from the second floor, leaning over the banister

How many times
did I stand
at the top
of those stairs,
listening to one-sided
phone conversations,
trying to assign
names and faces to pronouns
to determine a subject:
someone I knew? or, better yet, me?
Eavesdropping on secrets,
confessions, predictions- most of them riddles,
but sometimes a name or a phrase would stand out
and my rapt little ears would
savor, devour, chew
and consider and store it away. This is
a reminder to self of how easily
words can tear holes
in the fabric of love
and to expand the definition
of improvisation
to include ‘to parent’
as a common synonym.

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unbearable

There were words spoken
out of turn
and a sharp twist of truth sprang out
ugly, unwanted, embarrassing- the very thing
that was supposed to be disguised
appeared boldly and she-
left voiceless and without
the opportunity to shift
her weight in preparation
for attack- tripped backwards, slipped
behind her words and left
without us noticing, while her body remained
at the table, quietly listening
to nothing at all, her eyes
carving alibis
into each breath

Frog Noses

Mommy holds
my hand
very tight
asks something about a ‘prognosis’
makes me think of frog noses
I giggle, she squeezes, brows
furrowed. I bite my lip.

Later, licking swirly soft serve in a race
against the hot hot heat, she stares
over my shoulder
fist tucked
under her chin, her spoon
forgotten halfway to her mouth.

I want to tell her
she’s dripping on the table-
she hates when things are messy-
but I keep quiet, scared
of her sighs, of the silence
and of her empty eyes.

On your Birthday

I’d like to write you

a poem. I would tell you how much

chocolate I would give

away to save you from the threat

of a dessertless meal. I might measure

my love in heartbeats; the ones

I can hear with my ear against

your chest, the ones

you gave me, and the many

yet to come. This hypothetical

poem would probably be brief, in part

because my attention span

is short (did I get that from you?) and

also because I’d like to finish

by 3:00. But before I write the final line,

I should remind you

how deeply

you are loved and how

privileged I have been

to know you

all my life.

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