Shake the Dust

For my teachers

Ms. H,

fierce leader

of p.m. kindergarten.

And Peg,

with her peppery bob

and even temper.

For Renee,

who we hugged and

called mom.

And Terry,

who said hard things

at hard times.


who made sense of x + y.

For Jack B.,

and smiling

those dreamy smiles.

This is for Ms. Chase,

lover and demystifier

of poetry.

New Mother's Group

I drop out after

admitting to what is best.

We are a pair of misfits,

mother and child.

You, who just sit there with no tricks.

Me, whose breasts will never feed you.

It’s all background noise,

the high-pitched voices,

the cooing,

the stupid conversations.

I stare at you,

devising our exit strategy,

which you know all about.


I am thankful for a lot of things this year as I look to Thanksgiving’s arrival. It’s a lot of things that have comprised my list in years past: my husband and son, and my larger family; my teaching career and school; shelter, food, comfort and convenience; friends, new and old;…the list continues.

This year I have something new and, possibly unusual, to add to my list. Anger.

For really the first time in my life, I am seeing the benefits of feeling my anger. I have felt a lot of anger in the past several months due to a misfortune that happened to me when I was a small child. I won’t go into detail about the trauma, but I think it’s important to share that my anger has laid dormant for a long long time.

I have come to realize that anger can be a healing agent and much more than its simplest and careless forms. And, consequently, buried, ignored, and unattended to anger, in my experience, has been self-destructive because it has been turned inward. My dormant anger has masked itself in many disguises: depression, anxiety, sabotage.

Identifying my anger, facing it and doing battle with it has taken perhaps the most courage of my life. It’s fierce, it’s real, and sometimes it looks like rage or a piercing scream–but it’s not a pointless toxin or a misinformed monster. It is a very useful human feeling that has given me the power and strength to contend with the hardest and most tragic parts of my existence.

Anger is my torch in the darkness to the other side.

And, the other side looks like a promise of peace, especially on the inside.







Birthday Wishes For My Friend

I have a long history of writing lengthy cards for all sorts of occasions to people who are dear to me. Here is a transcript of a card that I wrote today to my friend on the occasion of her 39th birthday.  Some context: we are the same age — well, I’m a month older — and we grew up in the same neighborhood. We became fast friends in high school and have continued our friendship since. The birthday card features a magical like drawing of a mountain goat carrying a four leaf clover in its mouth. Without further ado, my birthday message to my dear friend, S:

Happy Birthday, S, in your 39th year! I send you the Good Fortune Goat, my favorite music discoveries this year, and Broad City Mad Libs — I think that should cover a good amount of what is necessary for a gal of our generation and circumstance. I hope that you have a good deal of whatever it is you want on your birthday, whether that be relaxing or something more upbeat.

I also wish you piece of mind and peace in your heart as we navigate what feels like hard times in our world. I hope that your ‘well’ maintains its vitality and sustains you. I hope that continued laughter, sense of self, and meaningful connections to others lights your journey. I hope that our paths intermingle frequently and that we enjoy the capacity of our longstanding friendship, which has meant so much to me, then and now.

Thanks for being there as I presently walk a difficult part of my journey. The hardest parts of our journey can feel so lonely, and I deeply appreciate your courage and love to walk with me a little. That’s been a real gift of our steady friendship. I love you a lot. Let’s see each other soon.

Yours, Deborah




Little Red Shopping Cart

Gus and I surged into summer yesterday. It’s the beginning of a lot of unscheduled time together, and I admit I’m scared. How will we, mommy and son, possibly fill the unused hours? How will I not die, at least, a little, of boredom? But then, I feel guilty thinking about the boredom.

After all, our trip to Trader Joe’s was fun. Gus asked, for the first time, if he could take one of the small, kids’ shopping carts. I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure he could manage the task of controlling it. Images of Gus crashing into an innocent, elderly shopper or, better yet, a pyramid display of Chardonnay bottles, paralyzed my response. It seemed like yesterday, and maybe it was yesterday, I was buckling him in to ride in my cart. I looked at him. He looked small, but the little red cart suited him perfectly. “Okay,” I said.

Gus did well. In fact, he was one of the most polite cart pushers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I often overheard him saying “excuse me” to other shoppers or “hello”. For the most part, he stayed to one side of the aisle and, wholeheartedly, he focused on the task of steering straight.

I got so many smiles from strangers. “He’s doing a good job,” shoppers commented, like they knew it was his first time. It’s possible we gave ourselves away. Gus’s visible care and attention at all times, determined to join the ranks of pushing shopping carts – and me, all proud, with an obvious smile hidden on my face.


Chain Poems

Yesterday, I taught my students how to write a chain poem. It is poem of association, playfulness, and whimsy. It starts with one word and builds from there. Chain poems are great for hesitant writers as they encourage nonsense and surprise. All of my students had fun writing them. Here is the link to the lesson.

We used the word mirror to start our chain. Here is my chain poem.

a mirror is a fragile

image of the past,

an old photograph

or forgotten memory

hidden in the depths

of your abandoned thoughts,

a silent and secret

long ago identity


Here is a student example:

A mirror

reflects your personality

a pond

with ducks flapping their wings

a yellow leaf on the surface

baby chicks hatching

“tweet” “tweet” they say

turning into a graceful flying V.


Here is another student example:

A mirror has a

clear reflection

water rippling

fish swimming

shiny scales moving

lizards sunbathing in the

hot sun

desert sand storms

a cactus stabbing a fly


One more student example:

A mirror is like

a reflection

in a puddle

with a splash

in rubber boots

frogs leaping

bright green

the color of grass

cows grazing

Sunday Bath

My apologies, son

that we bathe you in this cold water.

I assure you, we tried warming it,

but boiling kettles of water

could not seduce its frigid infancy.

So we wildly scrub your fingers and toes,

dismantle the dirt behind your ears,

all while you breathlessly wail

a simple request to play with bath toys;

which, believe, hurts us not to honor.

My apologies, son

that we bathe you in this cold water,

but our school week emerges,

and like a hungry hawk, it is

bound to swallow us whole.