Wednesday, December 5, 2012

after yoga class

my skin felt thin all day. tight across my cheeks, bleached and lifeless, dry and flaking when i smiled. dull, zero, just there. i squinted into the sun and felt the wrinkles deepen around my eyes.

now i rinse my dinner plate.  it's dark outside. i look up and suddenly i see a face in the window above the sink.

stop. it's only my reflection. but who is that? cheeks full and flushed, eyes bright. and -- really? points of light bursting from my skin. it's just the christmas lights in the neighbor's yard, transposed across my forehead. but i feel a heat behind my eyes.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I strike the potato peeler against the apple. The skin comes off in small, irregular discs that shoot into the sink and stick to the sides of the basin. Face up, face down: flecks of red and white. The naked fruit is wet in my hand.

Why should I bother to run a knife around the perimeter instead? Art in the kitchen? The curl breaks before it can even be called a curl and I gouge away too much of the good flesh. My mom can do it, though. I guess it takes practice.

Why should I have to peel this apple? Slice it and sprinkle cinnamon? They won't eat it any other way.

And I want them to. Eat it. 

I open the tap and the pieces of peel pool in the drain's mouth.  I'll run the disposal later, after I rinse the dinner dishes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


a gust of wind. leaves eddy around me.

wait, no. can you believe it? they're hundred dollar bills. flying at me from all sides. i'm in a tornado of them. oxygen inflates my lungs to bursting. my hair whips in my eyes. i grab and grasp and stuff and clutch -- how much can i hoard before time runs out? i spin and leap, almost ridiculous. a frantic ballet. but -- don't laugh. you would too, i know it.

the wind dies. the paper settles to the ground and disappears. anything i'm holding remains material.

i unfold a wrinkled bill. it's not money after all. but this one says: healthy children. and that one says: a supportive spouse (who changes diapers and puts kids to bed and kisses you goodnight no matter what). and here: job(s) you like. and on and on: a home. friends who have your back (even from a thousand miles away). sisters who are friends and parents who still think you can reach the moon.  and there's more: yoga. morning walks. sunrises. food. hot showers. words to read and write. dreams. and finally: anything you want, really.

I feel like I should put one back. I've been too greedy.

But no. I can't. I want it all. I clutch it all to my chest. I won't let it drop. Not one single thing. I am so so rich it hurts.

Monday, October 29, 2012

fully dressed

i'm not going to change my mind. i'm already dressed. why bother.

    just do it. you'll feel better. i can stay.

but you'll have to wake them up. get them going. and anyway, how long would i have? i hate rushing.

    it's fine. it's enough time. go. 

i never like to give in. but this is a carrot i have to take. he's right, i will feel better. but i won't say that. it'll be less like giving in that way. i like to hang on to my convictions. about showering?

i take everything off that i just put on. (layers.) socks and legwarmers under jeans. long sleeved shirt under sweater. five buttons. all the rest. (it doesn't take long.) (a rumpled pile.) (a second skin.)

the water steams. it taps on my skull, weeps down my spine. i close my eyes and all my skin is gone. i am unformed. water vapor. transparent. a ghost.

but then. crack. i hear their voices. i quiver, dimensional again. their footsteps concentrate my mass. i squeeze my eyes and crank the water to ice. i gasp. involuntary. first breath.

and now. i'm solid. i redress.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


this: not ten feet from me, a conversation. a ventilation -- ten years of talk in ten minutes or less. i have trouble making correct change. blood fills my ears. too many too much too loud too busy. when they leave a great space opens up and i think the market must be empty. they took the crowd with them. but no, they were two not twenty and now it's the usual trickle of customers.  i crinkle and release, folding out again now that it's not shoulder-to-shoulder around here. i breathe. expand. i explain how to cook kale.

and then this: another couple stands near the cauliflower, gesturing. they decide not to buy. they use no words. they drift away from my stand, together in their vacuum of silence, a small bubble floating away in a sea of sound. i follow them with my ears,




Saturday, October 27, 2012

on justifying

I lean over the sink and squint in the mirror. Up all night is doing nothing for my complexion. Well.

Wait. Something moves in my periphery. I step back, look down. A spider (now still) sits in the sink basin. She's large(r than I like). I watch her struggle. Her front legs flail. She slips a little. Closer to the drain. She climbs again, sure-footed for a few steps, then slides.  It's an inch to the edge. I could help her. She has eyes but I can't see them.

I hate what I'm going to do. But first I pretend she's not there. I brush my teeth. She draws her legs around herself when she senses the water running. I shiver.

I replace my toothbrush in the holder. I dry my hands. I crumple a wad of toilet paper and scoop her up and squeeze her tight and toss her in and flush. Her.

She can't live in my house. (And anyway it's freezing outside.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

on god, or whatever

What's fog?

it's -- clouds. (i hesitate.) thick moisture in the air? hard to see through. look up, at those treetops. how they're hard to see? that's fog. see?

I can tell by the angle of her chin that she's not looking high enough. She sees the tree trunk, not the canopy. But she nods.


I want to touch a cloud, the boy says.

you're walking through one, i laugh. the fog dampens (my voice).

He puts his hands over his head, his fingers stroke the air.

I don't feel anything.


I drive (just above) posted speeds. My cargo sleeps. Clouds scramble across the sky, black just looking over its shoulder to grey, perpendicular to my path. Where are they going? A higher strata seems still, black blankets that bow under the weight of someone laying down. To sleep? On the job? I can feel the pressure on the space between my eyes. I push back with slightly raised eyebrows to keep my eyes open. To watch the road.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


autumn leaves litter our yard. no -- not litter.

start again.

autumn leaves blanket our yard, putting the grass to bed with a second skin. a dead skin. cells sloughed and scattered by the wind. look at the colors, i say. (every leaf is brown). (but look, dark brown light brown russet golden dirt, backsides different from the front sides). (see the veins?)

i want to find a yellow one. it's only oaks around here. i don't see any yellow. (she will be disappointed.)

but then, there. she finds one. tiny. don't step on it. she takes it inside.

here i am at the end of the day. i rethink and rewind and what what what can i write about, all that brown. but there it is. something yellow.

i close my fist around it and take it with me, to bed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

on reading atwood

I have never read a book like this. Not ever. And I've read quite a few. I really have. Books and books and books, swallowed whole without much chewing, like a person starved. For a story. But this book. These words. Hang in the air like droplets of fog. Move and they condense on my skin. Breathe and they lodge in my lungs. So I walk slowly and inhale completely, pausing pausing pausing before -- just one more moment ---- before exhaling everythinglettinggolookingup. Turning the page.

Oh, oh, to write like that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

good mornings

Morning. She slumps into a kitchen chair. I pour cereal at the counter with my back to her. I wear my plastic smile, the cracked one. She doesn't own such a thing, yet.

She whines. She demands. It starts. My skin crawls and my smile breaks in two. I give her what she asked for and quit the room. The baby is crying.

I disappear in the dark. Sink into the rocker. The door is open and I look out. Backstage.

The hallway is a dim tunnel. A soft light condenses at the other end. He sets his work bag on the floor next to the couch and takes her into his lap. She rests her head on his chest. Wrinkles his shirt. His low voice drifts down the hall. I unclench my teeth. She giggles.

There it is. The part I forgot. Good morning.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

shooting star

Why do they call them shooting stars, mama? She stares out her backseat window.  Why do people say they're lucky? Because they are rare. Bits of dust and rock enter the earth's atmosphere all the time. They burn up. Sometimes, they are large enough for us to see. But it has to be night. And you have to be looking up.

I glance in my rear view mirror. Her upturned face glows in the moonlight. The ground rushes beneath us and the heavens are fixed in place.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

small talk

Dance music. Little girls shrieking, running, spinning, sliding in stocking feet. I squint and tighten my face against it.

A woman speaks to me. I tuck the grimace into my purse but it catches in the zipper. I fumble. I answer.

She can't hear me. I lean closer, grateful at least for the chair under me. I never know how to stand, what to do with my arms. Now our faces are three inches apart. I swallow the bad taste in my mouth but it sticks to my tongue and when I talk I see my breath singeing the air, curls of smoke, black. I wish I had a mint. Gum. Something. My throat blisters and peels.

Sound vibrates in my chest but the air eats my words and I don't know what I'm saying. She smiles and nods.

Friday, October 19, 2012

hi, mom. call me back if you have a chance.

gripping the ledge all day, fingers shaking, debris pelting my upturned face, breathing ragged. don't touch me. i said that aloud.

her voice was a rope for climbing and when we were done talking i looked around, surprised. here i am on the top of the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

discard pile

you would think they were dollar bills, or notes from heaven, the way the kids collected them on the way home. one more brilliant than the next, rain dampened leaves, the pavement a quilt of color. a magic carpet.

they deposited their treasure on the kitchen table and dashed off to other caches. their wealth abounds in legos and markers.

now i clear the table for dinner. the leaves are somewhere between wet and dry. starting to curl. dull. i crush them into a ball, open the back door, toss them out into the rain.

no one will notice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ripple effect

The knife whispers harshly through the potato. A wet sound. A splitting of flesh, then contact with the cutting board, a dead end. Four cuts lengthwise and as thin as I can in the opposite direction. I grip the handle with my left hand and guide the potato with my right, fingers so so close to the blade. One hiccup, one hesitation, one involuntary twitch and --

Don't think like that. It's done.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

stretched between

She hangs high above our heads, centered in a web of her own weaving. Her legs curl inward, such a fragile claw. I don't see her there at first. But she catches my eye as soon as I start pushing -- this swing higher higher higher, baby pushes for the other one. I think that spider silk must be made of something strong because I see it stretch as the swings move forward and back. The web twists and torques into a third dimension but it does not tear. Not yet. She rides the fabric under her feet, staying centered. I'm terrified she might drop. She might land right in my hair.

Monday, October 15, 2012


her: pink dress with black marker smudges, tucked into her pants, into her undies. milk crusted above her upper lip. mismatched socks, one inside out. overgrown bangs, i really should trim them. tomorrow. she's cold waiting at the bus stop, waiting to wave her sisters goodbye, trying to tuck into my leg but there's no place to hide from the wind so i zip my hoodie around her shoulders. the sleeves brush the ground. the hood falls over her eyes. she can't walk. she laughs.

me: black lounge pants, flour streaked down the left leg. black shirt too because it's the only clean thing. baby drool crusted on my shoulder. socks that won't stay on right, this one keeps spinning around so the heel is on top. annoying. hair lifeless but actually clean today. we walk to the bus stop to pick up the sisters, the yellow-green baby sling is the perfect accessory, compliments all that black and leaves my left hand free to slip into hers as we cross the street. careful. walk the curb. slow. do we don't have time for this? my words in her voice, too big around her shoulders. oh, sweetie, now we do. we came out here early enough today, we don't have to hurry.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

addition facts

If you add them all up, they equal me. In body weight, I mean. 55 plus 35 plus 25 plus 15. I could figure out a way to carry them all, if I had to.

There's a woman I see every week at the market. She has four kids. She always brings them. I get a little pang every time I see her -- she's so calm and flanked and whole. Her kids are older than mine and she's still walking around on this earth and her hair is black not white. But when they all stand still for a second I see that they take up quite a bit of space. A couple of them are taller than the woman. I think she must be mighty strong. And she carries around a lot of invisible weight. Or maybe one and one and one and one really doesn't equal four. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Someone pulls the plug. There's a sucking sound and even a small whirlpool dancing around the drain as everything surges toward the exit. The liquid level goes down down down and a frothy residue clings to the basin walls, evidence of boiling or stirring or something washed clean.

But then someone shouts in the other room. The pressure changes, the flow reverses, consciousness rushes back into me.

I wake up.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Mama, look at the sky. Is that your favorite color? I look up at a blue that's deep and soft at the same time, so cold my teeth ache, so close I could wrap it around my shoulders. I'd shiver and smile. Yes, that's exactly it. I look into her face. She's gotten so tall.

I want to ask her, do you remember when I held you in the crook of my arm and you looked behind my eyes and I wondered how many of my features you could make out?

Now she can see better than I can.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I only see him for a second. A split one. A glance through the right side of my windshield as my car hugs the roundabout and steadies into a straight line.

He walks two dogs. His hair is gray. His coat is unzipped and his head is uncovered. The wind gusts and the leaves skitter under his feet and one of the dogs trots just ahead, nose raised to the breeze. He looks up.

My ship passes.

Maybe his kids are both in college. Maybe he lost one in infancy. Maybe his wife passed years ago. Maybe she's making him lunch. Maybe he refuses to retire. Maybe he hates his job. Maybe he's writing a book. Maybe he's not.

Maybe those dogs are all he has.

I look in my rear view mirror. Leaves kick up behind me, yellow and golden brown. They must fall to the pavement but I don't see it happen and I'll never know for sure. She sings to herself in the backseat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


She cries. I go to her. My eyes are still computer-screen blind so I see no shadows. No dimensions. No textures. Just black, flat and deep. I plunge my hands through the night, feeling for her form. Here she is. Her cheeks are cold.

I sit in the rocker with her body perpendicular to mine and curled into me. A soft C, like in center, like a sigh.

I could reach for my phone, find something to read. I often do. But I don't feel like ingesting anything. Instead, I close my eyes and tip my chin to the ceiling, counterposing the day.

And there they are, bits of thought spinning in slow motion all around me. Dust motes in the sun, in the dark. I reach up to press one between my thumb and forefinger but my motion exhales it end over end across the room.

I let it go and lower my hand to rest on her head, fingers running through her hair.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

plank in the eye

Crust in the corner of the eye. Here's cold water to rinse it clear. Note: a small rip in the left contact. Force it in anyway. Mild pinching. Ignore it into the background with all the rest: the grit between the neck vertebra, teeth in hollow sockets that tunnel through the sinuses and into the space behind the eyes. Fine.

The pinching takes on some heat and each blink speaks with a scratch. It has to go. Fold the contact out of the eye, half blind. Crumple the plastic and let it fall. Dry out. Stick to a sock, serve no one.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

milk, for strong bones

She brings along two books for the car ride (always an extra because you just never know). They're both books she's already read once, twice, three times. I ask her but what about the book she was reading last night -- the new one from the library. I don't feel like reading that one. I ask her why not. Something really sad happens. What? So sad that I don't want to tell you about it. Oh, I reply. I see. I start explaining rising action and climax and resolution -- wah wah wah, I even hear it that way myself. Here she goes again. But I want her to understand that even if something sad happens, the story will end in some kind of resolution. Not always happy, but some way to see the world. It keeps right on turning. When we get there I see she's been reading the library book anyway. I ask her if she got any farther. If she found out how Lucy deals with her brother's death. No she says. I ask her why not. She holds up her book, marked very near the beginning. She started over. I wonder aloud if she'll keep going this time when she gets to the sad part or just put it away. She doesn't answer. I wah wah wah again, do you think Lucy just hid under her bed for the rest of her life, do you think Lucy finds a way to feel happy even though this sad thing happened to her? She doesn't know. Think about Lucy, the girl. Did she seem brave? Or like a bowl full of mush?

At home, much later, she approaches me on silent bare feet. She stands next to my chair. She hands me the book. You should read it, she says. You finished it? Yes. Are you glad? Yes.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

at the market

They stand talking, two stones sunk in the center of a stream.  Then, an embrace. One of the women begins to cry. Her mouth forms the shape of something unknowable. Familiar. She doesn't cover her face. People float by on an unseen current, the tops of their heads sparkling in the sun. Pain ripples through space. My fingernails hurt.

Friday, October 5, 2012

sun burst

Topping this stack of sunny days sits a sky that's laundry rinse water grey. It's the unbalanced block that topples the tower, a glass shattering on the kitchen floor.

But when I peel the old sheets off the bed and spread the fresh one with a snap of my wrist, there it is: the scent of dried sun, exploding all over the room. It was here all day, preserved in the laundry basket, shoved in the corner of the room. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


A bouquet of flowers sits on the table. It's been here for more than a week and the stems still stand straight; the colors still breathe. The blooms could be fake. But their drinking water dips lower each day.

And there it is -- the proof that they're alive.

But underneath that bright crown, brown begins to edge the green. Leaves curl and shrink into themselves. One petaled head trades satin for dry paper and bows out, exhaling something muskier than her sisters. The water is almost gone. They gulp at murk and slime.

I see this but I don't refill the vase. They won't last much longer.

I change the shirt I had been wearing for two straight days, and the night in between.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I'm on my knees. My eyes are level with hers. My face is wet.

A drop of water waits on my cheekbone for the right moment to fall and another skates the curve of my upper lip. I could taste it if I wanted to but I brush it away with the back of my hand.

It is not gone, though -- just spread out in a streak across my skin. How long until it evaporates into thin air?

She squeals and splashes the bathwater again. I am dripping. I am overcome.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


She asks while I'm signing in, writing my name on the line. #2. We've already said the standard hellos and she's already inquired about my well being, twice: a crease unfolded, paint blobs pressed into the paper, symmetrical.

Hey, I was wondering: you have how many kids again?

I look up. I haven't written the last few letters of my last name so I hover above the paper. Four, I reply. This is a statistic that startles me, still.

And do you mind me asking -- how old are you?

I don't mind. I wonder about this myself sometimes. I see the lines around my mouth, my eyes. There are callouses on my feet, dead skin that I can peel with my fingernails if I dig hard enough. Sometimes I am so, so tired but I can't close my eyes because then another huge chunk of time will pass. I try to breathe evenly.

But I also know how she sees me. And it's not like that. I finish writing my name.

31, I reply.

Really? I would have guessed look so young...which is why I wondered how many kids you have because I thought you said four last time we talked but it just didn't make sense...

We both laugh. I tell her their ages and something about getting married in college and having kids right away, a little unexpected but not unwanted. My mouth keeps moving. She comments about how great it is that I can get away and come to yoga class. I heartily agree.

Now she knows everything about me.

Now she knows nothing about me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

when she can't sleep

I press my forehead into the door frame, one foot in her bedroom, one in the hallway. This is not going as planned.

There's a wall in front of me and I don't see any footholds. It looks slick with precipitation. Or perspiration. Mine? Hers? My eyes are dead in their sockets. I let them rest on the floor.

The light from the living room flows down the hall. The fireplace cuts an angular shadow, a line between light and dark, a branch across the stream.

I don't look up for a long time. What's there to see, anyway? Me, making mistakes. Her, internalizing them.

The wood grain laps at my ankle. My foot sinks into the golden sand.

Friday, September 28, 2012


The bathroom light -- necessary but it throws flames into my eyes. I squint so hard it makes a sound.

The mirror -- unavoidable. I see my face through a crust of blurry vision. Mossy and far away. Pillow lines map the path the night has taken, all angles and straight edges. One intersects my eye. Later, at breakfast, she wonders if it's a scrape.

No, I tell her. But who knows, I think, how deep it really runs. I can't feel a thing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

about an owl

The sun rolls over and pulls the cloud cover up to her neck. It's morning but she's not ready to get up.

I am, though. Ready. Despite the sleep stuck in the corners of my eyes. I open the door into the morning that pretends to be night. I haven't brushed my teeth and I'm wearing a winter cap over my sleep shuffled hair: the season has turned chilly, at least for today.  For right now. The dog snuffs with anticipation or expectation or maybe just because the insides of her nostrils are shocked by the air temperature. It was just a few minutes ago that she was asleep with her nose tucked into her knee, like a bird without any wings.

Then out from the watery darkness comes a voice, stuttering over a single word, a flashlight beam flickering.

Who-who who?

I haven't heard him speak in so long. I didn't know how much I missed him. Where has he been living? Has he been talking to anyone else? Have they been able to answer? Do they understand the question?

I haven't been thinking about it at all, and now he's asking every day. There must be answers somewhere, under these layers of hair and skin and blood and bone but I'm afraid to open my mouth. The thing that comes out might not be words at all. A scream? Vomit? Nothing pretty. Or maybe a single exhale, a puff of breath, a wing shifting in the dark.

The dog is already at the bottom of the driveway, waiting. I inhale deeply and hold it, soaking my lungs in night. Ink fills the sponge. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


In my dream, I see an old friend. She smiles and her teeth are lasagna noodles. Pathetic, I mumble to my imagination. She dutifully shifts the scene. I see myself standing in Jurassic Park with a dog on a leash. I release the dog into an enclosed ring. Dog vs. raptor? Stupid, I sigh. But I let it unfold. In the dark I bandage a gushing neck. My hands are wet and warm.

I wake into daylight with eyes gummed and puffy. The fan oscillates, rippling the sheet that covers my legs. I see the pale blue sky through the curtain crack, through the trees. Smeary without my glasses.


I fall asleep on the couch, on my back, with my arms hugging my chest. They're sitting on the other end, huddled around the iPad, watching a video of their own making. I float above them. Their giggles echo from a tin can, far below me.

Someone brushes against my foot and pierces the pontoon supporting me. A gash through my skin. I slam into myself and open my eyes. They don't see me and there is no blood. Dizziness shrouds my head and it takes me a long time unwrap that stuffy gauze.


The half moon, she states from the back seat. I look away from the road and see it too. A circle cut in half with a stark center line, the dark side suggested. I could stare and stare but the ground is racing under my wheels and anything could jump from the shadows so it's just a glance and I'm back to watching the white dashed lines reel on by. It's beautiful, isn't it, I reply. That's all I can think to say.


I move slowly through the grass, eyes on the ground, hunting for dog poop. I hate it when they step in it.

A few steps and my toes are all wet, my sandals soaked. The grass is dark and cold. I imagine this condensation as drops squeezed out of the air during the night by thousands of invisible hands -- magical milk. Suddenly I want to lay in the dew. Roll around in it and drink it down. It will fill me.

And then I step in an overlooked pile. I finish the job and leave my shoes by the door. I'll deal with you later. I say it to myself, to the shoes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


When she asks, it’s always at the wrong time: I’ve just plunged my hands into the ground beef or I’m nursing the baby or I’m finally eating lunch myself. Don’t forget to check on the flower, Mama.

I tell her that I will. Just remind me later, when I’m not in the middle of something.

It’s been a week since, inexplicably and at random, she went outside on her own to pick that flower. A week since I sat down with just her and unscrewed the wingnuts on my flower press, the one my dad made for me when I was a kid. She helped me position the petals just so and nodded when I told her we would check on it in a couple days when it had fully dried.

It will be too fragile to play with or hold too much, I cautioned. But we could pick up some laminating paper and make it into a bookmark or something. She nodded, serious and committed.

Now we’re running errands and I’m listing where we need to go. Pick up the pictures we ordered. Buy birthday cards for your cousins. Return books to the library. Get a gallon of milk.

And laminating paper! She calls from the back of the van. But I really can’t manage an extra stop. One more in and out of the car, bucking and unbuckling, baby in the sling. Hold hands. Look for cars.

Not this time, sweetheart. Sorry. I can’t see her face in the rear view. I have to keep my eyes on the road.


There’s an ache in my sternum sometimes. Right here, in the bone that joins my ribs. I only feel it occasionally. Like when I’m easing the sleep-heavy baby out of my arm. Or when I flop onto the couch after the final goodnight and lean to the right, sinking all weight into my elbow. Or when I roll my shoulders down and back, filling my lungs with air and pressing my heart forward. There it is, a twinge, deep in the bone.

I think something in there must be clenched too tight.


The girl jogs past me. No, she’s a woman. Young, yes. But taller than me. She moves fast. I don’t see her face.

Her ponytail hangs long and paints brushstrokes on the nape of her bare neck. Her running shorts are loosely cut so they swish side to side as she moves. She wears just a sports bra on top and I see the sweat shining on her shoulders, her spine, and in beads down the small of her back.

The path curves her out of sight and by the time I reach the straightaway she’s gone.

My feet feel heavy and hot inside my own running shoes. I only lace them up for walking anymore. A couple months ago, I tried to pick up running where I had left it in the winter when the holidays and my growing pregnant belly crowded out possibility. But my body balked at the root of things: ankles, Achilles, feet. So I walk. Baby on my chest, dog at my side.

The tall grasses that line the path rattle in the breeze, brown and brittle. It hasn’t rained in a month. Things are lush along the stream, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

But here is something: some kind of weed, growing right at the edge of the gravel. It’s stem is more like a stalk, thick as my thumb, and it tops my shoulder. Its root must tap a source the grasses can’t touch.


The baby sleeps. I try to set her down but she senses the shift. No one else is home so I indulge in this: I lay her down on my bed and curl around her. With my pinkie in her mouth she stays asleep. The pad of my finger rests on the roof of her mouth and she pulls hard with her tongue from where she floats in the stream between awake and asleep.  I close my eyes and go there too.

When I return to myself, there’s a cramp in my wrist and I know I should start dinner and more than anything right now I’d rather be reading a book. So I wiggle out of her grip. She stirs. I tense. I don’t want to be stuck here.

But her hand comes to her face and finds her mouth. Reflex. Instinct. She doesn’t part her lips but the surface tension parts and she slips back down into the deep. I watch her breathe then ease myself out of the room.


I sit. My mind is an empty room, paneled with floor to ceiling with windows, forming an octagonal shape. No, not octagonal…but…some other -agonal…one that means: uncountable. I sit in the center of the room.

Outside the windows it’s black. Side to side, above, below. Blacker than black. Delineated in space but part of space. I breathe and breathe and breathe.

When I open my eyes I see my legs crossed in front of me. The couch in shadow to my right.

If there’s a door to this room it doesn’t have a knob. But I can still go through.

Monday, July 2, 2012


It's quiet. My thoughts tiptoe around the room on silent bare feet, nosing into all the corners, avoiding all the cobwebs. I follow them with my eyes.

It's dim. The curtains are drawn against the afternoon sun but it barges through the unmet seam and prints streaks across the ceiling. Shhhhhh, I whisper to the light. She's falling asleep. The baby rests her palm against my breast.

The shadows suck the life out of these spring colored walls. But the muted light illuminates a subtle topography and I can see subterranean things. Like strokes of drywall mudding and a hint of the studs behind it all, holding everything up. My eyes stop here. I close them. I don't have to speak incantations to conjure something up. 

Two carpenters hammer this wall into being. One crouches low, cursing under his breath about nothing he wants to explain to me right now. Sweat darkens his shirt between his shoulder blades and I can see the outline of his wallet sunk in his back pocket. The other man works a lump of tobacco in his mouth, moving it to the other side of his jaw. He spits into the framework, staining the wood. He grips the board in front of him and looks up at the sun, estimating its progress. He's thinking about lunch. I wonder how much piss they built into these walls.

The baby's suckling slows and stops. She closes her lips. I'm not quite ready to put her down.

The air conditioning kicks on, changing the caliber of silence in the room. The curtains react to the moving air. My thoughts do, too.

I wonder what it was like for her, living here alone for forty-some years. Where did she place her potted plants? Against which wall did she sleep? Her skin cells are still in our duct work. Maybe her ghost drifts through sometimes, too.

I trace my thumb lightly across the baby's forehead and rest it between her eyes. I imagine an invisible fingerprint. She sighs in her sleep but does not wake.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

bad dreams

It's dark. I close my eyes but they dart with determination despite the pressure of my lids and lashes. Thoughts bounce in my head like bingo balls. Ricocheting. Random. My muscles grip the shape of the day gone by. I can't sleep.

And then the motion stops and a picture materializes, dredged up like a memory but dripping with the mist of another world. Mine but not mine.

I see a familiar street. It's sunny. The green of the trees and the white of the opposite house and the mottled grey of the pavement stand out with a sharpness that hurts my eyes. I feel her small hand in mine, twisting and pushing and letting go. She runs.

Her figure and the car that crushes her blur and blend into one thing. My heart stops in real time. The blood drains from all my extremities and I expect to see hers on the street. Her blond curls are dark and damp.

My mouth doesn't open and my body can't move. I want to die.

But then I feel the real world firm against the one foot still anchored there and I force my eyes open. I have time to exhale once before she screams for real. I bolt out of bed.

Her eyes are still closed. She cries in her sleep, stuck in a dream that holds her just below the surface.

Her curls are damp. I touch her forehead and her hand -- she's warm all over. The air is close and hot.

I carry her to the living room and stand her next to the laundry basket. She's quiet now, wavering and nearly asleep. I feel my way through the unfolded clothing for something cooler. A tank top, anything.  I finally find a sleeveless dress and call that good enough.

I pull the too-hot nightgown over her head and she instinctively lifts her arms. I thread her head and arms through the dress and carry her back to her room. She rests on my shoulder. I ease her onto her pillow and she's asleep before I finish adjusting the fan to oscillate in her direction.

I watch her chest rise and fall. I wait for my breath to match hers. I go back to bed.

The ceiling is black and blank. I don't close my eyes.

Then I finally do.

In the morning, the sun trickles through the trees and puddles in the house. She smiles into the kitchen. I hug her hello.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I walk the dog at dusk. No sunlight slants through the trees at this hour. Shadows cover the path. Gnats thicken the air and I can't see them until I'm within their cloud and one catches in the corner of my eye. A tear blurs my vision. I press the heel of my palm against my eyelid and stop still. I blink and blink and blink. When I brush my cheek the bug sticks to my finger, black and immobile, drowned in holy water. I wipe it on my sleeve and walk on.


I've been reading this book about writing, and it's making me almost as happy as actually writing something myself. Almost. The author's best advice is to just write because you might pour out six pages of crap before you find that one, glinting gem of a sentence that was the whole point of the thing and never would have bubbled to the surface if you didn't decant all that froth from the top first. So I woke up early this morning and felt awake and alive for once so I'm sitting here with my cup of coffee and the single pen that I keep chasing around the house and a wrinkled scrap of paper because my real notebook is lost, it's been so long since I opened it. I want to say something about a moment from yesterday before the days dilute it and its spreads out all over my memory, blended into one million other moments that look exactly the same.

I pause because I don't know how to start. It's so ordinary. How can I paint a picture that shivers with beauty the way it does behind my eyes? It was an unremarkable day, a deep breath after the crescendo of busy-ness that was last week. The two middle girls wanted to swing so that's what we did. They laughed big crazy belly laughs and the baby watched the back and forth with wide eyes. Wise eyes. She knew what was going on. The air was just the right temperature and the breeze moved only slightly and not a single bug landed on my skin. My hands pressed into the littler one's back and she moved away and back, away and back and I was part of that pendulum rhythm without even thinking about it. The older one said the swing was her broomstick and hers could fly higher. Her sister echoed her laughter, flying high too but not understanding that -er as a suffix meant she was being out done.

One hundred years from now, none of this will matter. This is a truth I've been telling myself in moments of crisis or chaos or frustration or fatigue and it helps. But this sentence in my hands right now cuts my skin and I bleed. I'm the only witness to this moment that matters only to me and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will bury it completely and I won't even remember the gold around its edges.

This makes my throat ache so that I think I might cry or scream or throw up and the only thing I can do is open my mouth wide and shove all of it down down down and try to remember the taste as it passes over my tongue. Maybe later I can dangle some fishing line past my teeth and hook some beautiful words like dappled and ephemeral and they will drip with holy water when I dangle them in front of my eyes. They'll reflect the light as if from within and line up in a perfect frame around something profound.



She takes off ahead of me, school bag bouncing against her back, bare legs flying. She always gets the mail after school. I think she likes that moment of anticipation when her fingers just touch the handle and the door still hides the contents and there might be something inside with her name on it. I am dear friends what that kind of hope.

The huge pine in our yard points like a finger at the heavens and drapes a skirt of shade across the grass. But I walk through a pleat of sun half a street behind. I balance the baby against my chest and she blinks and squints at the world over my shoulder -- eyes in the back of my head. A cloud of gnats hover in a strange, concentrated column just next to the road and the sun glints off their individual bodies -- internally illuminated points of light traveling in crazy, unchartable orbits, tethered by force or choice to an unseen center.

I see her drop half the mail so I hurry to help pick it up. It's all catalogs and advertisements. Junk. I toss it in the recycle bin as we walk inside and for a single second I wonder where it will be born again.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I have one foot outside. My hip holds the door open and I stoop to clip the dog's harness to her chain. My eyes follow her out the door, an arc of movement. Something in the cuff of my jeans catches my attention. I don't stand up.

The dark material is coarse under my fingertips. I unfold it. Dandelion seeds cling to me.

I brush them off in a single exhale and they latch onto an unseen breeze, skirting across the concrete step and away from me, born into the air on a whispered wish. They blend into the air. Gone.

Someone says my name. Mama? 

I straighten and step back into the house. Back to making dinner. Back to them. Back to sewing another patch into the parachutes on their backs.

Monday, May 7, 2012

footprints in the sand

I was eighteen when I got the tattoo. It was a premeditated whim but not entirely out of character. I've always liked the idea of something under the surface, hidden from view, with roots even deeper than a layer of skin. Something that won't rub off.

It was a mark with a vaguely defined meaning. Something about walking with someone you love? Or maybe about running really, really fast? Open for interpretation. That the years might alter it -- might pull on it, might stretch it further -- never crossed my mind.

Today, it means this:

Their voices bubble up from the basement. Their bodies burst into the living room. I watch from the sidelines.

They ricochet down the hallway in high heels, in slippers, in slapping bare feet. I'm wearing my bathrobe. 

Their bedroom door slams. The walls muffle their noise. I press my coffee cup to my forehead, to the grooves that are growing there between my brows. I close my eyes.

I imagine the hallway lined with sand. I see their footprints, divots one on top of the other, impossible to follow. Volatile in the wind. Nothing in the rain.

I get down on my knees and cup my hands around the places they've been.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I wake with an ache threaded through my jaw on one side. Its tight and hard to move. My mouth must have been hanging open, slack and slanted sideways under sleep that dragged me down too deep and pulled me to the surface too fast. That's the most dangerous way to dive.

I sit up and pull on my socks, first one and then the other. I open and close my mouth until the two sides even out and by the time I make it to the kitchen, my jaw is loose enough to let my lips form the shape of good morning. My voice catches, dry and unused and unfamiliar in my ears.


I am asymmetrical. There's no way to fold me so my edges line up.

Just look. My right eye is smaller than the left. I'm missing a rib on one side. One breast feeds my baby better than the other and when I sweat I swear my right armpit smells stronger. My waistline feels thicker on the right when I'm sitting and one foot is bigger than the other.

These imbalances are branded into my blueprint. But they don't bother me. I can still stand up straight.


With a handful of birdseed, we call the chickens back to their coop. She laughs as they run toward us, moving fast and low and ridiculous.

They look so funny, like they could just fall right over.

I agree. There's something about two legs and no arms and wings folded back that looks unbalanced.  But their anatomy doesn't fail them and they can't hear us laugh.


I'm out for a walk -- baby in the sling, dog on the leash, everyone else at home. Silence moves through the trees and cools my cheeks. The spring air is damp in my lungs.

I pass a woman walking the other way and we exchange the usual smile and hello.

You have your hands full! she adds.

She has no idea. My arms and chest and head are so loaded with blessings that my spine bends under it all. I'm surprised she can't see that.

Or maybe that's what she meant.


The night she came is wrapped tightly in webs of memory. Some details melt together but other moments stand still, framed and flash frozen in my mind.

Like this:

I walk through the door, my vision tunneled. I stop. I see only him.

She's sweeping my legs out from under me and I wrap my arms around his shoulders. I know I'm probably pressing against him too hard but he doesn't flinch. My forehead touches his shirt.

I breathe him in and he balances me.


Now his hand on my shoulder surprises me. That's where her head usually rests.

More than two voices aimed at me can shoot me down.

Milk on the floor brings me to my knees.

Making dinner is a mountain.

He tells me I should go to yoga class but I don't feel like it. A movie is too long and words on a page swim and blur before I can finish a chapter. This is the only thing I can write about. It's not time away that I need.


Their game is somewhat quiet. The baby is happy in her bouncy chair. I sit on the floor in the living room surrounded by them. The evening light dims.

He stands in the kitchen and the light above the sink holds him in a soft spotlight. His back is to me as he does the dishes. He talks.

What he says is ordinary. Everyday. But his voice walks across the room, threading together in strands that become solid, a ballet bar above my head. I reach up and find it, memorizing its position so I can find it tomorrow when all the lights are on and I'm trying to stand one foot, practicing balance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



Small fingers, small beads, serious concentration. She adds the last piece to her masterwork and declares it done.

Mama, can you iron this?

I'm busy right now but she lives in this moment. Only this one. And she wants to hold it in her hands. That's something I can understand.

I turn on the iron and wait for it to warm. Too much heat and I'll ruin what she made. Not enough and the pieces will separate. The ready light turns green. I slide the iron across the beads. They melt just enough.

It turns out.



She finally rests her head on my chest. It took a long time tonight.

I press my cheek against the top of her head. She warms my skin. She doesn't know it yet, but a fire burns within her.

I only have to angle my neck slightly to tuck her entire skull under my chin. Her bones are solid, shielding from the world the map to who she'll become. But they're also so fragile: still soft, still separated. For now, she is incomplete without me.

I cup my hands around her flame, wings against the world.



I knew it would happen. It always happens.

She was the littlest. I carried her a lot. She sat on my lap. I stroked the soft skin on the backs of her hands. I breathed deeply into her hair.

Overnight everything changed.

Now she holds my hand. Sits next to me. Close but separate.

She smiles a lot but she also pushes hard. She's looking for her place. And there's something within me that pushes back.  I feel singed and raw. She is fire when I'm craving snow.

But tomorrow it's supposed to rain.   



I remind her that it's time to get ready. She glares at me, fire behind her eyes.

I'm so mad at you. I'm never talking to you again for the rest of my life. Her tone is serious. Cutting.

I raise my eyebrows and pause to swallow. Once. Twice. Both sad and snarky boil in the back of my throat and it takes me a second to separate logic from emotion. I have to pry it loose, strand by strand.

I'm sorry to hear that. I have to say something or she tells me you don't even care. I'm feeling my way through the dark.

By the time she's a teenager, maybe I'll be able to see shadows -- the outlines of shapes, of roots exposed -- before I catch my toe on a corner and fall flat on my face. 


Are those your regular jeans?
Wow. You look great! You're lucky.

Lucky or not, this is just how it is for me. My pregnant form fades easily. My body is elastic.

Except it's not.

I'm in the dark, in bed, lying on my back. I press my fingers into my abdomen and feel how the muscles are separate, a valley that starts and my navel and runs up to my diaphragm. I know I've come undone in ways that cannot be stitched up.

But there's something behind my naval, too. A fire deep inside my belly. It might be flickering right now but it hasn't gone out. And it can be stoked. It can always be stoked.

I know how.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

where I get random

Sarah, who writes at the blog This Heavenly Life tagged me in a meme last week. The object of this little game is to post 11 random things about yourself, answer the 11 questions posed by the tagger, create 11 new questions, and tag other bloggers. I've been thinking about it ever since. While I loved reading Sarah's post and finding out more about her, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to come up with a response clever enough to be worth posting.

But I wanted to write something. So I decided the only place to start is where I'm at.

1.  It's dusk. Dinner is done and I took on dish-duty, specifically for the chance to stand up straight. I've been holding the baby all day. She weighs down on me. But I step outside to bring in the laundry first. The light is fading and I have two arms free.

It's mostly his clothing in this load. I unpin a blue shirt. I'll need to iron this one. I fold it in half but hold it up to my face before putting it in the basket. It smells like the breeze that's been blowing all day, spring marinated into the fibers, but it still smells like him.  This is why I don't use scented laundry detergent. 

The air smells significant, too. Smokey, but not the wood stove smoke of the cold weather months. This is the campfire scent of summer, speaking of humid evenings, of roasted marshmallows, of ash soaring high above the flames. A neighbor must be burning a bonfire.

2. It reminds me of another time and place of a similar smell, bonfires all around. It was a Civil War reenactment. I was part of a "crowd control" crew, walking around the grounds with my Americorps NCCC team members, mostly just picking up cigarette butts and trying to look busy while taking in the sights and sounds and smells of a different time period brought to life. There were costumes and tents and weapons, food and animals and bonfires. I can't remember exactly where we were -- 11 years have elapsed since then and we saw so many places during our 10 months of service, traveling here and there in the southeast -- but this moment, taking laundry from the line, smelling the bonfire, reminds me that:

3. That year in NCCC was probably one of the hardest of my life. I was away from home, away from everything familiar, in a way that I hadn't experienced yet, even during my first couple years in college. I already knew I was an introvert, safe only in small circles (I had only attended one college party -- I walked in, looked at the crowd, and walked back out. It was coffee shops and libraries for me), but working and living so closely with a whole new group of people was something far, far out of my comfort zone. I had to work hard to hold myself together.

4. But it was also one of the most important years of my life, too. I learned so much. About myself. About the people and ideas outside my little world. But more than that, it pointed me home. Back to the Midwest, to my roots, to my family. But also to him. He would always be my front door.

5. He asked me to marry him during that year, when I was home for a weekend break. It was a bike ride in our home town, a stop by a river, him down on one knee, the ring. My mouth hanging open. Yes. And before we rode home -- on our bikes, on our joy and hopes and dreams -- I stopped to pick up a stone. It sits in my jewelery box, more valuable than any gem. Maybe someday it will be the first bit of earth I'm buried under.

6. When I was a kid, I buried a time capsule in my yard with a friend (how old were we, Anna?). I remember writing down various facts about ourselves, such as what we were wearing that day. It was my idea for each of us to also disclose one "secret" into the capsule. We intended to leave the jar underground for years, but it lasted a few months at best. When we unearthed it, my "secret" was this: I'm wearing a bra! I certainly did not need one.

7. I did not need one after my last kid weaned, either. This is not something that has ever bothered me.

8. Speaking of kids, you know how I have four? In many cases, mothering that many would mean that in general, I'm good with them. That I like them. Actually -- um -- not so much. I'm somewhat afraid of them. The idea of chaperoning school trips or volunteering in the classroom sends me into small fits of anxiety. This is true. And likely largely due to the fact that:

9. People in general scare me. In most cases, unless I know everyone going, I'd rather stay home. Nowadays, I have many excuses to stay home. But that was not always so. (See #3). And I have a hunch that as my girls get older, I'll have to come out of my shell to allow them to come out of theirs. I try not to think about that.

10. I don't think of myself as a good conversationalist. I'm not entertaining or animated. I'm better one-on-one than in a group, and I express myself better through writing than speaking. But I'd never call myself witty or funny. And you'll always win a debate against me. I'll only tell you about my religious views if I don't feel like you're trying to sell me yours, and I'd rather fold laundry than discuss politics.

11. Actually, there are a lot of things about laundry that I like. And I'd probably stay out here longer, taking these things down slowly, if the bugs weren't biting me...

And now, to answer Sarah's questions...

1. Do you always read the entire book once you get started, or have you ever stopped halfway through a book?  If so, what was it, and why?

I usually finish. But I quit Lord of the Rings before I got past the first hundred pages. There was too much description and I had laundry to fold...

2. Which would you prefer to spend an afternoon doing: painting with a room full of preschoolers or painting with a group of adults?

Isn't is obvious? Neither. I'd rather if the room was empty.

3. Is there a television show on right now that you try to never miss?  What is it?

Nope. I rarely choose to watch TV. I'd rather read. Or write. Or do yoga. Or stare out the window....

4.  What is the most adventurous food item you've ever tried?

I will try anything. Unless it spent any part of its life underwater.

5.  If you could have as many children as you wanted without fear of discomfort (either physical or financial) or social judgement, how many do you think you'd have? 

I think I'm at my limit right now...

6.  What foreign culture fascinates you the most?

I will read any book about any group of people and find it interesting. I don't have an itch to travel, though. At least not right now.

7.  When you're grocery shopping, what snack item has the greatest ability to tempt you into an unnecessary purchase?

Chocolate. Enough said.

8.  When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you succeed?

An author. I'm working on it.

9.  If you could go back to school and get any degree, would you choose differently than you did the first time?

I started in engineering and switched to English after two years. So yes -- I would have started in English so that I could have taken more classes in my major. I would have taken more creative writing classes as well.

10.  You have a $500 gift card to the closest mall: what will you spend it on?

Clothing, please. But can I shop online?

11.  You are headed into a party full of people you've never met before and where mingling is expected.  What one word describes your mindset as you open the door?

I think, by now, you must know my answer. GETMEOUTOFHERE. Can that count as one word?


Next, I'm supposed to come up with 11 new questions and tag other bloggers. But I'm tired. So this is as far as I go. But if you want to leave me a comment with some random facts about yourself, the floor is yours.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

the point

Mommy, they won't let me play.

She turns her whole body toward him, her shoulders square with his.

Hm, well what did they say?

They just say 'no' whenever I ask. She hears what he says but knows what's under the surface, too.

That must have made you feel really sad. She holds her hand out to him. I'll go back with you and see if we can figure something out. 

Our conversation evaporates into wispy clouds that dissipate when she walks through them on her way out of the room. But I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about her tone and her choice of words and her patience and her empathy and I'm opening my mouth to catch all those cool flakes on my tongue so I can cough them up at the right moments. But they melt on contact. I don't even get to swallow.

I've been running too hot lately and I know it. I feel it in my mouth.


The mirror is full length. I am in my underwear.

I'm about to take the dress from its hanger (ignoring the price tag for now) but I stop. I let my arms hang at my sides.

I see angles and edges because that's what I am. What I always have been. But there's also a softness to my belly, new but not really. I don't wrinkle my nose or wish it away. It's gentleness, underneath everything, when I don't feel gentle at all.

I wiggle into the dress. It's tight and stripey and somehow highlights both the sharp and the soft and I look wrong all over. Unbalanced.

I buy a hoodie instead. It's red-orange like the sun when it's going down, with thumb-holes so I can slouch the sleeves over my wrists and hide halfway down my palms. I get cold in the summer sometimes, too.


What do you think is the point of life?

Its an abrupt shift in conversation but it doesn't surprise me. This is how we've always talked. 

My instant answer is this: survival.

But its more than that. Or I wouldn't.

I gesture to my baby in her arms. My second answer: procreation, of course.

But animals do that, too. That's not enough.

Could it be this? Finding beauty in everything. In the good stuff. And in the rock hard places, too.


I'm driving home. I was out. Alone.

I sit crookedly in the driver's seat, leaning to the right under the weight of a baby not on my shoulder. Hunched forward over a full belly now deflated.

The radio fills the silence and my empty head. But I turn it off the second I see the moon. It hovers low and luminary, humongous and completely impossible. The air feels charged and sacred. It can only hold silence.

When I pull into the driveway, the moon disappears behind the too-big houses down the street. I go inside. It's getting late -- at least for me. Sleep pulls at the corners of my eyes and accelerates the rust grinding deep within my joints.

The night grows longer.

The baby won't settle.

Liquid frustration fills my brain and swims into my eyes. I sit in the rocking chair by the front window. I blink. The moon is higher. Smaller. Somehow even brighter. But tucked behind the half-full branches.

I lean my head back and close my eyes against the darkness of the room and her open eyes. When I open them again the moon is above the trees and I can see its face completely.

It is full.

So am I.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Lately I have been sleeping on my stomach, one arm tucked under my chest, the other nested against my naval. My belly feels foreign and flat yet soft. It still remembers the shape it held just a few short weeks ago. My dreams are empty and interrupted. When I wake, my arms are fast asleep.


It's dusk. The sky shades into a color that's not quite night and the trees look black against it. Buds and baby leaves can't fill in a canopy yet, so each branch points like a crooked finger at the moon and pierces holes in the heavens for the first stars to shine through.

Squirrel nests hang ragged and exposed high above my head. Blood clots in the branches, too large to slip like sand through outstretched fingers. Once he told me that these are temporary shelters and hiding places -- not nests to raise young. I wonder where they birth their babies, then, and how long it takes the wind to loosen each leaf and finally blow these not-nests apart.


The tree outside our front window leafs out before all the others and turns golden when it's nowhere near autumn. He thinks it might be dying. I'm not sure.

Last summer, I watched little, dark-capped birds tunnel into the trunk. I'd never witnessed this kind of nest building before and it held my attention. On the way to the mailbox one day I stopped and peered inside. Two glittering eyes looked back at me. She must have been guarding something precious or surely my bold approach would have sent her into flight.

All the seasons of a single year have passed and they're back this spring. I'm not sure if it's the same pair or two different birds, but I see them dart in and out, busy with instinct-driven preparations. I watch one fly away, its trajectory level with my line of sight. Even though it flies from this tree to the next without deviating left or right, its path is not straight. It undulates up and down gently, wings catching on a breeze I can't feel.

Though this tree's sap might be flowing more slowly this year, it plays host to new life anyway. I think about going out there with a flashlight so I can see the eggs or even just the bits of straw they're weaving into a nest. But I don't. Maybe miracles need some mystery.


I hold the baby up on my shoulder, her warm, downy head whispering against my cheek. Even from my peripheral view, she looks like a picture: full and drowsy, hands folded under her chin, lips pursed, cheeks drooping down. The house is quiet. He took the other three and their chaos out to do some shopping.

I sit. I rock. I breathe.

I don't think about how loud it will be when they get back or what we'll have for dinner or the mess in the living room or the circle of my arms that used to be home but now feels fractured under this new weight. I don't think about him going back to work or me driving to preschool or how rude this one sometimes acts or the fits that one throws or that she's too heavy for me to carry anymore and my arms are too full to tread in such thick water.

I don't.

Instead I just watch the sun stream through the windows and ingest the scent of her new skin and sit and sit and sit and let that fill me all the way up as she turns her head in her sleep and nests deeper into my neck.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It happens overnight.

The grass wakes up and one thousand tiny leaves are all born at once, dusting the landscape with a nascent green. Mother Earth groans through every crack in the soil as tiny shoots press out of the darkness and into the light. The air is damp and the dew that settles by morning blesses every single surface with drops of water made holy by the creeping rays of dawn.

An owl asks the moon to stay. It won't.


It happens overnight.

I convince myself that if I lie perfectly still, it will go away. This is not how I hoped it would happen.

I get up, walk around, sit down, lie back in bed. I can't will this away. It moves toward me like the change of seasons -- not a date marked on the calendar but as an unknowable, untimable transition set in motion by something secret -- the sap flowing under the bark.

I tap his shoulder. Once. He doesn't respond. I don't really want him to. But I wait a moment and tap again. He rolls toward me.

"So," I say.

I pause. The silence is the full moon -- round and complete with two eyes watching from above our heads.

It takes him a few minutes to convince me out of bed again. I know I'm surrendering to gravity once my feet hit the floor. This is a hill I have to roll down.

There's the bustle and the hurry, the phone calls and the neighbor arriving. The night air rushes through the door behind her, circling around my ankles and tugging on me like the tide until I'm outside. In the car.

What was just mild tightens a few notches and I sigh after it loosens again.

"Goodness, it's nice to not have a contraction," I say. We're halfway there.

The next pain holds my head under the water and I gasp for air. He notices the change. I hear him call the hospital and ask that the midwife meet us in the ER. I'm someplace else already. I don't feel the speed he's driving.

We get there. I sense that the lights are too bright and there are more people around me than I would care to share this experience with. I hear his voice on my periphery and its almost too far away but it matters more than anything.  I don't care where I am anymore just find me a safe nest so that what's going to happen can happen and I can breathe again.

It does. I do.

They place her on my chest.

She's whole.
She's here.

I see her sisters written all over her face. But her own name is etched there, too.

Rose Geraldine.

First to speak for the color of life. Second to root into family and the strength of one great woman and all the great women I've ever known and the sight to find the good in every breathing thing.

When we get home from the hospital I see green outside the front window. Spring came.

It happened overnight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Just like any other unborn baby, she takes up all my space. She shoves my innards aside.

Here is my bladder, flat as a pancake. I have to get up every two hours to pee. Here is my stomach, compressed to nothing, yet somehow I have to fill it enough for the both of us. I wonder about the location of my liver and and how it's surviving but it must be there. My intestines, too. I have a lot to digest.

My ribs form an upper limit. A boundary of bone. Yet she reaches up out of my torso, feet stretching, searching. She pedals against my brain, blow after blow, driving the revolutions of a wheel that empties my mind of anything. Everything. But her. And the laundry that must get done before she arrives.

My belly is a balloon that will deflate very soon. My mind will contract with it. I know. I've done this before.

But I trust. trust. trust that mine is a well that keeps on filling. A flood of living water saturates the cracks of a space that seems so full

of everything
of nothing

cold and keeping me alive so when the stars line up and the season changes again, I'll still be able to



enough to call a rose a rose
and find my own face in the mirror.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The fruit in my hand is ripe. Soft. It's flesh yields under my thumb. I slide the knife as shallow as I can and the peel's surface buckles, tiny ripples rolling across solid skin.

The knife moves easily and the peel falls, ringlets shorn into the sink. Now the fruit is slippery, juicy, naked in my palm. I chunk it into fork-sized pieces and separate them equally into bowls. One slice has a blemish, though -- a bruise. From my thumb? Did I drop it earlier or maybe set it down too hard? Was it packed too tightly, under too much pressure?

I don't know.

But I pop it into my mouth -- none of the kids will eat something that looks even slightly irregular. It tastes sweet, just like I expected.



I can't settle on a name until I see what she looks like.

He laughs. Just pull out a newborn picture of any of her sisters if you really want to know.

I look down at the skin pulled tight across my belly. Somehow, even this fourth time around, I've escaped stretchmarks. It doesn't seem possible. Perhaps they'll show up yet.

I imagine the girl folded within my womb. She reveals her position easily -- even though I can't see her, she's not hiding at all. Here are her feet, pushing hard just below my ribs, always on the right. Her spine presses against my whole left side and her weight shifts when I roll over in bed. She sinks like a rock and settles into the other soft shore. She expands her chest up and down up and down -- breathing practice. And -- oh -- she turns her head and I wonder how she doesn't burst this bubble.

She feels whole. Bones and skin, face and limbs, and a mind just waiting to open to the world I see, ready to collect on its pages all the beautiful pain and excruciating joy of a life worth living.

But for now she's breathing under water, submerged beneath a skin I can't see through.

I wonder what she looks like.

I wonder what her name will be.



When she was a newborn, she rarely cried. She stayed awake in the night, though, staring at me with eyes that looked black as midnight and deep as the universe expanding in all directions.

I don't know why I didn't just lay her down and doze off myself -- like I said, she rarely cried. But I couldn't stop holding her. I just kept staring into her eyes and what I saw there was written in another language. But still, I should have taken notes.

The morning light would ignite her eyes blue again, a pale fire draped in front of those windows to the soul that seemed so wide open in the night.

Now she sleeps all night. She doesn't even call for water anymore when she wakes up thirsty at 2 a.m. or request a companion in the dark if she has to go to the bathroom. She just races across the hallway on her own, bare feet pounding ahead of the shadows she sees as tendrils reaching out to snare her.

She's getting so tall.

In the morning, sometimes, her eyes flash with a stubborn fire and with all that smoke I can't see the source of the emotions boiling beneath her surface.

I don't know what to say. It's usually the wrong thing.

She exists outside me completely. I've already counted her fingers and toes -- they've always been all there. I've already plumbed the depths of her eyes and felt the enigma of a soul separate from mine. And her skin is not going to slip off. I wouldn't want it to.

But I know her name. I know what I've given her. What I'm still giving her.

And so I will watch her unfold, doing my best to hold whatever she wants me to.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The wind! It sounds like the wave pool!

She never heard the ocean but she has the comparison right. These gusts are rolling over us like waves of surf. Pushing against our senses again and again, the work of unseen currents.

Her hair sticks out of her hat and her face turns up to the grey sky and I push the swing away and wait for it to come back again and again and again and again.


I'm not really interested in birthing again, I tell my mother with a laugh, partly joking, partly not. I've done this before. I know what it is:

Beautiful. Empowering. Life changing. Surreal. Primal. But also terrifying and terrible, those crescendos of pain that tear a body in two. I haven't forgotten.

Did I ever tell you what my mother said the day I was born? She has, but I let her tell me again. Because I like the story. And hearing her tell of it.

It had been nine years since my sister was born. When my mother was in labor with me and they pulled up to the hospital, she asked my father, "Can we just drive around the block one more time?" She wasn't ready to go in. 

I think I know exactly how she felt.


I'm in the shower. The sound of the steaming water and the air-circulating fan cocoon me in a space of loud silence. I tweak the temperature -- just a little hotter -- and tell myself one more minute. But then I hear a sound. Sharp. Urgent. Loud over the white noise. I turn off the water and stand still, dripping. I towel up, step out, and flick off the fan.


But it's nothing. They're just laughing. Screams of glee that sound just a degree away from cries of pain.

I turn on the hair dryer.


My eyes are closing, pen in hand, blank page still blank. But a crack sends sparks of adrenaline down my spine. Thunder always startles me. And it affects me even more so now, knowing that at least one of three sets of eyes have likely been shocked open. They're all scared of storms in the night.

But it's March. It's snowing. The crack was just the snow plow's blade greeting the pavement. The rumble just metal dragging on rock, up one side of the street and down the other. The sound fades as the truck moves to another street. No one wakes up.


And so, ready or not, my mother was born. Unconscious of the agony her crossing over caused, blinded for a moment by the lights of this new world, already wrapped up in love as warm as the womb.

Years and years went by. My mother grew up. My grandmother grew old.

When she came to the end of things,  I know my mother would have given anything to drive just once more around the block with the woman who carried her, who birthed her. But when my grandmother breathed her last breath, I like to imagine that she rode out of this world on the same waves that washed my mother ashore. Yes, there was agony -- not for her but for the souls she left behind. But then there was the brightness of a new existence. And love swaddling her tight with all the warmth she had ever, ever known. Imprinting it upon her. To take along.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Out of the corners of my eyes, I see shadows. Subtle movements. Apparitions that when I turn to see face on -- are not really there. Sometimes, it's just my own hair falling into my line of sight. Or the shadow cast by the sandbox, looking for a moment like a black animal crouched in the yard. Or a piece of furniture in the other room that I saw a second ago as something stepping through the bedroom door.

Even though I am easily spooked, these split second sightings do not raise the hair on my neck. But several times a day I do these double takes, expecting to see something unexpected. It's never anything but it leaves footprints in my mind, murmuring echos of something not here that was. Or not here that will be.

I can't tell which.


I'm 23. It's something like 2a.m. The nurse walks in and softly speaks. The baby won't settle so she thinks its time to try feeding again. I sit up. She's changing the baby's diaper and I think maybe that's my job but I'm happy to sit right here and watch, too lightheaded, still, to get up. She gentles the baby into the crook of my arm, an awkward transfer. I'm afraid of that floppy neck. The baby's weight and shape feel foreign to me as I try to position her for a good latch. After much trying and much assistance, I feed her successfully. My feelings of accomplishment are dampened slightly by the dawning realization that this is a process I'll need to repeat. Every two hours. For a year.

A small voice in my heart starts chanting -- oh no oh no. But I ignore it, focusing instead on memorizing the shape of the baby's face, and the curve of her lips, and the impossible small size of her hands.


A heart murmur, they tell us lightly the day after her birth. We'll have you get that checked out.

And now she's two weeks old. I'm morphing into something new, cocooned in a microcosm of hours that blend together, days that bleed into nights. I look in the mirror and my own face looks huge -- her tiny features have been burned onto my retinas and I'm shocked by the grotesque size of my nose and lips and forehead.

She sleeps through the heart ultrasound. The tech says little. I watch the blues and reds dance on the screen, wondering what he's seeing, worried only a little.

The doctor declares the murmur benign and it fades into nothing as the months pass. It's only in retrospect that I learn about the gallons and rivers of worry that this could have deserved. That in rare cases where the nothing is really something, babies die.

I had no idea. I could only focus on learning how to feed her.


And now she's seven. It's something like 7:30 and I let her know she needs to start getting ready for school. This, somehow, sends her into emotional imbalance. The next twenty minutes are hard for her. I don't take it personally (for once). I'm learning.

When it's time to meet the bus I start to put on my coat. She declares that she wants to walk by herself.

My heart murmurs -- oh -- and a subtle sigh shivers behind my ribs.

She only has to cross one side street to get there and it's not a busy one and I wanted her to start walking on her own soon anyway with the new baby on the way. But she has always responded with because I love you and want to be with you when I've offered the option in the past. 

And here it is -- no hug, a short good-bye, and she's walking down the street with cloudy, unsourced anger stuck to the bottoms of her boots. I want to follow her. Take the hug she doesn't want to give. But I just hang up my coat instead.

This is, perhaps, the first of four times forty-four such exits, my heart murmurs.

I know, I sigh. I know. 


It surprises me that no one is out walking this morning. It's cold but calm. Icy but sunny. I'm enjoying this as much as the dog. I always do. We are both pretty easy to please. Simple.

I cross the bridge and pause to look over the side. The stream beneath flows shallow and swift, only its edges crusted with ice. The dog stops pacing and the breeze stops whispering and the distant traffic lulls for a moment. I expect to hear the water as it sighs over partly submerged rocks and branches, as it tinkles past brittle bits of ice -- but there's nothing. It moves silently, at least from my vantage point.

I watch a small piece of bark taken by the current, turning over itself, end over end, passing over the ripples imprinted on the sandy bottom. Even though my ears can't pick up the sound, my heart hears the soft murmurings that it rides upon, as it comes from wherever its been and moves toward wherever it's going.