30/30 Day #4, Karen’s Pick

Day four’s poetry pick is by Boston area poet Shira Erlichman. Shira is one of the most exciting young poets I’ve encountered in the last five years. Her voice is unique and her writing is clean and honest.

This piece gripped me with especially when the title revealed itself during the poem. I also loved evidence of the way Shira sees language in moments like, “dance with another e” and “bakery slash locker-room.”

The Rules Her Happiness Broke

Did you know, Kaydence says to me, Kaydence with a K,
dance with another e, six years old and fresh as a sunburnt orange,

talk full of missing teeth, October birthday’d, she still believes
she was born in summer, striped t-shirt stained with nose things,

smile from nose to fingertips, eyes: wet parades, hands: grabby at my
replacement mother-ness, at my staff t-shirt I haven’t washed all week

smelling of this place all toxic detergent and claustrophobic
cafeteria: bakery slash locker-room, kid hot armpits rubbed up

on its maroon cotton in their forever up-aimed neediness, in their easy
love, Kaydence, who from day one leeched herself to me

and talk talk kept talking non-stopping about: dad crashing
into the Connecticut River yesterday but diving back into it to save her

backpack, about not remembering her mother’s name,
about I Love You, my stunned delivery back at her, the rules

her happiness broke, the burst-to-tears when I left the room
for just a minute (how long is just a minute?) it’s sixty seconds

(OK I’ll try) but following me over and over and over, until
I returned one day to find her singing I DID it Shira, I waited and now

you’re BACK, Kaydence of the car crash lullaby, of the outbursts
and the inbursts, of the hand-to-hand glue, of the red-faced sky

torn open don’t go, Kaydence. Did you know, she says to me,
that if you get angry? you can just put your hands on your belly

and breathe.

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