the good kind of magic: onward and awpward

Photo by Ben Dutton on Unsplash I'm writing this from the lobby of the Seattle Convention Center, which is strangely beautiful for a convention center. Escalators going up to the sky, flanked with warm wooden stair-seats that look out over Downtown Seattle.  Somehow this is my first post of 2023. Time is a motherfucker. I'm here with C.C., Dash, and Joey for four and a half days of the AWP writers' conference, smashed together with a family vacation. I desperately needed a change of scene. I think we all did. My Great Mental Health Relapse of 2022 hitched a ride to 2023, despite nothing bad happening. I'm going to therapy, doing EMDR, taking more Effexor than I was before, but it's been hard to shake the feeling that something terrible is around the corner, and that feeling becomes its own trigger. Am I afraid of doctor appointments, or am I afraid of how afraid I get of doctor appointments? It's like "live in despair for a week" is an item on my to-d

tops of 2022

I’m starting this post on the first day of winter. It’s 70 degrees outside. I don’t know how to make sense of time any more than my LA body knows how to make sense of weather. This year we trained to become foster parents, endured our fourth disrupted adoption , and then welcomed the closest thing to a “surprise baby” that queer adoptive parents can have. I like the baby; I don’t really like surprises, because even good surprises remind me of bad ones (see: four disrupted adoptions). So discovering Joey’s sweet disposition and falling in love with him was threaded with the worst mental health period I’ve had in years. I’m good-enough now, if I get enough sleep and don’t scrutinize anything too closely. That’s why this isn’t a personal 2022 recap—that story is told in all my obtuse angsty poems below this post—but a list of what I read and watched and loved. I recently got to interview Adam Bessie, whose graphic memoir Going Remote documents the bleak business of teaching community co

god didn’t give her only son because she so loved the world

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash What if we have it all wrong; God didn’t give her only son because she so loved the world but because her son loved the world and she loved her son? The question mark— does love mean holding tight or letting go, or that damn serenity prayer? If love is knowing the difference, if love is knowing,  even God is agnostic. God saw the darkness and created light, but with it, shadow. God saw war and famine, limbs severed for not meeting quotas, gaslit lovers and neglected children, the buzzing thousand paper cuts of the internet. Jesus saw hillsides strewn with poppies, tide pools bright with sea stars, kindness among strangers, decades-long marriages,  the daily comfort of a group chat.  God did not want to be right about this one. Prove me wrong, she prayed—gods pray to their own children— and show me that I haven’t created ruin that will ruin you.  After all of it—the betrayals and the blood, the cave and the miracle, God’s son comes home, though it

out of pocket

You are not from my body, but I gave you my body because it was all I had  those lean first months (and by lean I mean I gorged myself late at night when the Bad News Factory had shut down for the day, I hoped; I breathed in quesadillas and breathed out fear). My mind was stuck in a sandy ditch, somewhere between 2011 and our last failed adoption that spring: We skipped stones in a manmade lake and left Reno without a baby. When you arrived, somehow too early and too late,  I was a sad spinning tire, a clock missing half my cogs, but still right twice a day. You: a 32-weeker, a four-pounder, quick to shake off your rocky entry into this world: You arrived breech but righted yourself, right as my world turned upside down, again. I fussed and projected, wondered if I wanted any of this. But your name means baby kangaroo and I pocketed you, like something coveted and stolen. My hold was not sweet, but it was steadfast. When you slept on my chest, our hearts were inches apart. You were a

mucous mother

You never told me I was anything but beautiful so this feeling—that maybe I'm made of oil instead of breast milk— is a betrayal of what you gave me. I've been obsessing over the contents of the diaper of the second grandchild you never met: the shit, the lack of it, the holding back of something ugly. Was that slick brown thread mucous, a red flag according to the nice lady on the nurse line? Was it me, a sort of gollum, a mirror in a diaper, a monster, but tiny and powerless? Photo by Mahdi Bafande on Unsplash The second child in our family— my first family, I mean, of origin, as they say— is the only person who holds a mirror up to your ghost, the only person who could say "Oh honey" the way you did. Her curly hair, her kindness. But I hated her at first.  Another firstborn might declare the baby to be the monster, the interloper, but I stepped into that role myself just like I stepped into the baby sweater  I'd long outgrown. The yellow acrylic yarn was itchy,

the museum of everything

Eventually there's only a riddle, the old one about the ax— its head and handle replaced a thousand times. Are you steel, once sharp, now dull? Or are you the thing it splits? Are you the swinging or the replacing? What is the trigger and what is the tragedy? What is the doctor visit and what is the disease? Is the fourth baby you almost adopt an echo of the first three or of the two you never birthed, who would be ten and a half now, but who is counting? Every sad thing deserves its own museum, but every museum has the same glass case, the same new paint smell, the same paper towel vendor Did 13 people die in a mass shooting or were there 13 mass shootings last year or last weekend? Eventually your body becomes a museum of everything that happened and everything that didn't: the sturdy handle of your spine the ghosts of your ovaries the holes filled the way the ocean consumes volcanoes with flat glittering blue Eventually there are no more words or there are only words, it'

the identified patient

  The Identified Patient Is crying again Is talking too much Made it all about her Brought up the thing we agreed not to talk about Is letting her child watch YouTube again Is letting him see her tired face, shiny with tears Sent a bitter text and drafted a worse one Ate all the Cheez-Its and drank your Coke Is not over it Is moving on too quickly Is not taking a break Is not asking the pregnant woman about her due date Does not want to be at this party, and it shows Did not keep your work deadlines in mind Is not getting the right kind of therapy Is too much like your mother and her own father Blogged about it Got fat Worried and worried and worried Flew too close to the sun Hates fun Wasted years Is obsessed with productivity Acts like no one suffers but her Nags too much and not enough Can’t win Uses annoying phrases like “I can’t win” Doesn’t see how much she’s won Is steeped in guilt like water becoming the blackest tea Is sorry Apologizes too much Wants her child and someone else