Three Poems

The Bad Mother
                (for g.a.k.)

I hate you, I scream
I wish you had never been born.
And too often, I do.
Dear child,
there are minutes, hours, even whole days, sometimes,
when I long for the calm stillness
of life without you,
for sane and peaceful conversations with your father,
for talk of books, politics, people—anything but
your fear of blankets, your obsession with germs, your anxiety about math.

You try yoga on the red mat:
downward dog with your butt in the air.
Your therapist says this will change your brain chemistry,
teach you to relax, but
you worry that your legs aren’t straight,
your breathing not deep enough.

Sometimes we are on the cusp of normalcy.
I try, with nutrition and nurturing, to push you over,
to move you, like Dorothy,
from your black-and-white existence to a world of color,
to plant you, like the daisies you love,
in a bright garden of now.

But too often you don’t see the world around you,
either the socks you dropped on the stairs
or the orange brilliancy of the sun sinking beneath the hill,

and too often you sit like a boulder on my heart,
your anxiety breaking the sternum and crushing
the tender pink muscle beneath.

Dear child,
you thank me for every meal I prepare,
for every trinket I buy for you.
Every time I brush your unruly hair
or your metal-covered teeth, and every time
I answer a question about a book you don’t understand,
you are grateful. And
unlike so many teenagers,
you have never once said I hate you.

Your therapist says there are no bad kids,
only kids who make bad choices.

I wonder if the same
is true for mothers.

She’s In Control

she lets them sit
like rising bread dough
these bits of image
and sound
these fragments


she waits for months
checking on them

now and then

the way she would
check on the baby
who’s napping

just to be sure

she makes
in music
she tunes them

like a clarinet

pulling out
or pushing in
as necessary

at last

they reach

unlike her children

whose lives
her prodding
and shaping
and who
may never rise
to the occasion

her children

who might
be happy
just to sit

she were
to let

Go Away

take this
skewed life
and straighten

rend it

start over

bury this

and its

love them

I can’t


this heart
also poisoned

pain in

—Laura Wendorff