The presidential election has been decided and I can hardly bear to speak the name of the person who emerged as the victor. The soaring elation I felt as I walked into the voting booth with my daughter and watched her push the button that recorded our vote for the first woman to run for the highest office in the land was matched by the tremendous grief I felt when the votes were tallied and the results announced in the early morning hours.

This is not hyperbole: it feels like a death.


We wore white to honor the women who came before us.

Continue reading


Fig. 46

If you know me,  you know I typically love to celebrate my own birthday. I like to take the day off from work, treat myself to chocolate croissants and espresso for breakfast and let the rest of my doings emerge naturally, in accordance with my whims. Museum?  Writing? Nap? Lovely. Delicious dinner with my spouse? Yes. Are my children invited? Maybe. Continue reading

On the Fulcrum


You have to find a balance. You have to make sure you have time for your family, your friends, your writing. You have to find a way to make this job sustainable in your life.

These words, spoken by the director of our program, have swirled in the air around me since I arrived in Pittsburgh. I have tried to keep them close. I have tried to follow them.

I have not always succeeded. Continue reading

The Story

The internet tells me that today is the tenth anniversary of the finale of  Six Feet Under, a series which aired on HBO from 2001-2005.

Ten years ago today, my first child–my son– was 18 days old and I was a frantic, euphoric, sleep-deprived, love-swallowed mess.

Nevertheless, I was not going to miss the final episode of a show that had held me absolutely in its sway. It may have been the first series since M*A*S*H, when I was a child, that I entered, and experienced, so totally.  Continue reading


I am at the confluence today.

With my left hand, I reach back and touch yesterday, the always-blue sky, bright sun, florid breeze of my son’s birthday–his 10th on this earth.

I fluff his hair, thick and unkempt, trace his still-boy jawline and poke my finger into his dimple, one more beauty mark. I remember the labor of his arrival, the long hours of pushing him out which ruptured blood vessels all over my face and shoulders and chest.

He was born in the morning. I was sunburst and love-shattered. Continue reading

Father’s Day: An Excerpt

I took Josie to Target yesterday for some stealth Father’s Day shopping. She takes holidays seriously. She starts to plan months ahead of time, thinks carefully about the person being celebrated, and chooses or makes lovely, thoughtful gifts. She gets almost excited about giving presents as she does getting them. I call her “The Keeper of Holidays.” We have this trait in common. She gets this from me.

We’re going to have a nice day celebrating her father today. He is an easy man to honor, uncomplicated in his absolute, transparent love for our children. I know that things may get complicated as they get older, but the base of trust and love and unabashed delight he has built for them cannot be questioned.

That is the best gift. I know because I grew up with something very different. Continue reading

Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off


This is a thing my mother would say when she was trying to convey a sense of how she was feeling when there were too many things to do, and all of them demanding her immediate attention. Or, maybe when she observed me or my sister manically scattering our own attention when what we needed to do was our homework or housework.

Sheila, quit running around like a chicken with its head cut off and vacuum the living room.

It’s a pretty gruesome image, actually, because it’s real after all. Beheaded chickens do run around in a last burst of adrenaline and nerve. This grim display usually lasts only a moment, except in the case of Mike the Headless Chicken who lived, post axing, for 18 months back in 1945! (I’ll just leave this here and get back to where I was going. But be sure you want to see and read about a headless chicken before you click, though, okay?) Continue reading

Getting to Know Her

I haven’t been able to keep up with a poem-a-day pace, but this April has been extremely, surprisingly (given all of the other things going on–AWP, Conversations & Connections, semester end) productive and prolific for me. As of this morning, I’ve got 33 drafts toward a new project, about a fictional-ish character called “Round Baby.” So I’m not going to make it to my initial goal of 50 by the end of the month, but still I’m pretty pleased.

I’m really enjoying learning about this character a little bit each day. I look forward to 5:30 AM (I know. What the hell?) when I wake us both up and we get going. It’s turning out that we have some things in common, but she deals with the world much differently than I did while growing up. I like her so far. Continue reading

Loved Ones: “Sparrow,” by Caleb Curtiss

For National Poetry Month, I am going to record some of my favorite poems and talk a little about what they mean to me. I hope you enjoy!


Caleb is the poetry editor at Hobart, and a new friend. I picked up his book, The Taxonomy of the Space Between Us, at the AWP conference last week because I want to support someone who has published my work, and because I wanted to support the good work that Black Lawrence Press does.

I was knocked out by the simplicity and quiet sincerity of this poem about grief. Poetry should move us, sometimes to tears.

This one did. Continue reading