An afternoon with you is like
sunshine and play-dough and childhood,
poised with possibility, like paper dolls
dressed up in polka-dots and plaid,
perched in a brand new paper playhouse.
Sealed for Your Protection
What are they protecting us from anyway?
Renegade groups of misanthropes sticking
syringes into unopened bottles of Sudafed?
This flimsy film of plastic and foam
shield enough against all fiery darts and arrows.
Daily, the manna reappears, exactly
enough, and we try to hold it tightly
like your papa, stockpiling firewood
so your family would always be warm.
To My Odysseus
If you left and didn’t come
home for twenty years, I would
not keep your dinner warm.
I might leave a light on for five
or ten, but after fifteen
I’d be on the phone with your life
insurance agent to see if we
insurance agent to see if we
could use your policy to pay
for our son’s college tuition.
Like you, standing at the sink washing
paint out of your new gray pants, she
pauses above her barren basin, pictures of her past
floating up like praises to a God she’s not sure
bends His ear to hear her anymore.
To My Mother
When I was eight, I told you I’d never be too old
to hold your hand, but somewhere between
ten and thirteen,
I let go.
When you called last year to tell me you had cancer,
I wished I had held on longer. Instead, I tried
to be strong, repeating, robotically, that everything
would be okay, God somehow had a plan for all of this.
But the truth is, I spent my lunch hour, crying in my car,
wishing I could whisper to that little girl:
don’t let go.
Seeing only as far as the headlights on an unfamiliar
road, but driving on.
Stepping to the ocean’s edge
believing you can walk.
Saying you’ll apologize to him tomorrow as the sun
slips lazily beneath the horizon.
His Banner Over Her
Sometimes it seems this wall isn’t enough to support
the weight of all she carries. She comes, slouched over
in her sorrow, face wet with years of sadness. He says, “It is
finished,” but she doesn’t seem so sure. Hesitant, she looks up,
tiny flecks of hope, poking through her grief, like stars.
Never Too Old
A woman stretches in the wings of an empty
theater hours after the final curtain
call, replaying the orchestra’s notes, lifting her leg
like a phoenix rising as the smoke
Roots glide beneath this Indiana soil,
coiled around stories of late nights over brownies,
lessons in icy driving, and waiting through long
cold nights for a glimmer of dawn.
The wind that morning was as clear as
water and equally buoyant. Face to face with clouds,
she suddenly realized she was no longer afraid to fly.
At seven, she dreamed of seeing Scotland,
rolling hills, storybook sheep, a rainbow
reaching over an endless loch.
When she finally touched
the curvy coast of Aberdeen,
her grown-up lungs swelled with more possibility
than the first breath of a first born.
Dreaming with You Is
Like getting on a carousel with someone
momma or daddy
riding in a circle on what you know
is a masquerading unicorn
or at least a retired circus elephant.
Like being on a plane from Kenya
heading home to Indiana
days after miscarrying,
only to save a stranger’s life
on that flight.
Right place. Right time.
One life gained. One still lost.
Her surgeon hands unable
to heal herself.
At the Zoo
When she learned that flamingos are coral
pink because of all the shrimp they eat,
she started to wonder if she would turn orange
yellow to match her mac and cheese.