Remembering when I would stand by my parents’ bed and stare at my mother until she woke up, which she always did

Waking up from the worst kind of nightmare

I desperately wanted to wake someone else so they could make it better and remind me that it wasn’t real

Even though I could still feel the tender red mark on my skin where it had gripped me

I wanted someone to hold me and rock me back to sleep

Even though that’s my job now

I considered how each person in my house would react

and what it would mean to share my nightmare with them

Instead I stumbled downstairs

dizzy and sick

settling for the impartial solace of saltines with peanut butter quickly made and quickly eaten

and a glass of cranberry juice

which didn’t make my nightmare go away but the nausea faded

Still sleepy but paranoid that the nightmare will regain full control

I sit with only the light from the kitchen for company

Worth It

What’s beautiful
and enticing
about the woods is 
everything that
isn’t there:

Zoom calls 
group texts
dirty laundry 
to-do lists 
lesson plans
screen time requests
pans and plates piled in the sink
bad news

Oh and also
there is clear water
flowing over mossy rocks
unending trees 
unexpected flowers

a tiny toad
a noisy woodpecker
my children

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
May 2020

Is it still a new day?

You may not even realize
as you step out of your
front door each morning
that you are not the 
same person you were
when you closed the door behind you
the night before

You are freshly washed
having sloughed off
the roughness of yesterday
ruminating on what’s to come
digesting buttered toast and orange juice

Or that was you, before…

What if you’ve now got nowhere to go
this morning

or any morning

what if the only incentive
to get out of bed is
the hug and the kiss 
from a little boy who wants help
pouring milk into his cereal bowl

Is it still a new day
when the only threshold you cross
is the one into your
fluorescent lit kitchen?

Even then, you are more than
you were the day before
you’ve read a chapter
solved a puzzle
listened to someone’s story
made a sandwich 
watched a movie
sung a song
laughed at a joke
cried from despair
said a prayer
and waited for the darkness to come again

Each salty tear
and sleepless hour
has made its mark

Even when you have nowhere to go
you can step outside
and stand in the sun
for having survived
another day

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
May 2020

Intimacy vs. Privacy

In this house
I can always tell
who is coming up the stairs
by the weight and velocity of their footfalls

Because of the creaky floors
I know when anyone is walking anywhere
Like a Marauder’s Map in my mind

The thin walls reveal
every conversation
personal noise in the bathroom
keyboard stroke
video game melody
piece of television dialogue
even when all the doors are closed
If I don’t want to hear all the details
of your life
I have to put on music
but then
you will hear
my music

Sometimes I sleep
just to claim some time
by myself
but even then I am not really

There are certainly houses
smaller than ours
but ours is small enough
that there is no privacy
but plenty of intimacy
as I can hear you breathing
and I am thankful that
you are breathing

Origin Story on the Playground

on a wet playground
I witnessed
the origin of a superhero

Created by a
teacher who was
crouched down in the soggy mulch
next to a sobbing child
who was, until that moment,
just an ordinary girl
with a blond ponytail
and purple glasses

Our would-be hero
wearing rainpants
had just careened down
the frictionless slide
and landed hard
on her bottom

A small crowd
of small children
had begun to gather
when the teacher
swooped in

“You didn’t tell me you were a superhero!”
she said to the girl.
“You didn’t tell me you could fly!”

The girl stopped sobbing
and looked questioningly at her teacher

“You must be a superhero because
you flew right off that slide!”

The girl considered this.

“My bottom hurts,” she said.

“Sometimes that happens
when superheroes fly,”
her teacher acknowledged.

“Next time you are going to fly
down the slide,
tell me
and I will be here to help.
Maybe we can make
a big pile of mulch underneath
to make it softer.”

“Or,” said the girl,
“we could put something bouncy there!”

“What a great idea!” said her teacher.
“You are a superhero and you have great ideas!”

And the superhero smiled.

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
February 2020