so we didn’t have anything to lose by giving ours a nickname. “Our T,” we called him. 

You learn to adapt. Go underground, wait. Come up when it’s over. Survey the damage. Rebuild. Expect the pattern to repeat. Mama said you can’t expect a creature to be anything other than what it is. “Our T’s just wind,” she said, “can’t help himself.” 

He had only touched down three times while we lived there. Mama remembered a few more. “Where is he now?” we would ask, under the open sky of the former living room. 

“Beats me,” she said. “Greener pastures, maybe. Stratosphere.” We rebuilt the roof, went back to our lives, most of which involved restoring or maintaining a semblance of order until the next strike.

Our T. had a sense of humor, though. In between visits, he’d drop these notes in our mailbox: That was fun, wasn’t it? And how is everyone? Peaceful, I hope! We’d roll our eyes at the old one-liners, but we had to laugh.

“Atmospheric systems don’t have a word for aftermath,” Mama would remind us. That was something only the grounded knew, especially those of us in the habit of staying. “Now bring me that hammer,” she would add, pointing with her chin to a corner, “and that box of nails.”