two white women stand together with a group of people milling behind them; the woman on the left is dressed in graduation garb; the woman on the right is in a lilac short sleeve jacket and matching dress

003. six things i wanted to call you about recently

Letters to Mam


Your number is still in my phone. Part of me refuses to delete it because doing so seems like the final admission of your leaving. But then, whenever I open my phone app to call someone, your number comes up as my most called, right next to my ex-husband’s, and I am reminded again that I can’t call you.

Some of the things I wanted to call you about lately:

  1. Alonzo Brooks’ case has been reclassified as a homicide. We followed his case after watching the new Unsolved Mysteries together, and felt deep in our bones the injustice of his and his family’s treatment. I know you’d be as happy as I was to hear this development.
  2. I gave a presentation at conference at my university this week about disability and accessibility. It’s the first academic presentation I have ever given that I haven’t been able to run by you first. You are so much a part of my academic journey, my academic life, that not having your perspective on this presentation was noticeable, and made me feel unprepared in a way I will have to learn to live with.
  3. Derek Chauvin was convicted of all three charges against him. I sat on my bed and sobbed off and on for hours, not because I felt joy, but because for once, someone was held accountable. All I felt was brief relief. When the video came out last summer, we talked for a long time about defunding and rebuilding the police, the history of policing in this country, and our fears that even with his actions on full display for the world to see, how he might not face any consequences. I hate that you weren’t here to see him face consequences, to see this step towards (possible) change.
  4. My divorce was finalized in March. You were so supportive of my coming out, of my separation and living authentically, even though it meant ending an otherwise healthy, loving marriage with a man you loved like your own. I wish you could be here to see what that looks like for me.
  5. I have read more than 70 books so far this year, and there are so many I wish I could tell you about. Little Fish by Casey Plett, Luster by Raven Leilani, Sheets by Brenna Thummler, Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo, the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman…I could go on and on and on. I love that we could share books, that you taught me to love books before I could even read, that we could talk about books for hours and hours and never run out of things to say. The only thing we ran out of was time.
  6. I have also watched several movies and TV shows that I wish we could have watched together. The fact that we shared film studies made watching movies such a fun and simultaneously deeper, richer experience – even watching Hallmark movies with you was a conversation. I am grateful that I filmed our discussion of The Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), so that I at least have one of our conversations preserved forever.

We used to talk 2-3 times a week, at least, and in the last month or so I have really been feeling that void. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like that void is filled, because no one could talk about anything like you could, or provide the perspective you could, or frustrate me with their devil’s advocacy like you could. I miss your voice through the crackle of a cell phone speaker, Mam. I miss your mind and your willingness to spend hours talking about everything in the world with me.

I miss you.



‘Language Barriers’ is a Best of the Net Finalist


Part of me wants to say, “I don’t know how this happened!”

But I do.

It was one too many comments in a day of exhaustive, unsolicited feedback from strangers who felt ownership over my body by virtue of its existence in their presence.

My options were to scream into the void or put words on paper. Thankfully, I did the latter.

Over months, I edited the words into a poem. I sent that poem to nearly a dozen journals before Kissing Dynamite sent me the email that changed everything.

They wanted to feature my rage in their May 2019 issue.

I provided commentary to readers. I got to tell the why and how of the words that had poured out of me that one angry day that could have been any angry day.

The feedback I received was empowering. I hadn’t felt so validated in my feelings of violation and indignation.

In September, I received an email with the subject line, “Surprise!” Inside, the KD team announced that they had nominated ‘Language Barriers’ for the Best of the Net Anthology.

To be nominated was itself an honor. It was enough.

Last week, following a string of bad news, I received another email with the subject line, “Congratulations!” Inside, the lovely Christine Taylor, EIC of KD, told me that my flicker of fury had been named a Best of the Net finalist for 2019.

This is how it happened: I turned my hurt into flame into a story. I shared that story with someone who found some beauty in it, who shared it with their corner of the world, then shared it again with an even bigger corner of the world. Someone there saw some beauty in it, too, and decided to share it even wider.

There is magic in how it happened, and something so desperately human that it can’t be named.

Thank you Christine, the KD team, the judges and readers and producers at Sundress Publications. Congratulations to my fellow finalists, the winners, and all the other digital poets just trying to make something of the everything. Keep doing.

a study in the things i need



i’m not sure what compelled me to seek out my copy of emily dickinson’s poetry, but i couldn’t leave for work until i had it in my hands.

the front flap was tucked into the pages. i pulled it back, trying to set it right, when i noticed the signature hidden on the inside cover–my grandmother’s name in beautiful, distinctive flourish.

i don’t know how long i stood in the kitchen, fluorescent light casting blueish shadows on the floor. i don’t know how long it took the tears to form, to fall.

eighteen months ago

april in texas is a kind of first summer, wet and hot and relentless.

my mother called me on a sunday. she said my grandmother had fallen in her home and had been taken to a major hospital in a nearby city.

forty-five minutes later, i was navigating the maze of bright-light hallways and shades of antiseptic melancholy. underneath the hum of activity was the ever-present beeping of machines.

i found my way to her room. my grandfather offered me the only chair.

she seemed far away, numbed by medication and shock, but it wouldn’t last. the eight broken ribs would make themselves painfully known, throughout her body and ours.

within a few days, our extended family–my mother and her siblings and all but a handful of the grandkids–had taken over the wing. we claimed the waiting room, blankets and snacks and electronics strewn around us. we talked late into the night. we shared stories and laughed and cried when we accepted what was happening.

six months ago

how did i hear about it? an article? an ad? the trailer, maybe, on a social feed?

a film called wild nights with emily proposed a new interpretation of the emily dickinson’s letters and works–that she was in love with her brother’s wife, sue, and not at all the fearful, unrequited lover of unavailable men we’ve come to believe she was.

after a particularly challenging week of work–and while my mother lay in the same hospital her mother had died in, recovering from surgery to remove a 13cm tumor from her abdomen–i sat in a dark theater and watched molly shannon kiss susan ziegler as a narrator recited the version of the story i already knew.

molly’s emily felt more real to me than any other, this vibrant being of passion and humor and regret and sadness so deep that she didn’t know a way out. could i call her my sister then? fellow poetess with an affinity for the same kind of love?


i shared a photo of the book with my mother. the day after chemo is usually one of her best days of the week, steroids like buoys against the grey of sick sleep.

“i must have stolen this at some point,” i said. “i want you to have it, if you want it.”

instead, she said i should keep it. maybe it was meant for me. maybe it was my grandmother’s way of letting me know that she wasn’t really gone.

i’m not sure i believe something like that can happen. more than likely, it was serendipity, or maybe the vague tugging of memory, grief leading me back in time.

however the book came back to me, i’m thankful it did–if only for the reminder of books’ magic.