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In the poem "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" by Galway Kinnell (from Selected Poems and A New Selected Poems), we have a scene familiar to any couple with young children. What separates the moment from one we might have ourselves is the poet's meditation on it. What is it that draws the child to them? Why might these "mortal sounds" do what other louder noises cannot do? Add to this the fine details - the pajamas and the "startlingly muscled body", for example - and the sights & sounds recreate the moment where the parents in their lovemaking contentment are united with the child "gleaming with satisfaction."

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina opens with: All happy families are like one another; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Are the things that draw families closer really all the same? Are the things that split them apart so unique?
Write a poem that focuses on a family situation. One particular moment that pulls the family together, or pulls them apart. Happy and contented poems are really so much harder to do well, that perhaps you will accept that part of the challenge.

Woolly Bully

Isolated by darkness and snow
we three dance to Woolly Bully.
We have pushed tables and chairs
to the corners of the room.
We crouch down to the carpet
like children tracing animal prints in the snow.
We dance a circle each in the other's tracks --
father, mother, child howling.
We claw at the air and grin
until our teeth shine in the yellow light.

Outside, the animal stops to breathe, to rest.
Its throat aches in the cold air.
It has seen a yellow light fall across the snow,
revealing its tracks.  It wants to be caught.
It wants to be taken in from the snow,
gathered up in someone's arms and carried inside, a pet.
It is us waiting to be brought into this circle of bodies.
It is the three of us gathering in the dance,
wrapping our bodies together
before each of us begins the solitary day.

Laura Shovan


Between the moments
that the door opens
and slams shut,
he leaves.
In that arc,
a family pulls apart
on two hinges that open
like wings
and then close
upon themselves.
Those remaining
lock him out.
Three hands together
slide the bolt.


Ken Ronkowitz


Are my seams straight
As my mom archtwisted to see
My dad would finally answer
Yeah yeah they’re straight
And watch her unblinking
Amid all that rustling
As she contorted and adjusted
Then he’d wink at me saying
Best damn legs we’ll ever see
He meant it and it was true

When Linda the sitter loped in
I winked at dad -- we liked Linda
Then he’d go dancing
With the best damn legs
And with the second best
I’d play checkers
And ask her to reach things
I had put on high shelves
So unblinking I could watch

Michael Z Murphy

The Evening Hatch

A man stands with his daughter
at the edge of a pond.
They hold fishing rods.
The girl steps to the edge
and casts her line.
The father knows there are no fish
in this pond. Never have been.
"I'm not sure if there are still any
fish in here," he says.
"That's okay," she says. "I just like fishing."

The line bends forward in a wave of time
that holds itself in space for a good number
of years until forces acting upon it bring it
to the surface. The first break in surface
tension sends out concentric circles
that widen to shore. He can feel them.
There is an evening hatch
of October caddis flies flirting with water.
No fish will take them from their world of air.
It is safe in this air, this water, this land,
this time when he has no answers;
she has no questions, a line can float
in air as if it were on water, as if we lived
in only this moment.


Pamela Milne

The Bath

All is quiet
as I soak in the tub
All is quiet
for now

I am thinking back to a time when
schedules meant nothing to me
and I didn't own a watch

I haven't been touched in months
Not since that day
I became a mother

I am dreaming that my hands
are your hands
as I feel the stretch marks
on my belly
I am dreaming
you are watching me
as I shave my legs

How lovely it would be
if you were here
and I were free
and we did not have to leave the bath

Caroline Lacy


Some – like me – had come from far
yet it was I who hosted.
A family affair
with siblings, in-laws, a stray uncle,
plus the maternal order –
Grandma and me.

They devoured all my oatmeal muffins
emptied every glass of wine.
She managed on the hard seat
through the “Happy Birthday” song
then retreated to her pushback chair.

It was there the pain attacked her –
Grandma – 89.
It’s fine to be polite,
but tonight the cost too dear.
We settled her in bed
lingered late in the living room
going from time to time to check.
Her pain had brought us pain,
yet we were glad that she was there.


Cherise Wyneken

Reality Sets In With

Her time of closeness dissipated
and intimate togetherness withdrawn.
It’s time for those around to share
what’s been her lively, lonely go-through
for so long! Do they see her stare at them
as they, in turn - not quite aware
of what this prune-like bundle will become -
curiously touch its fingers and its toes
and grin and walk away?

She’ll watch and wait another day.
How could they perceive, so soon,
what took her nine whole months
conceiving. Why presume
her rabid love would pass out of her womb
consuming them as it had her?

But wait! Someone has not left the room.
A familiar hand reaches out to hers
and with the other free one
moves down once again to touch their son.
Then he pledges - with his eyes on hers -
that he will share their prize
and learn to care as much as she.

Catherine M. LeGault

decoration day

one day each year.
resentments are forgotten
friendships  renewed.
as families join together
to honor the memory
of those no longer earthly bound
there will be sounds  of children laughing
as they go about their play
and the smell of southern fried chicken,
on tables of white linen,
beneath. those green georgia pines
and the little church, standing with
doors opened wide,
voices lifted in song.
the scent of fresh cut flowers
drifting upon a sea of colors.
among the polished stone
and there will be a few tears
tis surely true then, for one day
that death makes life worth

ray cutshaw



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