Category Archives: Stories

Targeted.

“When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.” G. Washington

Not a little pregnant, but a lot, I mean really
huge, like someone glued a shelf to my belly

and then crammed in as much as it could hold
until I rocked unsteadily, big and bold.

There’s a reason why we protect pregnant women,
and it isn’t just because a new life is beginning,

with all that cuteness about to arrive, no, and not
just because they might lose the baby if hurt or shocked.

Factor those in, sure, but part of it has to be
that most moms can’t do it themselves. At least, not me,

I was pretty sure, as I clutched the fanny pack
that no longer fit around my hips and back

and slung it over one shoulder, on the same side
as the rib I’d cracked four months ago (with the pride

of being tough and macho, carrying paving stones),
the same side as the eye with the stye, and frail bones,

the sprained wrist. Not that the other side was better
with both feet swollen, too large for my cute leather

flats, so crammed into sneakers, and the wrist mirrored
with a sprained ankle I dragged behind me, awkward and tired,

lurching along, belly-first — hop-drag, hop-drag, hop-drag.
I was startled when a breeze went by, lifting my bag,

and trying to slide it past my crooked elbow.
It didn’t work, thank the Lord. I didn’t know

what we would do without that last twenty I’d hid
when my husband lost his job, just in case needed,

and the need was now. Then, when the breeze turned out
to be a wiry guy on a bike that slid past me, the lout

dismounting, and turning back, well, I don’t know
what happened. I guess I lost it, that cocky crow

strutting towards me, confident and easy in his stride,
my brain locked on, “You think I’m a target? You think I’D

MAKE A GOOD TARGET? Just because I’m pregnant and sick
and injured and tired?” The strangest words came past my lips:

“You want to fight for it?” He laughed, and said, “Sure,
I’ll fight you for it.” So, I kept hop-drag walking, fear

and anger blazing together, thinking, “a) this is
the stupidest thing I have ever done in this

life,” and “b) The only part of my body that works
is the one arm, so I get one strike. One, you jerk,

to take you down.” I held one image in my mind,
the heel of my hand smashing his face in and blind,

calculating the angle, force; feeling how I’d
push off my leg, throw weight behind the arm, and guide

it all right through his head. I stared at his eyes,
hoping this was quick. I stared, and stared at his eyes.

Then he stopped looking at mine. He glanced around,
noticed people gathering to watch the bout,

and evidently decided to revise his plan,
slowed down, turned around, went back to bike, and ran

(or the bike equivalent), peddling down the street,
turning once, to see if the crazy big-bellied bitch

was still after him. I was okay with that,
the shrinking ripples of his purple satin jacket.

Embarrassment.

“When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.” G. Washington

During Mass, we were supposed to sit quietly,
tidy, with scabbed knees tight together, and feet flat.
We sang, “Hail, Holy Queen” & “Immaculate Mary”
often, because nuns liked them, and “Magnificat.”
One day, I stood instead outside, shuffling my feet,
doors closed (I’d be in trouble if I went on through).
I wore the uniform (stiff plaid skirt with box pleats,
white Peter Pan collar, and black Mary Janes, too),
but I’d forgotten my lace mantilla, and women
had to have their hair covered. Sister Mary came
looking, frowning when she found me, unforgiven.
“You forgot again? Don’t you have something else? Shame!”
She took my schoolbag, rummaged. Found tissues, not lace.
Bent a straight pin to hold the ugly thing in place.

Our Lady of Praying

Little one, sit here. Yes, we’re going to pray.
No, you don’t need to kneel. Sit on my lap.

Take a breath. Take another. Count each one.
Then stop counting. Keep breathing. Start again.

Words? Oh, yes, you can pray with words. Do you
have something special in mind? Ah, lovely!

Are those your own words? Your mama taught you?
Yes, they are very nice prayers. I use them

sometimes. You may pray with them if you want,
but you don’t need to always pray the same.

If you listen, words might come, or no words.
Let’s try again. First, wiggle! Good. Then stop.

Breathe. Listen. Breathe. Listen. What do you hear?
Breathing? Wonderful! What else? Your heartbeat?

Exciting! And now you’re tired of praying?
Time for playing? Well done, dear one, well done.

Our Lady of Anything Will Help

The surface of the abandoned
parking lot is in chunks where weeds
broke through. Dead center, a robin
stands, stretches up, calling loudly,
It looks a little lost. It turns
from side to side, looks around, hops
forward, and calls again, louder.
It keeps calling, hopping, calling.
The sidewalk rattles with a loud
skateboard under some guy who’s gone
almost before you know he’s there.
A woman is sitting crosslegged
right at the edge of the sidewalk,
slumped slightly and smoking the end
of a cigarette. She looks up
before he gets there, and slowly,
warily pulls a lean puppy
towards her, out of the skateboard’s path.
The sleek pooch shifts and settles down
on her worn jeans. She strokes the dog’s
glossy fur, over and over.
A cardboard sign behind her says,
“Anything will help.” A young gal
stops, and bends, passing a packet
of what look like tickets. As hands
reach toward her, she reaches upward
to meet them, then pauses, looking
confused. “Coupons,” the answer comes
unasked. “See, the restaurant’s name
here?,” then draws a line under words
with her finger. “Take them there, and
they’ll feed you.” The older woman
thanks her, and does not say a word
about dogs not being allowed
in there, or that she can’t make out
the name in odd script on the strips.
It will help. She’ll get someone else
to read it to her. She’ll trade them,
get someone else to watch the pup,
or get someone else to go get
the food. It will work out, somehow.
After all, anything will help.

Our Lady of Cookies

I made you cookies. I feel bad
that you feel bad, and I wanted
to help, even if just a bit.

I’m sorry, but they are gluten
free. That’s because gluten makes me
sick, not you, but I swear, they taste

yummy anyway. I promise!
Everyone says these are their faves!
You said you like oatmeal cookies

best, so that’s what I did. I used
honey to sweeten them because
it’s supposed to be healthier

than sugar, you know. And I put
cherries and cinnamon in since
they are good at fighting cancer.

I hope it’s true. And extra eggs
for more protein, more than oatmeal.
Didn’t the doctor say you need

to eat more? You’ve always been thin
anyway. Oh, and chocolate chips!
But not milk chocolate chips, no, sir.

I got you dark chocolate, ’cause
that’s supposed to be healthier!
And so delicious! They smelled so

amazing while they were baking.
Anyway, you just take these home
with you. I hope they are okay.

I hope you feel better. I wish
I could bake a magic cookie
that would make everything better.

Reincarnations

“When I come back in another life can it be
as child, not as mother?”
From “Arguments with destiny: 15” by Luisa Igloria

The space between life and death
and life again is so bright,
shivering with eloquent vowels,
songs that hover out of range
of our hearing, the braided
textures of bounding bounded
light.

Conversations there don’t fit
into our words, minds, bodies,
or so my tiny daughter
assures me. She remembers.
She says not to worry; smiles.
What’s most important never
dies.

Her eyes streak with color like
a slow small explosion, leafed
and layered, interlaced
fibers twining together
as inverted galaxies,
first hinted at in Doptone
dust.

Around her small shape gather
half-forgotten words from stars
and planets, floating featherlike.
The cosmic conversations
she describes form a kind of
invisible aura of
points,

dissolving memories not
permitted, treasured echoes.
In her, the words of God melt down
into an ingot of flesh
and vision. I believe her.
I can almost see the shimmer,
heat

radiating from her birth.
I can hardly wait. But, “No!”
she says sharply. “Wait! Next time
it’s my turn to be the mommy.
You have to promise to wait
for me!” We stare. I recall
blue

veins chained and knotted and twined
together across my chest,
as my heart stretched and grew great
to hold her, this alien
angel, this eternal ache.
I can’t argue about this. I
promise.


This was written in response to a poem by Luisa Igloria, the day after Luisa’s poem was posted, and was originally posted on the same site. You can find the original post at Via Negativa.

This is a true story in our family, and my (now adult) daughter is heartily sick of my telling this tale. I hope that this more poetic version of it will be more appealing to her.

Poem for My Brother

The bad-boy bully
led the bunch of bikes
and gangbangers
bouncing over
bumps and bends,
gutters and ruts;
grinding the grass.

The bad-boy bully
led them bouncing
over the chubby baby,
over the baby’s belly
in the mud puddle
where he’d fallen,
where he lay wailing.

The bad-boy bully
led them laughing —
laughing! — with a sneer,
like the muddy babe
was dirt. Laughing,
wheeling wild, and
begging for broken.

The bastard bully.