I once peeled

off my skin and put it in a Mason jar.

The rusted cap kept out the stories

when it lived on my bookshelf

next to the picture of us on our wedding day.


I thought my lungs, exposed,

would expand past my open ribs to

become a sinking zeppelin made of titanium and our future.

But instead, they outgrew my body and

burst into sunshine and sounded like butterflies.


I thought my heart, falling from my chest,

would explode into the earth, tunnel

through stone and turn

to soil with the worms and beetles

that lived in the garden behind our first house.
But instead, it became a hummingbird

sipping nectar from blossoms before

flying into tomorrow’s moon.


I once pulled

out my skin from a dusty Mason jar.

The rusted zipper stretched

from my ankle to my neck

as I stepped back into my shell,

now softer and full of holes.


Jesus watched

When I was 10 years old, I liked to play hide and seek tag. I and other kids from my Sunday school class did it every week. Half of them counted while the rest of us hid. When you were found, you had the chance to run away and hide again. If you were tagged, you had to count.


There was one game I remember the most. Or at least, I think I do. It might have been a dream. The counters began and the rest of us ran, our breath ripping like dull razors through our lungs. Our limbs pumping like iron-clad horses down the stairs, around the corner and into the darkness of an empty Sunday School room until we stood still, concealed in the darkness hoping our breath didn’t rip too noisily and our heart didn’t gallop too loudly.


That day I hid in my classroom behind the door. Where a silent, golden Jesus hung on the pure white wall above a verse about cheerful hearts being good medicine. Or maybe it was the one about the only begotten son. There was a table in the center of the room. It was the kind you could fold up, the legs wobbly like a newborn lamb. Wooden, heavy, marked with years of crayons and Elmer’s glue. If you stared at the tabletop long enough while the teacher talked on about Noah or Moses or Jonah — only sometimes did she mention the prostitutes or Jezebel — if you stared at the tabletop long enough, you could see tear stains although I am certain nobody actually cried in that classroom.


In one corner was a flannel graph. We always used the flannel graph. The plain blue felt background was sometimes sky, sometimes water, depending on the day. There was a plastic tub filled with felt landscapes and felt buildings. Felt props and felt people. Every Sunday, my teacher Mrs. Nygren would pull out that tub and smooth a landscape onto the blue background (today it was sky). She’d add clouds, a building and eventually a person.


Noah, Moses, Jonah and Jesus all had their own felt person. The 12 disciples did. John the Baptist did. So did Rahab and Mary Magdalene. And maybe Jesus’ mom. But she was always dragged behind a felt donkey on a felt sled across the felt desert with her swollen belly reflecting the heat of the felt sun in the sky.


Today, the felt board was a shadowy rectangle near the window. The cheap plastic blinds were closed. Threads of light peeked through and if I squinted, the window looked like the black and white striped suits guys in jail always wore in cartoons.


Just then, there was a noise at the door. I sucked in my breath and imagined I was Kronk in Emperor’s New Groove, when he paused mid-hum to squeeze himself against the wall as a guard marched on by. Except I wasn’t humming.


Sitting and waiting to be found was the most exciting and frightening part of all. The darkness surrounded me like a thick fog, threatening to strangle the excitement and anticipation out of my body. Each heartbeat would ring louder and louder than the toll of the church’s bell earlier that morning. The pastor had let me ring it the week before. I had grasped the prickly rope almost as thick as my arms and pulled it toward the ground with all my might.

Dong. The rope went up by itself, my feet lifting off the ground. My 90 pound body brought it back down again.

Dong. Again I flew into the air, imagining I was a superhero soaring across our city park, dodging the maple trees, zipping into the gazebo with its dark green railings and barely missing the metal jungle gym shaped like a UFO.

Dong. The sound in the steeple reverberated down the stairs, into the balcony, through the sanctuary and swept into the back room where I was flying in my Sunday best dress and Mary Jane shoes.


But now I wasn’t flying, I was standing as still as I could as the knob turned and door opened. My body was tight, tighter than  plotting my escape route if I was spotted. Around the table, past the flannel graph, and out the door.


A yellow knife of light shot into the room, a shadow glinting in the middle of it. I stared at the the light scraping across the floor, over the table and onto the opposite wall. Slowly, the knife widened and a voice came.


“Anyone in here? I said ready or not here I come. ”


The sound was harsh and poked at my limbs, pulling the hair on my skin to its fullest height. I held the air in my lungs, gently like you hold a kitten in your hands so it doesn’t make a sound. I closed my eyes roughly like you close the door of the root cellar behind you, just in case there is an invisible demon chasing you.


“Found you.”


Suddenly my hands were pinned by my sides against the wall and I was smelling the stale breath of the boy I hated most. Patrick. His grubby face, browner and dirtier than mine, was inches away from my nose. His always-dirty fingernails dug their way into my arm. His black hair tossed over his head like chaotic waves during a hurricane. Other kids said he had been in juvie. I didn’t know what that meant but they always said it a certain way that made me never want to ask.


The darkness still surrounded me like a thick fog in a forest that threatened to contain monsters and angry trees that tore at your clothes with sharp branches. I could see the whites of Patrick’s eyes in the darkness floating above his twisted, glowing grin. Like the Cheshire cat. I’d only seen that movie once. My mom said it wasn’t Godly.


It was a moment before I realized my heart wasn’t ringing anymore —  it was pounding. And my limbs felt heavy and numb. Like when I got my teeth pulled and my mouth wouldn’t move the way I wanted it to. The only thing I could feel were his fingernails on my arm. Ten of them, stabbing me the way you stab a toothpick into fruit slices at the potluck. Patrick breathed heavily. Probably from running down the stairs from the designated counting zone — the double doors near the fellowship hall. I turned my head to get away from his breath, but it still slapped my cheek. I imagined my cheek turning red and wrinkling up, like when you spend too long in a bath too hot. His breath smelled like maple syrup and oatmeal that had been sitting out on the table too long.


It was another moment before I noticed I was terrified and my chest hurt. It always hurt, my chest. My mom said it was because I was growing. But this hurt more. I realized Patrick’s hand had moved from my arm to my chest. It felt like a poker was burning through my heart and into the wall behind me, nailing me in that spot. I thought I should tell him to stop, I knew I should tell him to stop. But his breath smelled like maple syrup.


His hand went to my red plaid skirt. Over the skirt, between my legs. I’d gotten that skirt for my birthday from my Grandma. I loved that skirt. I wore it to the first day of school. His hands were so dirty. His breath smelled like maple syrup. His fingers felt like fire.


Just then, there was another noise, although I don’t think I heard it. But Patrick did. All at once, he released me.


“I found you,” he said again, his silhouette outlined in front of the jailsuit window.


It was a moment before I realized he was gone. At least I think he was gone — I still smelled maple syrup.


I still smell maple syrup.


When the bitch said ‘no’

When the bitch said ‘no’

She’s a tiger, flying
strawberry with cloud stripes.

Spear-cut teeth, she shreds flesh
into ribbon paper lilies.

Her paper mache claws bury bodies
of atrophied tree bridges.

Zeppelin lungs breathe her flame
into sunscape funeral pyres.

Her sniper swift tail preys
on the courage of prairie winds.

The magic in her every stalking prowl
fashions mountains of broken glass.

She’s a tiger, flying away
from cages and crystal roofs.

An elegy for Ignorance

An elegy for Ignorance

It was a process.
Like snow blanketing
the ground before turning
slush, dirt-caked, then melting
away completely. If it’s gone
long enough, you want it back.
Forgetting the marrow-chilling cold
and black ice roads,
only remembering silence.

Losing Him was like that.
I’d known him my whole life,
from my sterile birth, white
and pink swaddle, the doctor declaring
“It’s a girl!” and nobody questioning
not He, not me, that I was.

Treats at 7-11 after a preschool ballet
recital and it was He who asked my dad
what lesbians were. Girls
who love other girls. Unnatural,
forbidden, like the slushies
mom won’t let me have.

He was there with me in Sunday School
when whitewashed flannel graphs
taught me about us, Jesus, Moses,
God of fire and brimstone, so much

love held my hand up high. School
teacher called on me and I said
no, I’m not racist but,
affirmative action is. White
dirt-caked lies we all believed.

On my first day of college He was
waving wildly, everyone noticed.
It was the last time I saw Him.
I met new people who knew
what and who He was:
the “God-given” privilege
of being the invisible same.

He was always cradling
me in what I didn’t know
(what I don’t know). I want Him back
sometimes. Before the slush,
dirt-caked, melted away.
How quiet
and painless
the white was.

Ode to ‘ganket’

Ode to “ganket”

You’ve been crushed
beneath small heels
covered in mud;
strangled, your floppy neck
unable to breath;
deserted in a Target aisle
unknowing of where you were; smeared
with jellied snot and ketchup, yet here
you are Magic Blanket,
your sour milk breath
sighs comforting silence.
Your princess skin
of cotton candy, wadded up,
dries alligator tears
and salves playground wounds.
Does she speak to you,
Magic Blanket?
Perhaps she tells you,
in half-formed words,
about her silver balloon
floating into the clouds
I wasn’t tall enough
to save. Or the boy
by the tire swing
who cracked a mini fist
against her head,
the rainbow wound
matches you. I know
she speaks to you,
Magic Blanket.
When your frayed forehead,
bowed, touches hers,
sitting cross-legged
on the Lego-strewn floor.
You, Magic Blanket,
are a better mother than I.


My marriage

My marriage

One thing I know is marriage.
My marriage, which dawns anew
every morning with the February light
filtering through half-open blinds. My eyes
are weighted, trying hard
to drag me back to sleep. “NOOOOOOO!”

Her toddler protest, not really a protest, a staunch
affirmation of her tiny place. I’m awake now,
awake enough. To hear your muffled response, quiet
words, between the open and close of the refrigerator door.

Your side of the bed is cold, you’ve been awake
for awhile. Since you heard the insistent voice,
“Da! Da! Da!” from my side to hers
leaving me warm to dream a few moments longer.
It’s been like this, you know, since she was small.
You getting up in the morning

with her. You get jelly-smeared fingers, diapered
protests, wet kisses. All to allow me
a few more moments, of unfettered sleep.

And when I awake like I did
today, from a slumber under soft down
with one foot out in the cold — I can hear,
you and she talking, muted, in unaffected
conversations …
And I know my marriage,
how it dawns anew.


is a snow angel
shaped from flakes,
brushed aside
by the warmth
of insulated bodies

has snow wings
with bones
made, outlined
with sticks
and stones
straining to burst
into color
or flame

has a halo
of sunlight, star breath
to dissolve her
beneath its
tug-o-war gaze

isn’t seen by them
as anything more
revealing nothing
but serpent tongues,
a colorless impression
passed over

comes between some
fog rising,
light falling
her reality shattering
their glass darkly

is a snow angel
free to be

is a snow angel
who may
one dawn

It’s Like A Dream- I

It’s like a dream now–faded around the edges. I can see it and feel it and hear it. But I almost can’t remember it. It’s a blur, you see. Of orange fleece and shy smiles. The way you looked at me made my skin prickle with glee. A rainy night, an apologetic hug, and then late night giggling about what I thought was.

Then there was a party. On a cold and windy day. You watched me carefully and I pretended not to care. It was a silent flirtation that screamed to us.

“Forever. Forever and always.”

Twenty-six hands and we still found each other; quietly congratulating ourselves on the sly way our fingers danced towards the other. I never wanted to let go.

But I didn’t know you. I didn’t know about you. I just knew I wanted you.

So later, when pipe dreams and cold cement clattered around us, I felt my last grip give way. And then I was falling. Deeper and farther than I ever had before.

I didn’t want to say goodbye.

when i wash the dishes

white bubbles swished
back and forth
between my fingers
as i washed the dishes today
the plate
was so dirty
i had to scrub and scrub
and scrub
but no matter how hard
i scrubbed, i couldn’t
stop thinking
about you
i can’t just love you
because i am beyond love
i am in passion
with you
you are in me and
around me
through me and
surrounding me
everything i do today
i do for you
because of you with you
and to you
if it weren’t for you
i wouldn’t be here
scrubbing this plate
watching the bubbles

one year

Can we dance under the light of the same moon? Will you think of me when the sun peeks over your horizon, soon to make its way over to greet me?
We danced. We’ve danced together under so many moons, and many more moons to come.
The delinquent connection of two souls into one, dancing
dancing until the sun comes up, now peeking through the shades
to see me
with you.

Can we walk down the same sidewalk, even if it’s cracked.
Cracked sidewalk. Overgrown sidewalk. The same sidewalk
into the place we call home, our home.
Loud music, drowning our sleep.
The smell of drugs, drifting into our world.
But your heart is my house
and I’m always home.

Will we think the same thoughts, bubbled together.
If thoughts are love and bubbles last forever.
If thinking is breathing and together is never apart.
If we are perfect and the same is two–better than one.

Can we touch the same rock, found by the side of the road.
We touch her, we can feel her. We found her
while dancing
on the side of our road.
It’s a beautiful road
with beautiful rocks.
I wouldn’t want it
any other way.

Will we see the same time, at the same old sites.
Less than one or eight or two or twenty-four.
However you count it,
we see it the same: never enough.
We always want more and we have
forever to get it.