Family Therapy

poetry 0
Renee Emerson


I sing the girls little songs
while every plant in the house dies.


In group, they say into a microphone:
“Today we have learned coping skills.”
I cannot say “stroke”; I cannot say
“the unstoppable swelling of her brain”


but I can say “died.” Best to avoid
metaphor with the very young, they advise.


Another woman calls her son a star.
Others say “angel” or “gone away,”
like they willingly turned and left,
a just-missed ice cream truck, remnant
of its song, a vivid color after
you’ve closed her eyes.


We did watch her fade. I have to explain
how the body stops working, how a lung
can be like a plastic bag caught in a tree
branch, billowing. I’ve stopped taking


pictures of my surviving children. I take
pictures of the snow, and what the snow covers.

Renee Emerson is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing) and Threshing Floor (Jacar Press). She lives in Missouri with her husband and five children, navigating grief, faith, and motherhood.