Poetry and Place

It’s been forever since I’ve written. Being a mom to a 15-month-old (!!) while balancing studies and career and being a partner and a daughter and all the things is… a lot! Trying to fit writing into that sometimes feels impossible.

This summer, I was able to return to Montana for the NEH Seminar I work with. It was beautiful and powerful, as always, and maybe someday I’ll be able to process everything I went through there mentally. For now, I’m just grateful for a bit of space to write creatively again. Melissa Kwasny led us through the same fantastic exercise that helped me write “At Hellgate Canyon” five year ago. I did the exercise there, again, and this morning with my eighth-graders as well. So, here’s a bit of poetry I was finally able to find. As imperfect as they are, I’m happy I got the words on paper.

Revisiting the Canyon Wound

Water dances over black
speckled stones, bubbling like
gasping mouths begging for breath.
Its endless, current churns on,
like the white noise machine you
use for your baby and husband,
while you search for sleep.

Stop, and breathe in the
dusty gravel, rock split apart
by years of walking. In those
shards see the ghosts of who
I was and who we were, an
endless parade of past lives.

Can you forgive the girl you were
and the woman you became?
What is forgiveness but wearing
your past as a worn sweater
that only you can love?

The rocks don’t need to forgive
you, the canyon never cares if
you’ve mended your ways. Only time
asks us to move forward. Its gift
for you is that you always do,
like the endless babbling creek, 
even if you can’t see it. 


The speckled light through
palm leaves looks like a
fragile, fresh-laid egg, but
it is really rough concrete.

Somewhere, there, is a metaphor about middle school.

As I hear the bright, high laughter
of gossiping teenagers— trumpet
blasts through the rustling of leaves.
Middle school is a study in contradictions.
Resilient, but so young still; impressionable,
yet something so knowing in their glances—
soft flowers on rough ground that still
find a way to spread seeds of joy in
a world that we’ve made far too harsh.

Yet, always, they persist.


As humid air sits on my shoulders,
it’s hard to not feel the weight of
the world sitting there too.
The constant whirring of an ancient
air conditioner, the low, persistent
mumble of the highway far off— they
underscore the idyllic birds with
a sense of the wanting world.

Yet, there are still children’s laughter
filtering through the distance, still
the gentle rustling breeze moving
the air, reminding that nothing is
permanent, even tepid, languishing
August afternoons. 

The fallen flowers dance across
sun-speckled concrete, nothing
stays still here for too long. It’s 

a nice reminder: ultimately,
everything keeps moving.   

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