A lexicon for grief

how many words for snow

how many words for rice or rain or storms

We humans and our specificity

Yet no words for listening 

Hearing you

Being there, holding on, loving you 

Looking into….

Oops!  Already well into 

Greeting card territory

When what a body needs is those…those

Ladies in the black organza 

Wailing in the streets.

Where are they?  When we need them so?

All those things we need them to



Say, not say, feel

a new vocabulary 

Esperanto for grievers

Words for here I am with you (ret)

Just being here for you (ghurt)

You are not alone (hyop)

Breathing here with you (fppt…)

There are empty rooms and rooms for more

Make more. More for all the ways

I will be with you in silence

Letters strung together for the careful listener

Unspoken I am with you

Through the storm.

Stories small pebbly things

The previous night mother had attempted to make tea.  Tea then coffee, that was the plan.  In the little pre-packaged pouches provided by hotel concessions.

Upon inspection mother noted two nay, three things:

Advancing, almost marine rust on the warming plate

Water in the well from some previous occupant of the room

No heat, no perk 

So she reported it to the desk clerk, all the while noting the following-

A previous hotel encounter wherein a woman of rapidly advancing years has chided the desk clerk for a similarly broken coffee maker.

And the likelihood that somewhere, somehow, the night shift clerk possessed a hog, of the Harley-Davidson, not Charlotte’s Web variety.

He said they were all out of fresh coffee makers.

He said he would transmit her request for a new one to the day guy.

Who ended up being a woman of short stature.

Who said she would fetch a tall person to fetch a new one from a high shelf.

This leaving mother to picture the places in the hotel with high shelves and coffee makers

…as she returned to her room.

And talked to her lovely and prepossessing daughter approximately thus:

I was surprised you did not come to breakfast.

Well, in truth, it was because I knew you would bring back the good stuff.

I wanted you to come down because there was a family next to us. Grandparents, a dad discussing his absent son who was allowed to drive down on the highway.

He described the process the way you might describe throwing a child into deep water in order to swim–“eventually he stopped weaving and wobbling”-which of course makes one wonder about when he was “weaving and wobbling.”

Then the father called his son to breakfast-whisp of a boy with hair like a tornado-whoosh!

Knock on the door.

Daughter opens it to a young man, tall, dark, and handsome, like a prince in a fairy tale, only coffee maker instead of glass slipper.

He proffers the box, offers to install it. Mother says she can manage, not realizing that he is a prince, the door is a portal and that all along the coffee makers had carefully conspired to bring these two together.

To my esteemed humanist friend,

I confess

I was angry at first 

At real atrocities ignored and

fictions so promiscuously embraced

But then I thought heck

So what if she mixes her metaphors? Or fails to tally the cost 

Of a world unmoored by love?


I have this one

Abiding, hypothetical


Haven’t you ever been afraid that this triune omnipotent

God of love 

Might be just like 

Dustin Hoffman in the penultimate 

scene of The Graduate?

Pounding on the outside

(yes, the outside)

of the church, calling your name as you

Marry the wrong guy?

And if you do-

(what if you do!?)

Who will be there

By your side on the bus to forever?

Tree King

The before and the not-yet

Become the metaphysical geography of a mid-afternoon discourse-

What is the last holiday of a person’s life?

Passover?  Kwanzaa?  Thanksgiving?  Cinco de Mayo?  Christmas?

Christmas-I know you love Christmas!

As do the trees

Poised as they are, impatient,

On the far tether of human reckoning

Waiting for the signal

To clap 

Clap before their King

Feminism for ordinary stones

After giving the human mothers ample time to choose

The-would-be-has-been-will-be-stone-mover turned to this sea of

quiet rocks

Paced among them

Raised his arms wide

And spoke words of life over them-

Sing, cry, stomp, holler, embargo, resist, advocate, articulate…raise 

these your newborn voices

for all these

very little girls 

curled without defense-

half-a-billion muted, crucial

Question marks

as each loses

one simple, brutal

Round of rock-paper-scissors

in this place we have marked “private”

then left alone.

Thin (Fake news:real girls)

After the 911 call, the sirens, the knocked-in door.  After the 2-for-1 autopsy, the souping-out of ballistic shards in layers of mother, curls of child.  After the sewing up, the tissue samples, temporary storage in this antiseptic place. 

After this near-final totem of mother-and-child.

After all that

the cool and empty morgue fills with an emanation of light, softly cupped voices, perfumed flurry, fairy godmothers.  A little late she thought as they scooped and coddled the baby-little late she thought as they lifted her from the crook of each bent elbow, inexplicably washed and free of blood.  Here child, they murmur, try on this, try on that.  Blur of organza and tulle.

After the day she’s had she goes along with all the fuss. Come on, child, carriage is waiting!

And there they all are bippity, boppity, boop!  Apartment lot for courtyard, uncajolable vermin  with no intention of donning livery or pulling pumpkins.  No signs of princes.

Unfazed she realizes that even here, in the weird, magic-less limbo yonder, even here the grownups believe in magical fairytales..

which still end up 

doing no good for the real girls

Living then dying 


Fake news for real girls

once there was a real girl

who (lucky for her)

Lived in a city with superhero dolphins

So when the humans she lived with began to

Bruise bones beneath skin

Pull out hair

Leave signs of trauma on shared walls

Well.. the

The magic dolphins of San Antonio 

leapt to action!

Circled the child

Nudged her to safety

with their silvery, bottle-shaped snouts 

Clicked and nodded their unequivocal attention to all

The days of her distress

Used their shear numbers to buoy her up

Brought her 

bits of fish and garlands of seaweed

And in an unanimous decision 

Ferried her to their own

blue, cool comparatively safe


far from the

city where these human mothers had

Failed her