Posts Tagged ‘family’




We sat around the oval kitchen table

and made hats out of ribbons

and paper plates, and we piled them high

with golden grapes and fake flowers.

I remember thinking how great, how magic it was

that something we’d use for dinner

transformed into something so elegant.


Today I stared hard at a paper plate,

as if I could return to that state of delight

and easy grace. Was this how Cinderella felt

when she gazed at the pumpkin the day

after the ball? Wondering if the magic

happened at all? Weighing the shape

of reality against her dream?


Yes, I tell myself, it was real,

the glittering fruit, the beauty I felt,

the laughter around the table.

And it was a dream, the way my parents

made it seem as if we had it all.

And when the clock struck midnight,

none of the magic left at all.



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There was a time when I’d pull his hair out

if he sat too close to me on the couch.

Now, I curl into his right side,

lean my head on his shoulder,

feel the trembling of his chest

as he weeps. How good it feels

to be close to him as we grieve.

How familiar, the shape of his head,

the heft of his hand as he reaches for mine.

How deeply right, this leaning

into sorrow together.

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for Billy Miller, remembering events on January 4, 2012



When the man pulled my father

from the icy waters of Lake Michigan,

he did not know years later my step-daughter

would need someone to buy her a sweater

so she would feel nurtured, did not know

that my son would need someone

to make a mosaic with him so that he

could feel loved, did not know

that my daughter would need

someone to tell her that she

was beautiful. When the man

pulled my father out of the water—

my dad had been fishing alone—

that off-duty fireman couldn’t have known

that years later this very daughter

would sit beside her father and hold his hand

and weep at the simple gift

of being able to hold his hand.

The fireman was doing what he knew to do—

to rush to the person in need of help.

He didn’t think then of the other lives

blessed by the man. Did not think

of the other lives he blessed with his hands

when he chose to try, though the odds

of saving the man were low.

He knew only to reach.

Years later, my mother still sleeps

beside the man that was pulled

from the winter lake.

Give us hands that know to reach

for each other—stranger, neighbor,

friend. Give us hands that unthinkingly

choose to save the family

we’ve never met.


See the news story here.






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One Thanksgiving




for those not around

the table, setting

a place in the heart

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One Together


weeping under the weight

of the burden, still grateful

to help carry it

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In the crèche arranged on the piano each Christmas,

the clay face of the virgin mother is eternally beaming

at the miracle child in his swaddling clothes,


and the miracle child is sleeping, always peacefully sleeping,

no matter how loudly my son pretends he’s a race car, no matter

how many people are laughing in the kitchen.


And Joseph, he is looking out across the piano

as if staring through the stable, staring through centuries,

perhaps, as if he can already see the tables upended


in the temple, can already smell the sweetness

of shared loaves and the pungency of fish, can hear

Mary weeping, or is it me he hears, playing piano


and singing about the hopes and fears of all the years,

then pausing to ask my children not to argue, please,

and to use their kindest voices with each other—and they


continue to bicker. Meanwhile the shepherd and his sheep

gaze up at the crack in the wall in awe, as if there were stars there,

stars brightly shining, and yonder, breaking, a new and glorious morn.

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These, too, are your family,

any who would build a wall,

any who would throw a stone.

The other is your sister,

your brother, your mother.

Pick up the stones

and build fire circles

where everyone’s voice

can be heard.

Tear down the walls

and use the debris

to build bridges.

Tattoo these words

on your hands,

on your tongue:

we are all in this


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Going Forty-Five

Still in spots, oh!,

the fawn at the edge of the willows.

It tugged with startling ferocity

at its mother’s underside.

I wanted to stop and stare,

to linger there, to disappear

in the thicket and watch

as they grazed and nursed and slept.

Instead, I continued on toward

home at the edge

of the willows where there

were hungry mouths

to feed, and milk to warm,

and waiting beds.

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I hear America singing, varied carols I hear.
–Walt Whitman

After the mashed potatoes were passed
and after the wine was sipped from the glass
and after the children had left their plates
and before we were ready for pie and cake
we sat around the table and sang
Hotel California, Scarborough Fair,
Morning Has Broken, Walk the Line,
Blister in the Sun, Wild Mountain Thyme
Moon River and My Romance,
Blood on the Saddle, If I Were a Rich Man,
and the words we didn’t know we hummed
or we la-dee-dahed until we found
a phrase to lead us in again.
It’s so like music, gratitude,
the way it draws us closer in
and makes the world feel intimate,
as if anything could happen,
even peace, even love.

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In my family
my job was to
be perfect.
To get straight As,
the lead in plays,
to sing in tune,
to clean my room,
to not be loud,
to please a crowd,
to not say no.
I loved them so,
and this is why
I learned to lie.

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