Category Archives: Free Verse/Prose Poems

Our Lady of Endurance

Somewhere a whip-thin girl slumps on the edge of the bed she couldn’t afford to replace after she was raped in it; then straightens, stands, and goes to work, where she smiles and laughs and brightens the day for everyone around her. I am her.

I am the mother and the father,
The brother and the sister.

Somewhere a wife apologizes to the neighbors for keeping them awake last night. She doesn’t mention that her screaming was because her husband was beating her again. They know. I remember. I am her. Somewhere a mother takes her youngest child wailing into her bed, so they can both sleep and feel safe. I am her.

The cat that bats your mouse,
The dog that tugs the leash.

Somewhere a woman stands silent and still until he turns one last time and she waves back, nerves jangling invisibly within. Somewhere another woman locks the door behind her, turns away from the house, and walks away as if this is any other day, but knows this is the end and beginning of her life, if she makes it through the first day of freedom.

The coon that snarls under the porch,
The cow that doesn’t avert her gaze.

Somewhere a woman takes off her apron and puts on the rest of her uniform, hands out lunches they wish were something else to the kids and drives them to school before going to her own duties. Somewhere a woman waits for a bus while a nearby man shudders with fear of the scars on her face. I am her, I am her.

The bush of berries tart and sweet,
The tree on which you lean and weep.

Gray-haired, a woman in a suit pulls out a folder to study papers for today’s decision. Silver-haired, weights in each hand, she briskly walks the track, knowing she can’t put it off forever, but trying to minimize the time she’ll be a burden.

I am there, facet, flicker, stone, stump,
Wind or window, the flame and the extinguisher.

I am her. I am here. I am all around you.


Our Lady of Waiting

Waiting to be born
Waiting to be fed
Waiting to walk
Waiting to talk, to tell your stories
Waiting to know the alphabet
Waiting to know your numbers
Waiting to learn the times tables
Waiting for your report card
Waiting behind the couch for your dad to get home
Waiting for the screaming to stop
Waiting for the bruises to fade
Waiting for the bathroom
Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the train
Waiting for dinner
Waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven
Waiting for the first snow
Waiting for Christmas
Waiting for Easter
Waiting for the last snow
Waiting for the trees to bud
Waiting for the violets
Waiting for the strawberries
Waiting for the bell
Waiting for summer
Waiting for the first day of school
Waiting to grow into your shoes
Waiting to dance en pointe
Waiting for your first period to come
Then waiting for your period to come, over and over and over
Waiting for your learners permit
Waiting for your first car
Waiting for someone to understand your stories
Waiting for a friend
Waiting for your first date, first dance
Waiting for your first kiss
Waiting for your first kiss from someone you want
Waiting for your first kiss from someone who cares
Waiting for the boy to call
Waiting for the blow to fall
Waiting for your prince to come
Waiting to turn 21
Waiting for the ring
Waiting to find out if you are pregnant when you don’t want to be
Waiting to find out if you are pregnant when you want it desperately
Waiting to tell him you lost the baby
Waiting for forgiveness
Waiting for someone else to be born
Wondering who they will be
Waiting to hear that all is well
Waiting for the other shoe to fall
Waiting to hear that it can be fixed
Waiting for sleep
Waiting for the baby to stop crying
Waiting for a raise
Waiting for your first house
Waiting for paint to dry
Waiting for the pot to boil
Waiting for the sun to set
Waiting for the stars to come out
Waiting for a fish to bite
Waiting for life to be simple
Waiting for the movie to start
Waiting for the monster to jump out
Waiting for the girls to scream
Waiting for the curtain to go up when you are on the other side
Waiting for your big break
Waiting to make up
Waiting for the lie
Waiting for the truth
Waiting for the truth to be used against you
Waiting for him to come home
Waiting to hear him admit he lost his job, again
Waiting for the phone to ring
Waiting for a knock on the door
Waiting for the house to sell
Waiting for the divorce to be finalized
Waiting to forgive
Waiting for your child to come home from school
Waiting for your favorite color to be in fashion again
Waiting for your favorite dress to fit again
Waiting for the next book in the series to come out
Waiting for someone to listen
Waiting for your mother to get better
Counting her breaths when they stop
Waiting for your father to figure out he needs help
Waiting to hear if they could find him
Waiting to hear how the surgery went
Waiting your turn
Waiting at the doctor’s office
Waiting for the results of the biopsy
Waiting for chemo
Waiting for hair
Waiting for a recurrence
Waiting to say so long for now
Waiting for the pain to stop
Waiting for the pain to stop
Waiting to stop
Waiting for the priest
Waiting for light

Speaking in Code (Unmentionables, 24)

It’s all about getting to first base, third base, sliding into home. It’s all about you, and nothing about me. It was never about the money. Of course it wasn’t, it never is. It’s about choices. Making choices, having choices. It’s about the details. I don’t think it’s funny. It’s all about shoulders, tied in knots. It’s about now. Right now. It’s about changing what “now” is.

This isn’t what it’s about. Tibet. Thailand. Tokyo. Tunisia. It isn’t about singing, elephants, thieves, late night neon lights, the moon that eats up the stars. It isn’t about having a big impact, like being scared in Katmandu when the ancient temples fall. It isn’t about blessings, or grace. It isn’t about how many hands it takes to do it. And we’ll never have Paris. Never.

Hawaii, where I’ve never been, but still I steam in the hot words; cradle fragile nuggets of juice that stain my arms lime. I am smeared with mango, scratched with blackberry, streaked hot pink with ōhelo ‘ai; aching for a sky the color of my bruises: violet, magenta, dusk. I buy awapuhi at the grocery to scent my dreams, mourn its scaly heat, brew a cup of jasmine comfort.

Underground tunnels are slippery with seepage, curved with the logic of water, carved with the stiffness of stone. There are rumors of desiderata in the darkness, but with the awkwardness of the misplaced, we know that intention alone will not discover the scattered seeds. Dragon’s teeth. It is the distant echoing. Lost, lost, long lost, the veins of gold bleed ice.

Remember that flashback we had? Where Sonja beat the evil wizard? Why didn’t she just feed him to Ryu-Wo? It was all about her. It was all about her hair. It was all about war, revenge, art. It’s all about art. It’s all about cutting out the heart. Let’s have another round before you go. I’ll pass. I’ll pass out. It’s just like you treat her like a human. Go figure.

This is round two. Don’t kill this person. This boy. This bed. This thing that cannot be pried out of my mouth. We need this to release the most powerful fighter who will ever exist. We need this to catch the mouse and cage it. We need this in black. We need this urgently. This is three. This is she. This is what a hero looks like. This is subzero. This too shall pass.

Sunflowers. How they embrace the searing sun. Open themselves to it, divide each spear of light into mathematical precision, the elegance of multitudes, rapacious hungers sated by their slick delicious oils. Or, perhaps each one being different, there is an opposite, flinching from fever, cringing from the moonlight. It’s about the sun, the sun shine. Where the sun never shines.

It’s all about Alice, tripping down the hole, the hole that grew to be large enough to hold her, and her world. It’s all about doing the time warp again, with the knees clenched tight, and the pelvic thrusts. It’s about love, hate, and big hair. It’s about making beautiful music. It’s about the team. It’s about taking one for the team. It’s about winning, taking control. Taking it.

Fragments (Unmentionables, 23)

[NOTE: We’ve been without network for 2 days, so I’m running behind on NaPoWriMo duties. I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.]


There was a laughing mouth,
but it wasn’t mine to wear.

A stormy night stuffed
with false fathers, who
(like some real fathers)
turn away when you
turn toward them, and then
poke you when you don’t.

I have the portrait
of her rapist, framed.
It was an heirloom.
I thought someone (me?)
should have it who knew.

Death wraps the dead
in forgiveness,
bathes them and us
in surprising
sweetness. Let go.
Let go. It’s time.

Like kittens no one wants
dumped in a grocery bag
under a broken bridge,
I’m trying to set free
a story no one wants
to hear, no one wants told.

Saying No (Unmentionables, 22)

“Consider the duty of saying No; to what we should say No;
and the difficulty and examples of saying it.”

But I did say no. I did. Or did I?

“No peace, no excellence, no safety, without being able to say No.”

When he pounded on the door, I said,
no, I’m sleeping, go away.

“Even inferior creatures have this power of saying No.”

When he said let me in, I said
it’s too late, go away.

“Saying No grows easier every time you do it.”

When he said he was thirsty, he’d been out running for miles,
when he dripped sweat and asked for a glass of water,
I said get real, let me go back to sleep, I’m not a water fountain,
go somewhere else.

“A saying No to them deliberately, honestly, and finally.”

When he said it was too late,
all the bars were closed,
I said then go home.

“But stop your ears, — refuse the thoughts and urgencies, — say No”

When he said home was too far away, I said
he should have thought of that sooner.

“This ‘saying-No’ and ‘saying-Yes’ is in his case
a veritable Paraphasia vesana, or insane language”

When he said, just a glass of water, just one glass of water, I said,

“But have we this power to say No?”

You promise? One glass of water, and you’ll leave?

“Lose no time by saying No, Let us to the green woods go.”

And then it really was too late.

“Whereas, if you say Yes, yes, you open the bulwark,
and it is like the letting in of water,
hard to stop, and always increasing.”

NOTE: Quotes mostly from:
Milne, John. “When and How to Say No.” Christian Treasury, December 1, 1868, v.24, pp.565-567.

The Face of Mercy (Unmentionables, 11)

[NOTE: The computer I was using fried on Sunday when I was writing this, so it was posted a day late, and I post dated it to make it fit the days for NaPoWriMo, and make it easier to track and find.]

(i) The face of mercy

is so dark. I couldn’t
make out his features.
He pulled his beater over
beside my sedan with its
flat tire, broken down
in the heart of the South Side
of Chicago, much too long
after midnight. Nearby,
the factory’s broken windows
also barely visible,
the streetlights burned out,
well most of them. He walks
slow, gangly, wiry, worn,
cheekbones jutting. I look
soft and white and well-fed,
Wonderbread. Two hours later,
he’s done jacking up my car,
replacing the tire. He won’t
take money, accepts my thanks,
calls this miracle “God’s work.”
He never told me his name.

(ii) The face of mercy

is tired and grizzled,
and doesn’t work here.
He’s probably the only one
for a hundred miles or more
who speaks even a little
of my language. I speak
none of his. I’m here on faith,
but there are no churches
for much farther than that,
in the thick of Eastern Europe
at a time when no one
even imagined the fall
of the Berlin Wall. Still,
he’s kind; explains I’m lost,
about to get on the wrong train
heading the wrong direction.
I grab his hand, grateful,
shake it vigorously, and run
for the right train, shouting,
“Thank you!” Later, I call him
my Communist angel of God.

(iii) The face of mercy

is a toddler, chubby,
unsteady, and so fast!
Running right past grandma,
past the eager aunts, right
to the saddest person there,
the only person looking away,
where the babe crawls up
onto the unwelcoming lap,
and refuses to leave.

(iv) The face of mercy

is young, soft, white, roundish
with a sharp chin and thick glasses,
surrounded by a dark cloud of fine,
frizzy hair. In class, she was quiet,
always, sitting in the back, while
I was loud and brash, right in front.
That morning, she went up to the prof,
and she told him what he was going
to do: let me take the final late.
That evening, the evening after
I was raped, she came to my door,
fierce and protective. I said no,
turned away. I didn’t let her in,
I couldn’t let anyone in. Still,
I never forgot that she came
without being asked, standing
in the dim twilight, in the doorway
where hours before my rapist stood
in the deep dark. It helped. It helped.
I never forgot her face, even if
I could never remember her name.

Masks (Unmentionables, 10)

Voilà! The classic little black strip without which any respectable bandit feels improperly dressed.

There’s always the ski mask for fuller coverage of those fleshier faces.

A feathered headdress with jewel-coloured diamond patchwork fitted to the face. The mask attracts all the attention, so you don’t need to.

These are just too darling. Perky plaid pollution filtration masks that color coordinate with your outfit.

Or let’s keep it simple. You can’t go wrong with a bandana, knotted at the neck and draped over the mouth. Too open?

We could custom print a black bandana with teeth, mandible, maxilla, and zygomatic bone, then you could pair it with sunglasses to scare other drivers on the highway when you ride your hog. Who knows? It might work.

A yellow fez-shaped blob of plastic dangling from overhead. It doesn’t fit. It’s not supposed to. Or so they say.

Oh, something more athletic. Tougher? Perhaps Iron Man? I know, you’re right. It’s been done to death.

A welder’s mask? Too heavy. Yes, one doesn’t want to appear too common. Naturally. Apollo astronaut helmet?

Gridded bars across the face and mouth, connected to sensors to alert you to injury. They don’t work. Well enough, anyway.

Do any of them work? Silly superheroes, do they really believe that jellybean-coloured scrap will hide their secret identity?

Better the full face latex, molded to fit, monster or clown, furred or striped, with crazy curly red hair stitched to the edges. But damn, someone could smoulder inside.

If they do, grab a pocket mask and suck in some air. Then push the air in them, whether they like it or not.

Something simpler, but along the same lines but cooler, only covering half the face, animal snouts. Just the snout and jaw, pick your animal!

Hmmm, not quite. Perhaps a hot pink gel pack, with cute smiley-face holes cookie cut into it, chilled or warmed, however you prefer. No?

Available in three colourways, baby blue or custard yellow or pure white, the disposable, pleated like the skirt of a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform.

More medical? The full face combo, complete with goggles, pocket resuscitator, and respirator. All clear plastic, but with a wave to distort the face behind.

Quite right. It DOES look like transparent tentacles wrapping around your head, shimmering, slick, beautifully malignant. Not the look you wanted?

Here’s something novel. First it’s a bra, but when the poison gas starts you can quickly convert each cup to an air filtration device. One for you, one for a friend, eh?

Too complicated? What about a scuba mask? Deep sea or snorkeling?

Ah, the steampunk goggles, of course. Brassy, sassy, and opaque, all at the same time. No? Vintage deep sea diver?

If that’s the style you’re going for, perhaps a military-grade full-face reusable … ? Of course. That would be insensitive.

Civilian-styling, perhaps a Dräger Deluxe 5500 Full Face with dual respirators?

No, I am NOT your mummy. Yes, they do look like bug’s mouths. No, they don’t wiggle side to side.

Perhaps death masks? We have an almost infinite supply, each one unique.

Or Guy Fawkes? None unique, all exactly the same, completely unidentifiable.

Yes, we can deliver that tonight. Did you want it gift-wrapped?