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Poetry and Writing

Things written during pregnancy, the fifth trimester and beyond



The word takes up so much space in the mouth

Sweet, bitter, sour, salty 

But mostly:


Complex, meaty

The essence of deliciousness in Japanese


In America we aren’t so wise

We chew and taste it all,

But broadcast only the sweetness

Swallowing without savoring the rest, ignoring the word within the word: 

Oooo mommy.



I saw your highlight reel. 


Glowing cherub faces 

And small dirty hands 

Tugging on the hem of your dress.


There are 5 loads of laundry piled in the corner, someone barfed on the dog; 

I just want to drink my coffee while it is hot.


Your domestic life, 

its contained chaos 

and undeniable purpose, 

made my mouth turn to cotton while I smiled for you.


A leeway of grace, afforded only to those who have children, 

made my chest heavy with domestic lust. 


We could trade, just for a day. 


You could:


  • take naps in my spotless apartment, uninterrupted.

  • take a long hot bath after work;  read a book in silence.

  • have a daily meditation practice and a pristine altar full of breakable talismans. 


I could:


  • make the laundry folding into a game.

  • laughingly admonish the kids when they yell the diarrhea song at the table.

  • break up the sibling fight over who ate the last ice cream sandwich. 


You can take all the time to enjoy your coffee while reading the paper; I’ll settle with a few gulps of cold in between the kids crying and playing; the grilled cheese burning, the toilet overflowing. 


I’ll let you feel the sharp stabs of loneliness and pinpricks of emptiness; I’ll ride the waves of worry and fogs of exhaustion. 


Here, take what I have. 

There, don’t forget it.


Good witches

I have been saved by witches. 

One packed a bag,

drove hundreds of miles

to my doorstep 

when she got my call.

I couldn’t find words but 

she heard 

the wounded animal sound and

that was enough.

Another held my hand and 

drew me a bath when

my first marriage disintegrated.

And another makes me laugh so hard I slap my own thighs.

One shares plants from her garden, then helps me dig my own. 

One lives across the country 

and calls on the way to work.

Our 10 minute talks have sustained us 

for decades.

One was once a neighbor 

with whom I shared an orange outdoor cat. 

One I found in a tiny studio, both of us twisting our bodies into shapes while

in the throes of 

starting over.


Each of them 

weave gold out of grief;

they cradle truth,

unafraid of its 

teeth and claws,

and use it to 

cast spells.


Each of them,

a good witch

of friendship. 



An identity not located in the most intimate library of goals and hopes 

A label loathed 

An albatross

No, never, not

Not my child 

Not my smile, nose or freckles

Not my predilection for tomatoes

Not “biological” 

Never the last say 

Never the first invite 

No pictures of me holding you as a baby

No memories of you as a wild eyed toddler

Never mine

Never mind


Children are not ours to keep

And yet

I will

keep you 

safe and warm

I will laugh and say yes when you want to walk around the neighborhood in a chicken costume on a quiet Sunday afternoon

I will 

love you forever.


How to float in the ocean

Step out into lapping waves 


(They will roll through gently at first, 

undulating from tailbone 

Upward along spine.


Breathe with each wave 

Allow mind to float untethered 

Buoyed by the baby) 


Stretch out into the salt water 

Let it hold you

Let your body be 

a body 


Let your baby be 

a baby 


Let go of what you know about

rip tides




Let go of what you think you know about





Give up everything to the elements 

Feel the pull of the moon


The waves will grow bigger, 

crashing over you,

choking breath.


The resolve to float 

Will be replaced by 

thrashing underwater.


(The undertow will pull you deeper:

severe back labor

swollen cervix

so close but not budging

won’t be able to

let’s try again



As you are dragged out to deep sea,


eyes will see things that are not there 

(there are no ants marching across the ceiling)

teeth will chatter 

limbs will convulse 

mind will reel


You will try to float for 36 hours 

But you will begin to drown 

Salt water will invade your lungs 


No, you cannot calm down

No, this is not how to float

You will be pulled deeper underwater 

But just before being tossed to the ocean floor

(You’re about to meet your baby)

You will somersault, careen upwards 

And break through the surface 


To calm, clear water

A cloudless horizon 

Your face turned toward a 

blazing, perfect



You will not need directions to float 

then thrash

then almost drown

in this ocean of Motherhood.



This morning I was sure I was 

still asleep 


body floated toward happy baby

bare feet padded across Spanish tile

golden light streamed through windows

is that what they call charmed?


The word stays caught in my mouth, wedged in between molars

a popcorn kernel slicing gums


I thought I’d earned the right to 

resent that 


What is the word for when you get what you wanted but also resented

(This could be a lucid dream)



I notice her squinting in the December sun 

walking across the parking lot

 to a maroon minivan. 

The baby on her hip is the same age as mine.  

She kisses him on the temple;

he rubs his eyes and kicks his socked feet.

There is a growing tingle inside my skeleton.

It spreads to my organs; swells in my chest and up to my dry lips. 

I press them together as I imagine the scent of my own son’s sweet downy head.

I imagine it every time I’m away from him -

I am imagining it now, 

as I sit in my car, 

breathing, alone, at last, 

before I gather my reusable bags and grocery shop for our family as a break. 

As if this is a break,

to shop for yogurt and sandwich bread alone, while tingling all over for my infant son, 

at home babbling, 

waiting for me to return so he can climb up my legs and press his tiny hands all over my face while I alternate between 

adoring and abhorring what it means to be a Mother. 



We are on the porch when the rain comes

Rumbling thunder all around us

our baby, for the first time in his life,

looks truly afraid

puts his tiny hands over his ears, then reaches out to me

I lift him up into a hug, he wraps his arms tightly around my neck

holds his breath as his eyes dart around our yard, pummeled by rain and lit up by lightning

his heart beats loudly against mine

I kiss the nape of his neck

the top of his head

both cheeks

his arms and hands

try to swallow the knot in my throat

A knot of rage tied up in grief

for every Mother

whose baby hears

the thunder of a gun

Never to be soothed, hugged, kissed again. 


Ticking clock

I walk my dog under a crescent moon

When grief appears 


I kick a tree, dislodge bark

Fall on knees beside a neighborhood pond


The water reflects

Stately houses full of families 

Goslings following their mother 

Partnered ducklings 


I rip out fistfuls of grass

Run fingers through the earth

Teeth clenched

I sweat, sob, curse


Think about stuffing my mouth with dirt

Notice the stars

Refuse to wish for anything 

Wipe my face with my filthy hands 


And walk back to an 

empty apartment. 


The urge

To stay silent. To morph. To appease. To soothe and relieve. To laugh and joke. To cross legs and nod. To carry it all. To do it gracefully. To tell the truth but with restraint. To smile. To stay calm and collected. To make the lists and frame the photos. To create the plans and clean up the messes. To wipe the brows and stroke the cheeks. To try again, harder this time. To scrub the toilets and chop the onions. To buy the diapers and make the reservations. To shake hands and attend the meetings and check off the lists. 



To be loud. To dance. To rebel. To challenge and question. To conclude and convince. To stand tall, to have swagger. To question it all. To do it with passion. To tell the truth with conviction. To make hay while the sun rises. To create the memories and clean up the parties. To wipe the brows and stroke the cheeks. To try again, softer this time. To scrub the skin and chop your attention. To buy the wine and make the dinner. To shake your soul and attend to your sanity and check off the lists. 


These things can be prayers

Driving with the windows down

Stirring the batter for someone’s cake

Walking in the woods

Picking a coneflower

Applying sunscreen

Wiping someone’s brow

A painting

A poem

A song

A cold glass of water

A fistful of dirt

Building a sandcastle

Planting a bulb

Drawing a bath

Taking a nap

Humming a tune

Writing a letter

Tending a wound

Kissing a hand


Whoever God may be

I am certain

They do not need

clasped hands


bended knees.


Thoughts while watching over my mother in ICU

I sink my teeth into this life

hold it on my tongue 

feel it drip down my throat

savor each flavor

with curiosity.


I want to show you 

All the hands held in mine, fingers interlaced 

Each seashell held up to the sun 

Every afternoon nap and tender touch

The jumps into cool clear water 

All the picnics and parties 

Each candle I’ve lit

Every spontaneous dance

The flowers that were planted in spring.


If forgiveness was a clover 

I’d show you my field of soft green.

If letting go was a mountain stream 

I’d show you my roaring rapid. 

If delight was an ice cream scoop

I’d show you the size of my thighs.

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