Poetry & Prose

Rootedness (and lack thereof)

you don’t get rid of the pain,
you just make room for it

shares a six-year-old girl
as she narrates the way
she placed her small hands
on her mother’s flailing chest,
how she pumped
life into her mom’s frail frame
and failed,
how she resented her hands
for not being enough.
how she carried the memory
like an anchor around her ankle
and fell into a
and I wonder how a child comes to learn
how she could so intimately know
the cruel enormity of that sensation,
that painful existence.
but I suppose these are the casualties
when a child
becomes rootless.

she was killed at home, cooking dinner with her cats,
by a Russian missile

a journalist confides
in an audience of undergrads
at 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning;
they sit in cushioned auditorium seats,
munching free bagels and muffins
from the lobby outside, eager to feast on his words too—
but grief traces his tongue
and caresses his words
as he aims
to fossilize his friend’s memory.
I try to picture the mundanity of the moment,
this woman pacing around her kitchen
in search of ingredients in her cabinets,
her cats carefully tracing her steps,
and the precise second a monster missile

erased the scene in an act of violence.
is that all it takes to remove a legacy?

it’s important to have a long-term
commitment to places

I heard a woman say once—
I’m not sure that’s true
but it makes me question
what makes a place
worth the long-term commitment—
the same woman spent
six years of her life documenting
a village in the Congo
where three-year-old girls
were viciously violated by men
who believed a baby’s blood
would offer them supernatural protection.
what rooted her there?
how do we decide to stay in a place
that isn’t safe?
I’m not sure I know.

if he was here, he would…
my mom’s best friend whispered
as we spoke about the loss of her husband
over strawberry margaritas—
and I realized then there is nothing more
painful than the series of possibilities
that are born and simultaneously die
within that singular conditional “if.”
mom’s best friend is family,
and I think that status change
happened after the loss—
she is the kind of family
that waits outside the airport,
plans the surprise party,
drives to the middle of the highway
when our car breaks down.
and I find it sort of strange
and wonderful
how roots can burn, blister, break,
and still,
still remain ever-growing.