To My Son, Home from College


You’re home complaining how crowded

our house feels with the new baby,

question the noise, her crying.

These rooms used to be yours.


Then you speak of going to live with your dad.

The dad who wanted to show you the alternatives.

I always asked him, alternatives to what?


I walk down Sixth Street alone,

big black umbrella carried in front,

tears falling faster than the rain.


I could come home and sit with you,

but what could I say?


I love to see you;

that could be enough.

Though you ask nothing about me.


You belong to your father now;

your little finger lifts off the cup

the way his does.


You rub your face hard on both cheeks,

rub your chin several times

when you feel something important.

Like how you can’t stand it here any more.


You laugh, when you really laugh,

with his guttural growls.

Offer up unexpected belches and animal sounds

while other people just talk.


He pours you a whiskey.

Knowing your history and his,

I wonder what else.


I don’t need to know the rest.

What I know is that

he’s showing the other choices

that may change you as they did him.



Six Maple Trees


lined the edge of the farm

we called Ye Dascomb Aerie.


We could not reach into the first two.

They limbed up too high.

We climbed the last one

near the raspberry patch.

The one with the rope swing Cecil made.


That strong limb just above our heads

made for us to swing up on,

into branches high above the ground.

We carved our initials there, the taller cousins


toward the top, the shorter ones

near the bottom. I loved cutting

into the bark with my green Girl Scout knife.

It made the tree ours.


Cousin Alan and I would climb as high as

we could, then Alan went

higher. We could talk up there

about Fats Domino and Elvis.

When we were alone, Jerry Lee Lewis.

He married his thirteen- year- old cousin.


The maple branches strong

enough to hold twelve cousins each summer.

Fat green leaves in summer, red in fall,

they held our secrets, then dropped

them without ceremony to the ground.


Everyone who visited had to pass

the test of our maple tree. Could they

climb it and how high?  Could they

hang upside down from the high

branch, then jump all the way down?



Ending War


The Liberian women made a last stand in the market.

They took off their clothes and stood before the guerrillas.

The young men stepped back. The war was over.


In a time when sexual assault prevails

as often as we hear of young boys killing villages

of men and women in Syria, in Afghanistan, in parts

of Africa, some policemen on American streets,

what will end mindless cruelty and revenge?


Will taking off our clothes work more than once?

We are your sisters, sons, your daughters not yet born,

your mothers and grandmothers.

We stand in the place where you find comfort.

You kill yourselves.


by Donna Emerson


Some of Donna Emerson’s publications include Alembic, CQ (California Quarterly), CALYX, The Chaffin, Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Fourth River, Fox Cry Review, The Griffin, The Los Angeles Review, LUX, New Ohio Review, Paterson Literary Review, Passager, Persimmon Tree, Praxis: Gender & Cultural Critiques (formerly Phoebe), Quiddity, Sanskrit, Slipstream, Soundings East, So To Speak, The South Carolina Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Spillway, Stone Canoe, and Weber—The Contemporary West. Donna’s work has received numerous prizes and awards including honorable mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, nominations for the Pushcart Prize (2013), and Best of the Net (2012). Her second chapbook, Body Rhymes (2009), nominated for a California Book Award, and third and fourth chapbooks, Wild Mercy (2011) and Following Hay (2013), have been published by Finishing Line Press. Donna’s work can also be seen in anthologies such as Echoes (2012), Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing (Passager Press), Chopin with Cherries, A Tribute in Verse (Moonrise Press), Music In The Air (Outrider Press), and The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers).


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