Big Moments

Like you, I prefer

Music over silence

Silence over forced conversation

Books over films

Films over parties

To see you now is jarring

Frail, defeated

I know you are frustrated

but you try to hide it

Emily says you are in a better mood

now that I’m here

Are you faking?

It’s hard to tell

You want me to like you

but I always have

Even when you screamed

God Damnit 

and kicked the cat 

He was fine,

but you felt bad after

I know what it’s like to be ashamed

Sometimes your fuse is short

just like your dad

Sometimes mine is, too

I walk away

before I spark now

but sometimes I run into a cabinet handle

and scream God Damnit

and it’s like you came for a visit

I have a little white trash left in me

Perhaps that’s all of us

educated and sensitive

with a taste for light beer, hard liquor, and hot sauce

No one forgets their roots

You can’t have lice four times

and eat ketchup sandwiches for breakfast

without being humbled

You can’t share a bed and hide in it together

from the screaming in the kitchen

without being molded

I had to unlearn that. 

That’s on both of you

I want you to know

I’m not angry anymore

I know how hard it must have been–

to love your children

and to hate your life

It made me cry to see how much

your neighbors and friends love you

You always wanted to belong

I’m sure you never expected it to be in Florida

I’m so happy you found it.

You are complicated like me

When you say “I love you, honey” 

you mean it

but then you disappear 

within yourself 

and I wonder if your spirit 

gets tired like mine

Sometimes I think you want to say more

Maybe “I’m sorry”

or “Can we talk about what happened?”

but instead you just stare at me 

as I scrub the sink

My last night in town,

I had a dream

You were younger, stronger

You yelled at me about 

driving your car

I told you to calm down

You told me I had no right

to talk to you like that

I told you you had no right to talk to me

after all these years

I asked you why you didn’t 

You said it’s because you 

couldn’t pay your bills

and I was too young to help

In my dreams it’s about money

When I wake, it’s about regrets

mine for not returning your calls

yours for missing big moments

We can’t fix that now

You know me as a child

I know you as Daddy

and I love you

then, now, and forever

even if we never talk about it

If you get better,

we can dance at my wedding

It’s a big moment you won’t miss

It’s a big moment I don’t want you to miss



When I look back

I see the flags

full mast

(always a reason

never the priority)

You can’t build a home

on an island

While you tapped SOS

and leaned on strangers

I patched leaks

and leaned on the strength

of the women before me

who had no choice

but I do

I chose you then

(always a reason

never the reality)

But I choose me now


Is it

Is it what you want

I chew on this thought like tree bark

praying it will quell the ache in my gut,


my organs know

I do not want

to wonder forever

if you love her

if you love me

or if we are all just patches

never a quilt

you are always cold

because you want

it’s why I loved you

but now I hate those graphic tees

all who wander are lost

stitching experiences

together until

halves are whole

I want to see the world

through the eyes of my family

not strangers

I want to fold the sheets

and know you will sleep

beside me

in them, in there, in then

wherever, however, whomever

just not her

please not her

is it what you want



Do people change or do circumstances

between second chances

and first goodbyes

I don’t say goodbye, I disappear

too stubborn to hear

about dying

To see you again alone

is a reminder to run

as we’ve always done

to separate parts of the earth,

screaming into notebooks

while never acknowledging

words exist

I didn’t leave you

you were never there

To the birds

Eagle’s plume,

You dance on wind

And cradle the sun 

I am drawn to all Fathers

Who rock the skies to sleep

Sing to me,

Bathe me in affirmations

So I can soak in them

Whenever I am parched 

Yesterday my belly swelled with 

Your starry smile,

Each tooth a Great Wall

Between your tongue and mine

Today I am older


To look up but not wish

To look back but not miss


Only the empty nests

Where we left the future

To the birds



Did I love you

Or did I love my reflection


I learned how to say sorry this year

I hear children are usually taught it

But I was never a child

And I never had parents

Sometimes I stay in bed

And wish for something unfamiliar

I plant flowers now

When I water them,

I remember to take a drink 

You should see the house

Linda the neighbor said it’s lovely

Linda is lovely

Still, dirt stays in my fingernails

So when I hold myself, I feel grounded

I leave messes

Because I don’t want to be clean

I don’t want anything to end

I did love you



Decades of hiding in mirrors,

diving into deep ends

and drowning in drink one,

two, six, eight

I don’t know who I am

Do you hear me?

I never had the chance

When there is never silence

you create it

You swallow your tears and your dreams

and let everyone speak for you

You spend every waking hour trying to piece together

why you are now made of ammunition

explosive and cold

All you want is to be held

but you rip into your own flesh

until you’re unrecognizable

and you force them to tell you

what you already know

Then you lie down

and hope you never find the strength

to stand up


Steel Shingles

Sometimes I think it’s either Vice President or driving off a cliff

Chapped nipples and overqualified at the front desk

Or pantsuit and laureate

Glass ceilings shatter and

shake the steel shingles above them,

Still the world screams

“See! She did it! She is amazing!”

Yes she is

They are

They always have been

Passed over for a white man

With his trust funds and his racism and his allegations

They’ve all sacrificed their dreams for the good of family, society, self


But you never see it

You toast a drink when they’re behind the podium

She swells with pride

Then she drowns in the pillow


Rough Drafts

The impetuous screeching of cicadas,

suffocating Ohio summers with

their cries for attention

every seventeen years

like teenage hyenas at Head Row

desperately seeking prey

in the shadows

of disheveled baseball diamonds,

dust-ridden and ravenous


We like to believe

we can timestamp

high noon,

radiant and thick

with promise


But we are all bugs

buzzing with life

only to wane at first frost,

leaving crumpled carcasses

and rough drafts

rather than legacies



Rest Now

Mouth running like mascara,

hair tucked securely in the past,

she reaches for me with dewdrop skin

though it’s still not safe


Rest now


He shifts in bed until his feet,

now thick with summer heat,

hang just out of reach like forgiveness


I plant his brittle spine

into a nest of pillows

like a baby bird and he squawks


Rest now


Wiping the lunch from his face,

I think of how we are all children

taking leaps of faith

even after science shows us

that clouds aren’t beds of cotton


Rest now


Fly later
















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