A stranger stands ahead of me 
in line at the Post Office 
in a dusty black hat 
grey gauze hanging below its rim.
Her neck, also dusty, is
bent, the vertebrae like tiny peaks.
An old black jacket hangs from her shoulders.
As she stands in line, she tugs at the jacket
to straighten it.  Her worn black pants fall 
to just above the cast on her ankle.
Gauze wraps that too.
I am afraid to stand near her,
hang back as the line moves forward.
I cannot see her face but fear 
it may be ghastly.

Her turn comes at the counter.
I’m next.
When I glance over, I recognize her. 
She is the gypsy I’ve seen here so often.
Her dark penciled brows 
and bold rouged cheeks usually
paired with dark skirts and tops.
Today, hurt, she does not look herself.
She leaves a suitcase by the door
while she gets her mail.
That task complete, 
she straightens her jacket,
collects her suitcase 
and wheels it and her pain
back into the world.

depositphotos_150954514_xl.jpegOctober 11, 2021


Abuse is subtle
Nothing friends see
I'm blamed for his mistakes
He credits my work to himself.
Observes I'm “almost” thin enough
Implies small things lacking
If only I were smarter, prettier, quieter
He laughs when I fail 
Photographs my clumsiness 
Ignores my success
Mumbles under his breath
the whispered threat
“I’m getting angry.”

He pouts childlike when ignored
Hovers over me in arguments
He buries the kitchen table in papers
Resists clearing it even for parties.
Holds my arm tightly lest I leave
The Christmas tree he promises to take down
remains up until Easter.
His hatchet for cutting up chicken
for the dogs rests against the hoosier.
It gives me pause.
He harangues me while I book vacation.  
I select the seats.  
I'm in 13A
He’s in 32B.


Dad dreams we flee the Nazis,
our ‘55 Buick low on gas.
We drive by the sea.
They come with guns.
They come in submarines.
He wakes sweating and terrified.
He shares his fear with me.
Nazis enter my dreams
dragging the stench of Dachau.
They come with guns.
They come in submarines.
I wake sweating and terrified.
Neo-Nazis march in Charlotte
armed - flags waving,
hatred palpable and near.
In dreams, I hear
the thud of boots
on the night stairs.


When I think of the farm
it’s the stone bridge and country
road curving by the low barn.
It’s Tony’s tomatoes, white peacocks.

When I think of the farm, I see pine
trees, green pastures, the
bramble roses by the creek
sheep standing in the field.

When I think of the farm
I watch women spinning wool
the whir of wheels descant to
soft voices and gentle laughter.

When I think of the farm, I see
Airedales, Romney sheep,
a rabbit and Rhode Island Reds,
a well-fed Peaceable Kingdom.

I do not think of the ground
we walked last night when
one of their flock went missing
fearing death had stalked a lamb.

When I think of the farm
I don’t see Anthony striding the fields
Julie peering into corner and cranny
in tense, sweaty anxiety.

Death’s but a hair’s breadth
away each day. It makes
sweet our brief walk through time
I don’t think of that.


Like me.
That’s the drug – a draft of this nectar
can own me into the next life for an accolade
you barely recall.

Like me.
Quiet my fears with the smile and nod
I awaited endlessly at war zone dinner tables, parentless
performances and lonely surgeries.

Like me
and it’s ok not to have been born a son,
to be funny, a tree climber and never a prom queen
to get migraines.

Like me
and I could weep, run,
dance, spread my arms to this fast warming world
in joy, terror and love.


Father would quiz me at the dinner table
on my academic failings.
“What’s the capital of Wisconsin?” he’d inquire as I mixed peas into my mashed potatoes.
“Where’s Patagonia?” he’d demand as I twirled spaghetti onto my fork.
“Spell squirrel.” he’d order as I lifted a forkful of pot roast to my lips.
My mind would freeze – my brain become empty as a clear frozen lake
and the scared rabbit of my heart would skitter across the ice seeking shelter.
Finally I ‘d pull from somewhere
and the meal would resume its course.
To this day, I prefer to eat alone and
direct questions hit me like the Artic Express,
blasting away all thought.
People think I’m arrogant or not-too-bright.
They can’t see that small rabbit
skating frantically for the far shore.