Return of the bad mom

I tell myself to find her, in the old kitchen where she did so many dishes by hand. It had yellowish linoleum, dark wood, and doors which lead out to the front room and dining room. We sit at the ugly white table with the thin plasticky band of gold around its edge.

I run my finger along its long-gone edges as we drink something warm together.

I tell her she is beautiful, she has always been beautiful, even in those years she could not see it. I tell her I admire her courage and willingness to to be the bad mom. I tell her I have learned from her mistakes.

She would tell me something, surely, what is it?

In a house so full of sturm and drang, I want to hear her voice over the din of the little ones

So long gone.


Foster Care

Trees remind me of home, as do the adorable wearable blankets one might buy for a baby born in a winter country. I struggle with the pronoun I, construct tree houses and wearable blankets out of words strung around the neck of a woman turning into the composite her grandmothers long gone on to the next thing…home…give me a cup full of it, your face, voice in my head, Man who shows up just in the nick of time in sorrow as piercing as joy.

Perhaps you know this place. Perhaps it is just up the hill, just around the corner, just out of reach on the spectrum of visible light


For-those-who-have ears to hear

Cat’s Elea

She mistrusts me now, with good reason. I took her smallest one and when I brought her back it was only to say goodbye. She moves the surviving ones to the back corner of the closet where they are surrounded by the fragrance of girls’ Sunday dresses, sashes the vines and tangles of a forest we can only see through the window. She shuns the crass plastic takeaway boxes for the Formica bowls we bought in South Korea before you were born, before you were the little ones stashed in the closet for safety. I wish more things were just metaphorical thought experiments and fewer things were laced with grief and its outsider ways.

I understand when she lets me feed her and when she growls be careful, lady, I am done with white man’s justice.

“Don’t worry, Girl,” I tell her. “No white men here anymore.”

Foster Mom

It was Texas-July hot, with no chance of rain when, for reasons beyond the ken of ordinary foster moms, the air was filled with a host of juvenile butterflies. Tender and small, their origami wings beat the air, carrying some insistent message.

Perhaps about how fragile we are

Or how only God knows

how to bring the rain.

Thing One and Thing Two

Years after I first met M and C a little boy who I love more than the sky read The Cat and the Hat and expressed appropriate alarm over the treatment of Thing One and Thing Two–but they are children! He emoted.

Yes, Darling, there are many things about this story which trouble me also.

The first time I met M and C they burst through the door to the CPS waiting room. M was talking her usual mile-per-minute and both were whirling balls of energy. They went directly to the pastel plastic playhouse in the corner of the room and they reminded me of Thing One and Thing Two.

I wonder if anyone else wonders what happened to Thing One and Thing Two when they were all grown up?

Writing with Invisible Ink

Now that I have seen the diamondback rattler in the domain of children I see him again everywhere–the darkness notched between sidings and foundations, lassoed water hoses resting in the sun, tree branches in the grass, all become the skin and flesh and memory of the foolish man who held just the severed head of his deadly foe too close to human skin.

We keep the most dangerous pets coiled in emptied potato salad containers, hastily labeled with words too awful to write down in anything but

Invisible ink.