Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: poem


Here’s a poem for all the adopted people and parents on Mothers’ Day.

Some families don’t look like each other.
Tall and short, different shapes,
long pointy noses and buttons,
olive complexion and fair with freckles.
Blue eyes and brown. All mixed together
dumped unceremoniously into one pot.
Stir, add heat, and call it a family.
We have no shared genetic memory,
our only history that which we claim,
that which we make together or make up.
A handful of heritages from which
we choose at will. This is adoption.
We are people so audacious as to
choose our family, by luck or by love or
being in the right place at the right time.
There may be times when we feel we don’t belong,
we’re in the wrong family. There may be times
we secretly long for the rich, kind, perfectly adoring
people we were meant to have,
who would buy us everything we want
and never make us do chores.
But we always know better: the real family
is the one you are with. Who needs
blood and DNA and shared cheekbones and skin,
who needs strangers to know by looking at us
who belongs to whom?
We are family by force of will.
Our existence is proof that we are.
Our existence is proof of the power of choice
and when we say mother and father
we are speaking verbs more than titles.
Don’t feel sorry for me, I am adopted and proud
and know the strength of family
in a way you blood relations never will.


Bob King

back massage

Of my teachers in massage school,
he was the one I wanted to be like.
Bodybuilder, deep thinker, he taught me
the importance of balance in structure.
Intellectual: in another incarnation
he would be an engineer, but in this one
he was an engineer of the body.
Lengthen and strengthen, he often said,
and I still say it in my mind
when I’m touching a person’s hip flexors.
Lengthen that which shrinks down and inward,
strengthen that which is overstretched.
Let us each stand as tall as we are.
Big strong hands that could make you feel safe
by touching you, compassionate spirit
that could make the truth feel less scary
when he spoke it. Lengthen and strengthen.
I’ve come to that age when I know
that people I remember from a long time ago
are likely to be dead now, but hadn’t yet
when I heard Bob King had died.
Magician, wise man: He knew the secrets
of the body. He taught me how to breathe.
How could he not live forever? How could I
have had my last conversation with him?
I still hear his voice, the way he measured his words.
I still think of questions I’d like to ask him,
about the vagus nerve, or torsion of the pelvis.
For some people I would be willing to believe
in heaven. I’ll see Bob there, and we’ll talk
about how it was to be in the body,
the exquisite pain and the dancing, the feeling strong
and feeling like a jigsaw puzzle put together wrong.
Remember when we used to lengthen and strengthen,
he’ll say, and I’ll say yes, I do, I did,
lengthen and strengthen.


NaPoWriMo day 22: [They rank those kids.]

I decided to lean into the falling asleep while writing thing I’ve been doing all month, and instead of trying to focus on an idea, type all the words that go traipsing through my mind as I doze off. I don’t know that this result is a poem, but I don’t know that it isn’t. What does it mean? Why don’t you tell me?

They rank those kids. Make them drink
motor oil. Sit down with us on the cold ground.
Is it too long from the church
you like to change my direction?
I’m not sure if he’s changed it
or if he’s changed. You’re giving
him more weapons. It’s in Kansas City
more likely, it’s got a little tin to it.
What happened? I just found this
on a high shelf you probably can’t reach.
You want it? They’re lying to you,
Rachel, your head’s so high. Do you hear the
waterfalls doing that? I hear them.
If you make her a paper airplane.
Nobody gets it, the purple zeitgeist.
Those slams really bother you. Mm hm.
That makes sense because everyone agrees
they’re really happy. Don’t box us in.

Mom, what are those giant airplanes?

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Fires of Spring

Burning hill
The vultures love to ride the rising heat.
They see it shimmer in the air
high above road and prairie.
Brown clouds rising on the horizon.
Haze dulls the air. Bits of ash fall,
and come to rest on every surface.
Miles of blackened ground.
Within days, new green seeps up
from the black; indomitable grass,
life that can’t be arrested, even by fire.
There’s dying back in fall, then still cold
of winter, and now this slow explosion.
Even when I cough and tear,
I love the smoky smell of prairie spring.


Here’s some cool footage of the prairie burningfrom the air.

NaPoWriMo Day 18: A Ruined Book

Where will you be?
the land of the semi-colon . . .
which is like a wall, isn’t it, or maybe a wooden fence;
punctuation growing like fruit from the trees.
Moody, insistent, tart – each one with its own flavor—
why limit oneself to the sweet?
Yes, it can be overwhelming, but don’t give up!
Even the rough jagged peaks have their beauty
and the darkness is only a subset of light
and the vines have their own will
and we’ve become old, haven’t we?
Everything fades. We take what we can get.
A path, something green, and living
or only the remains of those who passed by here long ago.
Dinosaurs. We’re all dinosaurs, some more dead than others.
It’s precarious, this living.
There’s the theoretical, and the concrete, the metaphysical
and the symbol;
and the realness disturbs our struggle to live on paper.
Sometimes it rains.
And finally, this is all we have: rain, a place, a ruined book.


This poem was written after the prompt from The challenge is to begin with an unfamiliar poem by another author. Each line of my poem is an answer to a line of the seed poem, in reverse order. The seed poem is “How My Hair Got Wet,” by Greg Fields, published in Flint Hills Review, Issue 22.

NaPoWriMo Day 17: What the Ferals Hate

I open my eyes and it’s dark try to
read the clock through blurry eyes
and the numbers don’t mean anything
anyway. When they hit a certain
configuration, however, I am to
do something, so I stare at them until
understanding comes. Somewhere
between 2:30 and 3:00. I hear
the whoosh of wind outside
and the turbine vent groans
over my head. Now might be
a good time to write that poem
I owe myself, while the basement
door is ajar, and at the thought,
I hear them cry: naked hungry
children down there, saying,
drag us upstairs if you must, but don’t
try to change us to suit your will.
We don’t like your words.
You’d think they’d be happy
just to come into the light,
but no, until I accede
to their demands, they
refuse to cooperate.

NaPoWriMo Day 16: We Three

When one is taller than I and the other isn’t yet,
it’s special to walk a strange city with them,
we three who look alike enough to be
the family we are, but all our own selves
too. One’s dyed her hair blue, the other wears
hers long and brown. We get in the car
and one navigates to a coffee shop.
She likes coffee shops. One orders a fruity drink,
the other has mocha. We eat and drink
and one goes to the bathroom, the other
puts money in the tip jar. One wants help
finishing her mocha. I sip and realize
I just bought my daughter a coffee drink.
(It’s delicious.) We go back to the room
and one plans the day, the other reads a book.
Back in the car, one sits in the front seat beside me,
the other in the usual back. City driving.
We drive around several blocks to find parking.
Navigator wants to give up. Little sis
says, “You can’t give up, or we’ll drive
around like this forever!” I say, “You’re doing
fine, you just don’t have all the information.”
She picks up the phone again, and we get there.
Walking from the parking garage, I tell her
the phone navigator doesn’t work for walking,
but she’s sure it’s fine. She leads us into
a building which is obviously a courthouse,
complete with uniformed officers behind a
desk. We laugh as we walk across the street
to the Visitors’ Center. We like the museum there.
One wants to listen to the story on the phone,
the other wants her picture taken with her face
peeking through a cut-out picture of the
statue on top of the Capitol. We don’t want to go
in the Capitol. One wants to take pictures
of the outside, the other sits under a tree and waits.
One loves the grackles and squirrels, the other
makes friends with every dog that passes.
We get in the car, the girls trade places
from the last ride. She navigates us
to the spectacular 1880s hotel, which is said
to be haunted. I don’t see any ghosts,
just a building like no other, light pouring in
through the round window surrounding
the rectangular doors. Woodwork painted
brown and gold in meticulous detail. The contrasting
brown and white marble floors almost but not
quite too much. One reads the ghost fact sheet
to us, the other takes pictures of all the paintings.
One is taller than I, the other not quite, yet.

NaPoWriMo Day 12: Mars Square Venus

He drives. He always drives. It’s one of the
unspoken agreements they have. When she
takes her things to the car, she places her
purse and jacket in the passenger seat.
Sometimes they say the same things, without
even knowing. Then sometimes it feels like
he doesn’t even get her. She doesn’t get him.
It’s been twenty-five years and why
is prepackaged dead food always better
than homemade leftovers.
She could pack a picnic lunch
but he won’t eat it. One cat wants to go out,
and the other won’t come in.
They pick up the kids from school,
where heavy equipment and piles of dirt
and temporary fencing block all the entrances.
Every time she comes here, she has to find
a new way in. On the road, they play a game.
Each person gets to choose a song.
She chooses “Straight Outta Vagina”
by Pussy Riot. He chooses “The Power of Pussy”
by Bongwater. It reminds her of when she saw
that band, before they met, so long ago she’s
not sure she remembers what it felt like.
There are wind turbines.
“I saw a train today carrying turbine blades,”
she says. He says, “It takes more power
to make those than they’ll ever produce.
They only last ten years.” Through the window,
she watches the slow spin. She thinks
about vast fields of defunct wind turbines.
“They look cool though,” she says. He says,
“They look cool though,” not having heard her.
She imagines hanging on a blade, spinning,
flipped upside down at the top but then
coming down, still too far from the ground
to let go. Alone, she concludes, she’d never make it.
She’d need another person to survive,
someone strong and committed and willing
to do anything to reach out for her.

NaPoWriMo Day 11: Detritus of Days

When April still feels like February.
When shorter nights only mean less rest,
and the still-needed layers of winter clothes
are a hateful shroud. When your children
desperately need encouragement
and you can’t find it in yourself to lie.
You’re living in the shadow of a hill,
where the sun breaks late, glares, and
passes too soon. When the detritus of days
closes around you, try to remember
that sunlight slanting over dust on
clutter has its own beauty. It’s not enough,
but it might get you through another day.


NaPoWriMo Day 10: On the Table of the Healer Crone

The first flowers of spring are the tiniest—
henbit, veronica–and the humblest—
dandelion, crabapple. There is magic in you
and it wants to come out. The bees are hungry.
White cat waiting silently when you come home:
glance at the sky for a second as you open the door,
and she will be inside already when you get there.
The river is always where it is,
always flowing, whether you go to watch it
or not. So what if you and the disease have
evolved together, turning and circling round
in a long helical dance? Who says you need
all that heavy equipment to build up the school?
Just put yourself on the table of the healer crone,
where ancient song repeats endlessly
in golden light. This place, this moment,
this magic has always been here,
waiting for you to arrive.

%d bloggers like this: