Archives for posts with tag: parents

Kodak: Carnival at Veterans’ Park, Ann Arbor, May 1961
by Cheryl Caesar

The ballerina lights
on her partner’s shoulder.
A butterfly. Her arms lift
like the flexing of wings.

Despite the pose and the tutu,
my father and I are nothing like that.

My two-year-old arms lift
like a saguaro with fists.
My father grips my thigh
to his shoulder.

My face is screwed up
like a fist — laughing, I believe.
His is clenched against his smoke,
turned away so as not to scorch my skirts.
But he might have been smiling too.

I think he was proud
to offer this treat to his family,
although I never really cared
for forced vertigo. This shoulder perch
was better than any Ferris wheel
or Tilt-a-Whirl.

All I ever wanted to ask of him
was to give up the cigarettes.
I never could. It seemed as though
they were all that he had.

Within a few years I would disappear
from family pictures, insufficiently
photogenic. My mother would play
ballerina for the lens. But I’m thankful
to have this snapshot. Look closely.
Lend me your eyes.
Wouldn’t you say we were happy?

ART: Cele Carnival by Yaacov Agam.

caesar drawing
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out of a writing workshop in which we created poems from a photograph. I also made the above sketch of the photo, in compressed charcoal. The poem and sketch were published in Poetic Sun (October 2021).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cheryl Caesar is an ex-expatriate who for 25 years lived in Paris, Tuscany, and Sligo (Republic of Ireland). She earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the Sorbonne, and now teaches writing at Michigan State University. Her chapbook Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era is available from Amazon, although she hopes it will soon be of historical interest only. You can find her poems and artwork in Words Across the Water, published by Fractal Edge Press. She enjoys poetry, painting and drawing, and speculating about nonhuman consciousness. Visit her at and on Facebook.

Author photo by The Poetry Room. 

At Six
by Gail Sosinsky

Still the possessor
of two malicious tonsils,
I’d coughed awake,
stumbled to the bathroom,
desperate to clear
my snuffly head.
Returning through the kitchen,
Dad pulled out the hard-backed chair,
closed the enameled lid
on the old gas stove,
centered the hand towel
over the warm pilot light.
I collapsed against the rungs,
mouth breathing already,
when he brought out the Vick’s,
slathered my chest, shoulders, neck
and fitted the warm towel
against my congestion.
As the vapors wormed
their way through the mucus,
he rubbed my shoulders.
“Yeah, feels like hell,” he said,
without drama or lamentation,
standing at my back
until I could breathe,
the first time
among many.

IMAGE: Vintage ad for Vicks Vaporub.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was surprised by how hard it was to come up with a good memory when I first looked at the call for poems in the ONE GOOD MEMORY Series. Then I was surprised by how many good memories there were. It was a relief not to write from the anger, sorrow, and fear that seem to overwhelm me some days. Thank you for the reminder, and the permission, to look for and celebrate the good. I had a hard time deciding which of my memories to submit, but more than anyone else, my father always asked what I had written lately. Whether you use this poem or not, I thank you for prompting me to capture this memory of my dad.

Sosinsky Wickman1

AB0UT THE AUTHOR: Mild-mannered office worker by day, dedicated writer on her own time, Gail Sosinsky grew up in a northern Wisconsin paper-mill town, which gives her a deep appreciation for nature and quirky characters. She’s held a variety of jobs, including teacher, copy editor, and polka band guitarist. She writes fiction, poetry, and the occasional play and song. Her work tends toward science fiction and fantasy, a side effect of the stacks of books she read as a kid. She has been published in Star*line, Eye to the Telescope, Mindfilights, Pure Slush, America West Airlines Magazine, and Sword and Sorceress XVI, among other venues. She lives with her aged, sweet-tempered mother and her less-predictably sweet-tempered cat, Nefertari.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Sosinsky Road is named for the farm where my dad grew up. It’s a short little two-lane on a ridge between Hillsboro and Wonewoc in southwestern Wisconsin. I still have relatives living there.

Last Dance
by Jen Emery

My father is helping my mother down the stairs,
face to face, him a step below her
so that they’d be eye to eye, save
that my mother is head down, eyes trained
to a spot on the carpet behind his corduroy knees.

As for my father, his eyes never leave
my mother’s face. His big hands cup
her elbows, and her fingers grip his forearms,
as though they’re about to embark on a wild reel
on a five, six, seven, eight …

My father steps back, shoes toeing each tread
before lowering, down and away from her, leading her on
with the slightest lift of his arms to bring her back
towards him – down and forwards, forwards and down –
his ears and neck flushed red from the exertion.

Almost there and she skips a beat – falters,
tightens her grip, stays on her feet.
Have I ever let you fall, Kathleen?
My father lifts his chin.
In fifty seven fecking years – have I ever let you fall?

PAINTING: Tango by Frantisek Kupka (1909).

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem makes me happy-sad. I was sitting on the sofa in my parents’ house just after lockdown ended, drinking a glass of wine, and thinking how much we’d all aged. The light was falling through the hall as they came down the stairs together, and there was something so sad, so ordinary and so beautiful about the scene. I wanted to write about it, but struggled at first to really make it live. The idea of the dance helped hugely – we grew up going to ceilidhs – as did a late decision to include my dad’s (very direct!) direct speech at the end.

Emery copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Emery thinks, writes, and speaks about work and life in all its messy beauty. Her poetry has been published in magazines, including Atrium, Brittle Star, and The Interpreter’s House, and her short story in verse, Songs of Snow and Silence, was published by Atmosphere Press in 2021. She blogs at Born and raised in Edinburgh, she now lives in London with her family and two unruly dogs. She works in the City but much prefers sonnets to spreadsheets.

Girl on a Toboggan 1 copy
Sliding Towards Home
by Thomas Zampino

the alpine slide up north
was the first time we released you.
we watched as your curly
brown hair flit side-to-side in the
opposite direction of your body.
the toboggan jolted, then slid down
the long winding path until you
disappeared from our view.

yesterday we watched you two
hold hands several paces ahead
and we saw your long brown
hair bouncing from side-to-side
in tandem with his movement.
and for the second time we
released you, as you began
sliding towards home.

IMAGE: A Girl on a Toboggan Sledding Down a Hill (A. L. Foster & Co.). Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was drawn to poetry late in life. Most of my writings relate to family or simply to things that have become more obvious to me as I get older. “Sliding Towards Home” was inspired by watching my oldest with her beloved, months before their marriage, and finally coming to terms with the notion that a parent’s most important responsibility is in the releasing – and realizing that’s something that sometimes must happen more than once.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Zampino, a Manhattan attorney for over 35 years, started writing poetry only recently. Some of his work has appeared in The University of Chicago’s Memoryhouse Magazine, Silver Birch Press (twice), Bard’s Annual (2019, 2020, and 2021), Trees in a Garden of Ashes, Otherwise Engaged, Chaos, A Poetry Vortex, Nassau County Voices in Verse, and No Distance Between Us. A video enactment of his poem “Precise Moment” was produced by Brazilian director and actor Gui Agustini. His first book of poetry, Precise Moment, was released in 2021. Visit him at

tatyana tomsickova photo
A Moment
by Deborah Pope

My sons, four and seven, in yellow slickers,
were coming down the long, gravel drive
in the rain, carrying the morning paper.
Their black umbrellas crazily swayed
and jaunted above them. I could see only
their legs until they tilted their awkward
awnings back like the Morton Salt girl.
Their joy brimmed over every puddle,
every emphatic stomp of their soaked-through
shoes. They paused, waved to where
I stood at the kitchen window,
in the ache of that ancient longing—
a child’s approach, return.

Previously published in the author’s collection, Take Nothing (Carnegie-Mellon Press, 2020).

Photo by Tatyana Tomsickova.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this poem I have tried to capture the brief immediacy of a “moment” between a mother (me) and her children. I also see something timeless in the moment, prefiguring as it does how mothers across time have wished and waited for their children, no matter how grown, to return home from their journeys, no matter how small.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Pope has published four books of poetry—Fanatic Heart, Mortal WorldFalling Out of the Sky, and Take Nothing. Her newest, Wild Liar, is forthcoming in 2023 from Carnegie-Mellon Press. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Threepenny Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Southern Review, EPOCH, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Poetry Northwest, among others. She has also been awarded the Robinson Jeffers Prize.

Author photo by by Les Todd ©Duke University Photography.

whitaker park fountain NC
Friday Night Lights
by Terri Kirby Erickson

Imagine a family of four—young parents
too beautiful to be real taking their three
and four-year-old son and daughter out for
a Friday night treat. Yet, here are our mother
and father, alive and well, sitting side by
side in the front seat of Dad’s ’58 Rambler—
our mom’s auburn hair grazing her tanned
shoulders, our father’s profile as smooth
as a freshly ironed shirt. Parked across the
street from the Whitaker Park fountains,
we are waiting for the sun to go down while
we eat ice cream cones Dad bought for us
from the Sealtest store (on the corner of
Patterson and Glenn). But nothing tops the
delight of watching water spurt from what
looks like a mile of multiple nozzles, and
the kaleidoscope of brightly colored lights
that shine on each fountain, turning them
every shade of Kool-Aide we have ever
tasted. It is a dazzling show—made even
better for a small girl by a belly half-full
of chocolate swirl, the night air, cool and
sweet, pouring into our rolled-down win-
dows, and the presence of my brother and
my parents—the three of them so close to
the end of this poem, they are nearly gone.

PHOTO: Whitaker Park fountains (Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1960s).

Mom and Dad (2)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although my beloved nuclear family lives only in my memory, writing about them allows me to be with them again in the only way I can and in so doing, will hopefully inspire recollections of good times with “lost” loved ones for readers, as well.

PHOTO: The author’s parents. Tom and Loretta Kirby (1955), who married when they were 18 and 21.

Terri and Tommy Two

CAPTION: The author and her brother, Tommy (1964).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six full-length collections of poems, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of an International Book Award for Poetry. Other awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nautilus Silver Book Award, and many more. Her poems have appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Connotation Press, JAMA, Plainsongs, Poet’s Market, storySouth, The Christian Century, The SUN, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and numerous other literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit her at

angel benwill
by Paula J. Lambert

For such is the tooth of the lion. That it bares and bursts into wishes.
— Patti Smith

One night, at bedtime,
my father explained to my sisters and me
the work of our guardian angels. My questions
kept us all awake—the opposite, I’m sure,
of what he intended. Always beside us?
No matter what? They don’t ever sleep?
Yes, yes, no, no not ever.

When my father finally left us,
turning out the light, I shifted to the side of the bed,
making room. Angels can sleep here, I said
silently, my sisters starting to drowse.
(I figured guardians could hear like God did,
like it sometimes seemed fathers did, too.)
It’s safe. Daddy is right downstairs.

Truth be told, I’ve not thought much about angels
since. But lately, in a crazed world of climate crises
and the stubborn flailings of viral disease,
I’ve remembered my father’s insistence
that the guardian beside me never sleeps.
I’ve let myself wonder if, in his own infinite kindness
and wisdom, he has relieved my vigilant angel
at last—my sisters’ too—standing beside us himself.
Always. No matter what. Not ever sleeping, ever.

PAINTING: Glorified Grace Angel by BenWill, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paula J. Lambert has published several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020). Awarded PEN America’s L’Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, Lambert’s poetry and prose have been supported by the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband Michael Perkins, a philosopher and technologist. More at

Walking 5th Avenue
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

I am again fifteen
with my father,
my first trip to New York,
and he is not yet
in life-changing pain,
and we stare
in store windows,
eat street pretzels
and look for sales racks.
I don’t know yet
how he will hurt
too much to walk,
how even standing
will become impossible.
No, in this memory
we are walking
and laughing
as if we will forever,
as if there won’t
be a morning
when I wake in New York
almost four decades later
and reach to call him
and thank him
for that long-ago trip,
only to remember
he can no longer
answer the phone.
All day, I hear his laughter
as I walk. All day,
I feel his hand
reaching for mine.

PAINTING: 754 Fifth Avenue by Patrick Pietropoli (2013). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A place can be such a strong vessel for holding memory. I was struck, when I returned to New York City for the first time since I was a girl, just how much I associate the city with my father. The visit itself was twice a gift—joy in being there in the present, joy in feeling closer to the past.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form (a podcast on creative process), Secret Agents of Change (a surreptitious kindness cabal), and Soul Writer’s Circle. Her poetry has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, PBS Newshour, O Magazine, Rattle, American Life in Poetry and her daily poetry blog, A Hundred Falling Veils. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. Naked for Tea was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award. One-word mantra: Adjust.

Author photo by Joanie Schwarz.

Among the Stone Angels
by Fran Markover

Mom, finally free from her mask as I fathom the pit
in my stomach. As shovels full of dirt hit the pine box.

Forsaking the hole at the cemetery, I finesse its ice-
shrouded Catskill terrain. Breath numinous, I tumble

hard on my back, not on the field of haloing snow
but on the footstone of Zipporah, my grandmother

whose incantations of the evil eye protected me
from harm, who taught how grief is held in the body,

how it lowers us to at least our knees. So I lay there,
the undertaker rushing to my side. I push away his

servile hands, don’t want a lifting, just a respite
to face the gravid mother-of-pearl sky, to ingest the

cold deadening my tongue, arms outstretched, legs
akimbo across the granite of Zipporah. Oh, to shelter

beneath a temple of birches, prone, beholden to
snowfall’s grace, its sting. My spine assuaged, I address

the stones, assure them I’m safe, a welcome visitor
among these quiet villagers, how in springtime I’ll kneel,

plant tiger lilies from the farm, graveside. For now,
it’s enough the wind sings through the barren branches.

And from afar, a crystalline voice: ah, kinehora, like me,
mammelah, you’ll survive, whatever’s broken.

PHOTO: Cemetery angel by Tuende Bede.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote my poem for the birthday of my mother, who recently passed away, and for my grandmother. Both spirits reside within and offer guidance.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fran Markover lives in Ithaca, New York, where she works as psychotherapist. Her poems have been published in journals, including Rattle, Calyx, Earth’s Daughters, Able Muse, Karamu, Spillway, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and Common Ground. She has a chapbook, History’s Trail (Finishing Line Press). Her book, Grandfather’s Mandolin (Passager Books) was a finalist for the Henry Morgenthau First Book Poetry award. Other awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination, poetry residencies at the Saltonstall Foundation, a Miriam Chaikin Poetry award, and an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award.

Author photo by Joe Ziolkowki.

cathay chinese 1982 copy
Chinese Restaurant (London 1988)
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

This is my favorite
Chinese restaurant in London,
my dad declares as we climb
a long dark flight of stairs
in a timeless building
where a hostess waits at the top.
I order cashew chicken—
the sauce is clear, fragrant
(there & yet not there).
The chicken is so white,
the cashews are fat & golden.
Rice awaits in a red bowl,
every grain tiny as a second.
As the lights go on
in Piccadilly Circus, my dad & I talk
in a circle of candlelight
by the window while the cashews
resemble crescent moons shining
on the china plate or little ears
listening avidly to our conversation
(which flows like warm tea)—
& the check doesn’t come
for hours & hours.

PHOTO: Cathay Chinese Restaurant, Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, England (1982).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My late dad inhabits many of my poems. This poem is about when I went to London on my own when I was in my early twenties. My father met me there; he was working in Germany at the time. We had a brief, splendid visit together. I wish I could remember the name of that Chinese restaurant; it was a mysterious oasis above Piccadilly Circus and had the best food ever (authentic, as they say). My dad and I talked of many things that night like we always did. He was endlessly fascinating with a gorgeous sense of humor. During our visit we also went to a Russian restaurant called Borscht N Tears, where we had caviar and encountered unruly Germans – but that is another good memory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to The Guardian, Britain’s first mainstream Chinese restaurant, Cathay, arrived in London’s Piccadilly Circus area during 1908, setting off the UK’s love of Chinese cuisine that has never waned.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her poems have appeared in various diverse journals online and in print. She lives, writes, despairs, and tries to hope in America. A cedar Poetry Box called The Fox Poetry Box is mounted on a post in her front yard.