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Phoebe, flying

Published April 15, 2019 by April Fox

This is where she sat,

legs tucked under her, a child

always

perched there in the nest of her lap

Everywhere there are women, now

in big floppy hats and loose cardigans

hair flying behind them

in the wind,

smiling.

The playground this afternoon was empty

as we filed out to say goodbye

I listened hard to hear her laughter

and the silence pulled me on.

Vacancy

Published April 8, 2019 by April Fox

They like to tell you

on TV

about their grief:

dramatic renderings

of their reactions

a symphony of self-indulgence

“I heard the news and I screamed

I cried

I just broke down sobbing

I was screaming

so loud, I was

I

I

I”

I am standing in the grocery store

silent

I lost that part of my voice and I am

trying

to keep my legs and I can’t

breathe

because the cereal he ate

when I was small is gone

They don’t have it anymore,

this artifact of him

and I see him in the Special K, the Lucky Charms, the Froot Loops

I see him lying there with no heartbeat and no teeth

I see the vacancy like a spotlight and there is no air left

for screaming sobbing crying

for walking past the void

and into life.

Feel.

Published October 29, 2018 by April Fox

This is what it feels like

(I don’t know)

to be kept out, sent to the back,

inked with numbers like cattle

(I bought my ink with dollar bills

you sold your soul to make)

This is what it feels like, one tenth of a percent

to send my child out, brown eyes

thick lips, pants sagged and face

inked like you don’t know

he never pulled the trigger

White as I am

you can’t tell,

arms scabbed and ribs shining

like blades in the street light

You can’t tell

I held that belly, sunken now

in the palm of my hand when he came home

small as life

You can’t tell

I wear my whiteness like armor

(you don’t know)

protect me when I walk at night, keep me in the car

when I get pulled

my brake lights shot like Walter Scott’s but I’m alright

It’s just a warning

        Careful now,

                don’t get hurt.

I know this

My breasts

        (no matter how small)

my ass is a beacon, shining out

spotlights on the fact that I am there

to be taken

that you can have the thing that I have never

until right now

given up one hundred percent voluntarily because I know

from the time I was 14 years old

that if you want it

you’re going to take it

anyway

This is how it feels

(I don’t know)

to be safe in the world

This is how it feels

(I don’t know)

to be safe

This is how it feels

(I know this, now)

to be helpless, to lie flat still frozen

in the dark to wait

for the things that gobbled up the blacks the Jews the

mouthy women the men crawling on the street with needles in their veins

the infants pulled to term and shit out on the sidewalk

screaming with addiction while the pro-life movement dangles formula and warmth

above their heads, the cost of daring to be born

to be sacrificed to hungry priests to be grown up

cut and bleeding

on the bathroom floor

This is what it feels like

(I don’t know)

to be quiet, watching, waiting

until they come for us.

Forgot

Published October 11, 2018 by April Fox

Here are some things that I’ve forgotten:

the formula for pi

the recipe for chocolate chip cookies

the capital of Minnesota (perhaps I never knew, or cared)

the middle name of Paul McCartney

the way it felt to come down and stop and wait and hope my heart

would seize

in the split second that rested between my fingers hitting the door latch

and starting to pull

the smell of paper in the fire

how to take a word and lay it down

stack them, rushed and messy

fan them out like cards and give them voice

that hits your ears and fills your head

like rain that begs

to someday

be the flood.

Quiet Down

Published July 30, 2018 by April Fox

I wish that I could set this down

and walk away, rest it on

the table near the front door

and turn the lock behind me and

forget about it by the time I hit the button

to unlock the car door

by the time the music starts

and my foot is on the gas

I’ll have forgotten

its existence

I wish that I could

take it

to the landfill and bury it beneath the piles of moldy sofa cushions and

dryer lint and rent receipts and watch it

settle down into the sludge before a rat

takes notice of the smell

and carries it away,

a treasure found

to be devoured.

I wish that I could burn it on the gas stove, beer in one hand,

pitcher full of water in the other, watching as the ashes dance and fly

before they fade.

I wish that I could simply turn it off

turn it off, tell it to

SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR A MINUTE

let the decades do their job of making it

at the very least

shrink into something manageable

I wish that I could quiet down the noise

that keeps me up.

 

On Compassion and the Taking of Children

Published June 18, 2018 by April Fox

Note: I originally posted this on my personal facebook page. I’m reposting it here at my mother’s request, with some insignificant personal details removed. My mom helped teach me to be kind and to be fierce, and most importantly, that the two do not always have to be shown in conjunction. We are living in a time when we are encouraged to always respond with love and attempted understanding, no matter what the circumstances are; the reality is that things have reached a point where gentleness can be a detriment. We are not dealing with simple political differences, issues on which we can choose to disagree. We are dealing with the blatant and horrific abuse of our fellow human beings: people of color, the LGBT community, children. These are hardly new offenses, but our awareness of them is growing thanks to new technology that allows us to click and share anything in an instant. What is new is this sense of empowerment by those committing the abuse. As those in power show how truly vile they can be, those below who feel the same way feel justified in coming out and spewing their ugliness on the world. All of a sudden, it’s okay to be prejudiced again. It’s okay to be cruel, because the guy at the top said so. And the guy at the top, that pathetic excuse for a man sitting up there humping his golf clubs and shellacking his hairpiece, that guy draws strength from the numbers of people who support him because he shares their despicable mindset. These folks are not the majority, but they are loud and obnoxious and while we don’t have to be obnoxious we can certainly be loud and when we see someone acting like these government atrocities are justified, we HAVE to shut them down, hard.

****

Here’s what I can’t stop thinking about: For the past several years, taking children from their parents has been part of my job. Whether it’s the start of a new school year or a child is just having a hard time that morning, there are times when a parent has to hand their child to me so that all of us can start the next phase of the day.

 

This often means transferring a child from their parent’s arms to mine, detangling the child one limb at a time while they do their best to hang on. Sometimes we walk to the window to wave goodbye; other times it’s best to move straight to circle time or to the peace corner for a story. There is plenty of reassurance that they’re safe at school, that their friends are here, there’s new play-doh on the shelf and we have carrots for the guinea pigs and I heard Mom say you have strawberries in your lunch and those are your favorite, and you know that Mom or Dad or Nanny will be back to get you at the end of the day, just like always.

 

I don’t mind the tears. I tell the kids it’s ok, I’m old and I still want my mommy too sometimes. We send hugs out and feel them coming back.

 

My point is, these are children coming into a place that’s warm and inviting. They have their toys and nap things. They have their teachers who love them. Their parents trust us to care for them until they can come back, and the children know this. They know what to expect and still the separation can feel excruciating sometimes. It’s hard on the parents too, you can see it.

 

I cannot imagine the terror that some children and parents are feeling at our borders. I don’t understand how anyone could feel good about doing this to families. There’s no justification for this; humanity and compassion aren’t stopped at the border like a dog behind an invisible fence. These are families trying to escape from horrific conditions at home and if you think they’re less than and deserve to be treated like farm animals simply because their home of origin is on a different patch of dirt than yours, I don’t want to know you.

 

I don’t want to try to reach out to you with love or to try and understand your point of view. I don’t want to “agree to disagree” so that we can keep up a facade of peace and getting along. I want to tell you with no ambiguity that you are nasty and cruel and wrong. I will not respond with love and compassion to someone who refuses to show the same to an innocent child, running with his family toward safety. If, in your mind, the children don’t deserve your grace, you sure as hell don’t deserve mine.

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