Mom’s Poetry


The Green Poem

From far above my head,
up where the air
moves green

From up there down
to deep below my feet,
where roots are growing,
silent and unseen

I love you all those places.
The empty spaces in between
are full of love – and me full too,
of knowledge of air and green roots
of wonder of you –

Me in between,
a simple thing and small,
but with a hundred different faces
for the smiling of it all.



Marriage Poem

I am in awe, my husband:
What have we woven here?

We are a holy process, you and I,
Like air and water lending
themselves gladly
To strong brown dirt to birth a tree

Where sun can play and rain can dance
With leaves, splashing shadows on
The earth below

With roots that know
That fish and bird are same.
I am in awe:
It knows our name.



The Geometry of Boomerangs & Tears

WARning: all the weapons are Boomerangs.
Tell them.

An emergency of Love, of Justice
A simple truth.

The Tears were a River
were Precious as Silver
were Terrible as a huge fire
kept secret.

There would be enough Pain for Everyone,
enough to go around the world and back,
like a Boomerang.

They were Lost
when they did not Treasure the Others





“Here is a poem. The first Theresa is Theresa Patterson, director or the Haiti Parish Twinning Program, which has introduced countless people to Haiti over the years. Theresa goes with groups from the U.S. out to the parish or school or development they’ve been twinned with in Haiti, and she brings children back to Nashville for medical treatment they’d surely die without. This is not easy work.

Some of the American visitors don’t travel so well, are overwhelmed by what they see, are complaining or blindly condescending toward the Haitians they meet. Getting travel clearance for Haitian children is usually a nightmare; live-saving surgery at stake or not, interminable waits at the consulate and senseless delays in processing paperwork are the norm. And once cleared for travel, the children are children — sometime frightened, sometimes sick and smelly, sometimes just wailing and spilling things the whole trip. Then there’s the surgery, then there’s the recuperation, then the trip back to Haiti. Theresa has been doing this work for 18 years.

The second Theresa is the mother of Oman Desanges, a young Haitian man who was subjected to what our press delicately termed “facial scalping.” You may have seen hi photograph about three years ago; if you did, you have not forgotten it. He was a boat person who was repatriated from Guantanamo “in error” after being judged eligible for asylum. He went into hiding immediately, for more than a year. His mother, who lives in Miami, spoke with him on the phone on New Years Day 2993; he said he was thinking about moving back into his house in Port-au-Prince, and did so sometime in January.

The military soon came in the night and took him away. His brother went to jail for him the next day, but the military denied they had him and said he was a communist anyway, and his brother left when they shot him in the hand.

Meanwhile, friends had called his mother in Miami, who frantically raised bribe money to get him out of jail and flew to Haiti with it. She was too late. Oman’s body was found down by the bay the next morning, disemboweled, his head crushed in and his face cut away. His mother used the bribe money to pay a photographer instead — “so people would see what they did to him,” she said.

The photograph was smuggled out of Haiti — by one of these friends, in fact. It was circulated on Capitol Hill and to the media. It was on signs and fliers under the heading “The Human Face of U.S. Policy.” It made its way to Senate hearings. I think it made a difference.

Oman’s “crime,” by the way, was that he’d been block captain of a neighborhood that won a prize for their cleanup and decorations celebrating Aristide’s inauguration.”

Haiti: The Two Theresas

The Theresa who is tall and blonde and looks like the Country Club
Who has taken hundreds, maybe thousands over there
many, many of them losing the shell from their hearts sometimes in chunks, sometimes little bits not noticing really
gleeful like children finding a thing on the beach
glistening new, full of the stories they saw
and the new heart of a creature with no shell at all
and the dazzling pain when you poke it,
bright as the sun on sea: gasping dazzling pain
gulps hot salt tears and stuns you.

And the Haitian Theresa, the one who is not tall
and not blonde and does not speak English
Who paid the photo guy to do her son in his coffin
with only half his face left
because she got there too late
to pay the jail guy to let him out
and she insisted on witness to what they did to him
in that country with club and machete

Who stood her ground after the funeral
when the gun guy came and said
You! You come with me!
and she said: no.
and he poked the gun at her again and said
You come with me! and she said: no.
and he went away.

She told this in her room last summer, and we wept
and told her we took the picture everywhere in Washington saying Look! Look what they do!
Look what they do to the children!
and we also said Thank You: as mothers we thank you for strength, for courage, for standing that ground
and she said no: when you stand like that it if God’s strength, it is God’s ground.

And the first Theresa
who took us there to Haiti where we lost our shells
and brings children who would otherwise die
back here for surgeries on their hearts and their faces
and they go back all healed up and new and full
of stories with God knows what inside, or what ahead
has not met the second Theresa, exactly,
except here, where God looked at my heart
and said “Ah hah! Ragged tissue at the edges, eh?
I’ll weave it up for you!” and does it with these two
Theresas side by side
sisters, mothers, holy both of them
and I gasp with the pain,
with grief as hot as the sun
or the Son or the Daughter or these Sisters
and try to stand it without understanding,
without a shell.


The sisters are everywhere

The sisters are everywhere,
Yours, mine
Scattered across the earth like

the deepest lines on the face of God,

a joyous tumbling river of laughter,

an infinity of tears.


How do you find them?
You look at their children and see your child
You look in their eyes and see your eyes,

looking at yourself

And in the mirror also,

their eyes looking back out of your own.


So when you find one — then what?
Do this: touch the tips of the fingers

of your two hands together

lightly, like a careful prayer.


The fingers know the same things:

bread in all stages stone skin water

glass, whole or broken and hair –


They know how to hold a feather, a fire

and a knife. And they know sand from salt.


So touch your fingers together now,
on your own two hands,
just like a prayer

Really, do it – See,

there she is / you are / I am:

One of the sisters.