This year, Backroom Window Press published Linda McCauley Freeman’s debut collection of poetry, The Family Plot, with intimate poems of family bonds and the human journey. Please enjoy the following three selected poems.
I was told to wait, so I am waiting.
All my kindergarten classmates vanish
into parents’ big-finned beasts.
Mothers, mid-flight, ask—
Are you sure someone is coming?
I nod to each one. Stand like a toy soldier
outside the school gate.
My eyes search up and down the city street.
The light on the corner keeps turning.
Green then red, green then red.
Cars I don’t know come and go.
The last boy leaves,
glances at me, walks away.
I miss him,
miss the someone else,
someone to take my hand, wait with me,
know I am only four going on five,
small even for small.
I don’t wear a watch or know
what the big and little hands mean.
I don’t know why I am still alone,
still waiting not to be
what I would fear
for the rest of my life.
EMPTYING MY PARENTS’ HOUSE
In the photo taken long ago
and a moment ago, my mother and I
stand, still together, smiling,
at the top of the stairs in front of our house,
the house now sold by my brothers
while I was away, giving me one day to say
goodbye to the rooms now empty of us.
We all lived so large in that house.
Curtains red like the bleeding heart
my father always accused me of being
and orange like my mother’s pantsuit circa 1970.
Memories crisscross each other as I pack—
blur time, signs lost and followed…
The giving up, the never giving up.
all of it now: stacked, stored, divided.
In my old room the alarm clock ticks.
My toes are cold. The scarves
my mother had draped by the window flutter
from the heating duct below.
I watch them lift and surrender.
A grey squirrel sits where the tree house was.
Broken slats nailed to the bark hang loose as if now
even the tree allowed no girls to ascend.
Going back requires hope and defies
longing, is never a return to what was
but to what is now not.
Memory bends and stretches, shapes
a new creation: the loves lovelier,
the hurts harsher.
The lattice under the porch
where that damn woodchuck lived
with her yearly crop of babies is gone,
the hours inside the house are gone,
but the door is still there, blown open,
and the green shutters still cling,
though most of the windows are broken.
Stories told and retold over time,
each slightly different, each absolutely true.
The grass my father never mowed. How
the boyfriend who became my husband who became
my ex-husband who became the father of a child
he never wanted with me—fertilized
the front yard and planted ivy so my father
would not have to mow. Who knew
the ivy’s long locks would choke the wall,
destroy the mortar? How each turn of my life
became a new road without my ever seeing
its one-way sign.
Linda McCauley Freeman is the author of the full-length poetry collection The Family Plot (Backroom Window Press, 2022) and has been widely published in international journals, including in a Chinese translation. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2022. Recently she was the featured poet in The Poet Magazine, and appeared in Delta Poetry Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, and won Grand Prize in StoriArts’Maya Angelou poetry contest. She received a grant from Arts MidHudson and was selected for Poets Respond to Art 2020, 2021 and 2022 shows. She was a three-time winner in the Talespinners Short Story contest judged by Michael Korda. She has an MFA from Bennington College and is the former poet-in-residence of the Putnam Arts Council. She lives in the Hudson Valley, NY. Follow her on www.LindaMcCauleyFreeman, Facebook@LindaMcCauleyFreeman and Twitter@LindaMccFreeman