Archives for category: children

I tell myself the reason

I am up at 2 am is actually shark attack

Because I think I could stay away from those

The truth is more mundane, but no less devastating:

The first time I was proud to be called your mother

And the last time

Years apart

Far apart,

But not far enough to help with sleep

So I count all the pieces

Looking for the big picture in there somewhere

And all the missing pieces


First, let’s be clear–the last shall be first and the first shall be last. But even so, stop telling me this is supposed to be fun. It is not fun to explain to a child that despite all our good intentions these things are not fair, this system is not calibrated for justice, you will be forced to face both literal and figurative giants

But it is ok

Because winning is a temporary thing, maybe even fundamentally dishonest

While one cannot argue with the truthfulness of loss

Stepping stones, really

Loss which leads to truth


Which sets us free

My oldest daughter is in prison. She was never really mine, having once been a foster, then adopted, then finally returning to kin.

It has been one of several brutal expediencies to hand her back to her real mom, I care but am a coward.

All of this is merely prelude to questions of silence and why I would frame something about my own anger around the anger of a little girl I knew once, her current predicament, and the nature of prisons.

If you put me in a box like that I might go crazy.

If you put me in a box like that I might get jittery.

I spent two days on slow trains going from the south to the north of a country and the men in the seats around me became my family, my only loves.

Until the next train.

I remember getting to the final train station and emerging into the thick soot from the ubiquitous winter coal fires all over the city, city full of people.

Thousands of miles from home, but closer by a little.

Such relief to be almost home.

Words are home. I fret when they leave me

On the quiet island with my anger

Coiled, logical, an animal raised on grief. And the ghost of the living.

They say that a saturated rag is better than spray, but I prefer the timeless spray-then-wipe not because it is science but because some things must be capriciously chosen even though I have thought of trying to use aromatherapy to banish the persistent smell of urine from this small, small ridiculous room, I know that chlorine kills everything. Marble was about beauty not utility which is what words should be

Words to wipe the commode, the crapper, the toilet because there are no surgically efficient words for this kind of loss

Remove waste, sack and repeat thousands of times

and screw separating darks from lights, a man should live at least once in his life with only menstrual-red skivvies to turn to

Move the dishes from a “used” to “cleaned” side, but never the same side

Always keep them guessing

And remember you have hoarder’s genes in your blood and bones, so do not keep everything


There will be a time

when you wish you had kept that sacred onesie

From so long ago

The rock star, exposed soul and pecs with a rousing speech in front of thousands supporting tolerance (always good, right?) by announcing that anyone should be able to love who they want to love.

Oh. Really?

And then within a week I saw a piece in NYT’s Modern Love section devoted to the musings of a woman who had, apparently learned stuff from sleeping with married men.

Good thing people can “love who they want to love,” right?

In both situations it seems like the easiest way to strike a balance between my dismay and anger at the public aggrandizement of poorly lit behavior and my own private belief is to focus on that one, badly abused, word-

Love used to mean something. It used to be anchored to some pretty badass acts of self-sacrifice, public service, private solace, intimate compassion.

By co-opting a word of profound philosophical and etymological roots to stand in for other things, some of them very unlovely, transgressive, even illegal, we stand on the brink of meaningless cultural narcissism.

All while we insist on calling it


Perhaps youth is always hubris 

Although not always so baldly unhinged

I can still see

The mistaken room, ensuing melee

As though an intimate troupe of primate acrobats 

Had used their clever

Prehensile tails to

Tornado the borrowed room

Swing from the wooden dowel in the closet

Tear the beloved childhood

Memories apart, just words on pages

isolated pictures

can summon the ghosts

Of me and you and us

All gone now

Illusion I could

change you into angels


Sleep or

Administer the antidote

With words of

Your mispelled sins

All our


Promises rise

To life.

When I retold the horrible, awful, unbearable story of my adopted son’s  felonies, I usually punctuated the facts, the most basic, anodyne facts, with an unsolicited analysis of my grief-filled rage.

I said I wanted to take him down the street to the local biker bar, announce his sins to the crowd and then hold the door shut behind him.

It was such a clumsy, elliptical way to say that I wanted catharsis.

Now I know how to cathart, and do so a few times a week on a very uncomplaining heavy bag.

Lately I have had a single terrible image motivating each punch–an eleven year old boy crying out for mercy  moments after his rape and before his murder.

I grieve for him, the unmitigated loss.  I grieve; we let him down.

So I fight the mute bag, acknowledging that the words, when they come, will each be placeholders for the blows to the bag, which is in turn a scapegoat for  anger.

Not just toward the evil against this child, any child, but all the ways we look the other way, grow circumspect and pragmatic…

and let the monsters own the story…

and the dark.