The Shadows


I stand in the shadows

Allowing the darkness

To obscure my form.

Feeling invisible

In a world that demands

Constant visibility.

I am a deviant in this regard.


Hiding has become second-nature.

Years of skulking about

Formulate my expertise,

Making me a solid spokesperson

For all those, like me,

Who feel most comfortable

Enveloped by the dark.


I’ve learned to sit up front,

But it takes guts to do so.

I keep my eyes downcoast,

Waiting for censure,

For the ego-destroying caustic comment

That snaps me in two.

But I sit there anyway, knowing,

Instinctively, that this is where best

To be recognized, to be acknowledged,

To be held as a positive example.


Later I’ll slink into the background

And blend in with the overhanging

Leaves of trees and

The sides of buildings.

I return to being invisible as

I stand in the dark.

Confessions of an eight-year-old Criminal


Yes, it’s true. I was a thief.

I can’t recall ever stealing something from my family, not stooping to raiding my mother’s purse, for I understood that such behavior was unacceptable. I also understood that we had very little money, so what would be the purpose of taking the few bills my mother did have?

I did yearn for things. In fact, at times the desire was so all-consuming that it was all I could think about.

My mother shopped most frequently at what she called the five-and-dime. It was an all-purpose store that sold everything from deodorant to fabrics to toys to books. At that point my reading skills were just developing, so books did not hold me in thrall.

It was the paper umbrellas that got me. They were in a bin, all opened, showing off their beautiful pastel colors and wooden bodies. They called to me, over and over. More than once my fingers reached for one, intending to ask my mother to buy one for me, but when she did catch me, she slapped my hand away.

My desire escalated to such a point that I could not turn away. Could not fight off the feeling of wanting to possess just one. Just one paper umbrella.

I told myself that the store owner would want me to have it. That if the owner knew how badly I wanted it and knew that there was no extra money for frills, that the owner would walk over and tell me to pick the one I most wanted.

And so when my mother’s attention was focused on something further away, my hand snuck out and I took the pink umbrella. I stuffed it in the pocket of my shorts, hoping that it didn’t break.

At first I smiled because I now had an umbrella. Then I began to shake in fear of what my mother would do to me when she discovered that I had stolen it. I reached into my pocket to put it back, but at that moment, my mother insisted that I follow her to the register.

I expected the owner to read my face, to see the dishonesty in my eyes, but she didn’t. I knew my mother would catch me, for nothing got past her, but she didn’t.

When we left the store, I thought alarm bells would ring and the police would be called and I would go to jail, but none of that happened.

All the way home in the car, I waited for the angry words of disapproval, but they didn’t come. In fact, it wasn’t until hours later when my mom walked into my room and saw my playing with the umbrella that anything awful happened.

She didn’t spank me, but she did take the umbrella away.

Later that evening when my dad came home from work, my mom confronted him with the evidence that his daughter was a thief. His outrage was both painful and immediate. He removed his belt and repeatedly struck me on my backside until I was sure that it must have been bright red.

The next day my mom drove into town, parked in front of the store, and escorted me to the counter. She stood there as I confessed, arms crossed over her chest and an indignant look on her face.

The owner didn’t want the umbrella back, which made me very happy, but that happiness was short-lived. My mother would not let me have it. Instead she pushed me out of the store, lecturing about how I had embarrassed her and that I was lucky that the owner was not going to press charges.

When school started I was signed up for a Brownie Girl Scout troop. I don’t remember asking to do this, so since we had limited funds, I’m not sure why my parents insisted that I belong. Maybe they thought I’d develop morals or that, since I was socially awkward, that I’d learn to belong.

Things went well the first few meetings, but then the yearning struck again when the leader placed a package of brightly colored rubber bands on the table. Oh, I wanted them! Not just the two we were supposed to use for our project. No, I wanted the entire bag!

I was transfixed by the myriad of colors sitting there, waiting for me to pick them up. They called my name, begging me to please take them home.

I remembered the umbrella incident, so moved away, thinking that the call would lesson, but it didn’t. Instead it intensified to the point that all I could think about was the rubber bands and what it would feel like to own them.

When it was time to clean up, all the girls pitched in. The bag was one of the last things left on the table. I reached for it, hoping that someone else would beat me to it, saving me from myself, but it didn’t happen.

To me, this was a sign. A miracle. Those rubber bands were supposed to go home with me. I held them in my fist and walked toward the tub were all supplies went. The closer I got, the harder my heart beat until it was pounding ferociously in my chest.

At the last minute I veered and went to my bag. I slid the package in with my homework, zipped it up, and then stood by the door.

Like before, I expected to be caught by either my leader or by my mother. Neither happened. I was able to get the rubber bands all the way home and hide them in my room.

I never derived any pleasure from them because I was too fearful of being caught.

Eventually I snuck the package outside and stuffed it in the garbage can.

That was my last foray into the criminal lifestyle.

I still wanted things as passionately as before, but the threat of being caught and disciplined was too much.

Whenever something called my name, I forced myself to walk away. I might not have been the best student, but in this case, I learned my lesson well.

Resurrecting Memories


I was afraid of you from the very beginning.

As far back as I can remember, I cannot recall

A single incident in which you held me in your arms,

Consoled me when I was sad,

Comforted me when I was ill,

Or sheltered me when I was distressed.

I cannot remember any words of encouragement,

But rather the tone of disappointment

When once again I failed to be the girly girl

That you expected. Demanded.

You did complete forms when I wanted to go to college

And when I bought my first car,

But beyond that I only sensed frustration

And anger and rage

Expressed with almost demonic glee

Whenever I slighted your sensibilities,

Causing you to discipline me with hand or belt

Or word, the most painful of all for those hurts never ceased.

I feared your homecoming after a day of work,

For I never knew what your mood might be and

How it would affect me.

If you were angry, I’d be the recipient of your anger.

If you were frustrated, I’d be the outlet.

It got so that I hid away in my room

Whenever you were around

For I never knew when you’d explode

And I’d be the nearest target for your hands.

I’d dream of living in a different family.

One filled with love. Soft voices.

Encouragement. Joy. Laughter.

Kind arms.

I convinced myself that I was adopted,

Like the kids in stories who were abused

By their adoptive families,

As an explanation as to why you treated me

The way you did.

That helped me move past my deep-felt hurt.

I never forgot the things you did.

The way you spoke to me in derision.

The lack of your love.

But more than anything,

I never moved past my fear.


Fearful Memories

She came to her mother in the night

smelling of sweat, fear and sour breath

with hair tangled into miserable knots

crying about the monsters plaguing her dreams

which resembled all too closely

the boys who teased her mercilessly at school

even though Mom had complained to the teacher,

begging her to stop the torture.

The girl snuggled next to her mother’s side

head resting on the chest

arms tightly gripping her mother’s waist

and cried until all tears were gone.

her mom thought about sending her daughter

back to her own bed

back to the darkness where nightmares ran free,

but instead cradled her daughter and tried

to erase the painful memories.


Out of the Fire

Times had been hard since Julia’s father remarried. His new wife, Angelica, had no time and little to no interest in taking care of Julia, and so left her alone and feeling unloved. As an eight-year-old, this was painfully hard. More than anything, Julia yearned to be held in someone’s arms and hear the words, “I love you”. But day after day passed without a single encouraging sound.

Her father traveled a lot for work, so he was seldom home. Recently he flew off to Switzerland, a land that Julia longed to see, leaving instructions for Angelica to take his daughter shopping for new school clothes.

Like all kids, Julia loved new clothes. The first week of school everyone wore new stuff, showing off all the big-name brands that their parents had purchased. Before her father remarried, Julia was just like those kids, standing proud with her Nike shoes and Addidas yoga pants.

Angelica, however, did not take Julia to Macy’s or Nordstrom’s so that Julia could get the best clothes. No. She took her to WalMart and Target and hastily picked out the cheapest clothes she could find. Julia was given no say in what was purchased. In fact, when she complained about a neon orange t-shirt with a dinosaur covered in sparkles, she was told to shut up and be grateful for what she got. So she wore unpopular clothes and for the last two years had been the laughingstock of her class.

While her father was gone this time, without giving prior notice, Angelica moved in her three nieces, bulky teenagers with puffy faces and lumberjack thighs. The girls were haughty, rude and disrespectful to Angelica, openly ridiculing her and making fun of the way their aunt walked and talked, but it didn’t seem to matter as they were never disciplined. Because of this, the teens saw an opportunity to pick on Julia mercilessly, teasing her about her hair, her nibbled-on finger nails, and her dishwater-blue eyes.

One day a flyer appeared in their mailbox advertising a contest in which one singer would earn a full scholarship to Johnson School for the Arts in Denver, a residential school housed in a refurbished mansion.

Because Julia loved music, she dreamt of winning and of the escape it would bring. Every evening after she finished her seemingly endless list of chores, she retreated to her bedroom and sang every song that came to mind. She pictured herself on stage, standing before a panel of judges, hitting every note perfectly, so perfectly that she would be declared the winner right on the spot.

Her stepmother’s nieces also practiced. Not a one of them could sing on tune for more than a few notes and they had no sense of rhythm or timing, and even though they used a karaoke machine, they messed up the words.

Julia loved hearing them fail time after time. She knew that they would embarrass themselves on stage, probably earning a chorus of mocking chants similar to what they dished out to Julia. Julia pictured them turning beat red as the judges critiqued their performances, finding so many faults that there was much more negative than positive.

Finally after weeks of anticipation, the third Saturday in August arrived, the day of the contest. Angelica told her nieces to wear their best clothes and to do up their hair so as to look their best. Julia put on her only dress, even though it was practically see–through, combed out her shoulder-length hair and rubbed lotion on her arms and face.

When it was time to leave, Julia headed for the car. Angelica stood in her way, arms crossed over her chest, glowering. “You can’t go looking like that,” she said. “Go put on one of your new outfits.”

Julia went upstairs and changed as quickly as she could. Because she had no other dress, she wore her new pants, shoes and shirt. But she must have taken too long, for by the time she stepped out the front door, the car was gone.

Tears formed in her eyes. Julia thought about giving up and going inside, but then she remembered her dream. There was a chance that she might make it in time, if she was lucky and her friend Nat was at home. She walked as quickly as she could and when she arrived, Nat’s mom answered the door. Her mom invited Julia inside and offered her a glass of cold water.

After hearing Julia’s sad tale, the mom said, “Take Julia upstairs and have her try on a few of your dresses. When you find one that looks good, get dressed and come downstairs. Please hurry, though, as we have little time to spare.”

In the room Nat pulled out four dresses, and one by one, Julia tried them on. By consensus, they agreed that the pale green dress with a gauzy skirt was the best choice. Nat also loaned Julia a pair of black flats, which fit a little loose, but looked good enough that no one would notice.

“You look wonderful,” Nat’s mom said. “We’d better hurry as it will take us a good twenty minutes to get there.”

When they arrived, Nat’s mom filled out the required paperwork, claiming herself to be Julia’s guardian. It was a little bit of a lie, but not a huge one, because Nat’s mom happened to be a cousin on her mom’s side of the family. Since her mother died, Julia hadn’t seen much of her aunt, but whenever Julia needed something, she always came through for her.

Julia waited backstage for her turn to sing. From where she was seated, she could not see the stage or hear the music, but she could see Angelica’s nieces. They took turns preening before a floor-length mirror and smoothed out each other’s hair, sticking pins in here and there to keep unruly areas flat.

One by one they left. One by one they returned with sour looks on their faces. Angelica hugged each, wiping away tears of humiliation, and then shuffled them out of the mansion.

Because Julia had registered so late, she was the last performer. As she waited, she sang quietly, going over how she would stand, move her arms, and allow her eyes to look out over the audience with a confidence that she felt down to her toes.

After a long, long wait, when no one else was left, Julia’s turn came. She was escorted to the side of the stage and told to wait. She peeked around the curtain and saw that only about fifty people remained. That gave her hope. The other kids must have done so poorly that their parents knew they’d never get accepted to the school and so left in despair.

When told to do so, Julia walked proudly to the center of the stage. She bowed and then stepped to the microphone. “Hi. My name is Julia Smythe. I’m eight years old and I love to sing.”

“Welcome, Julia,” one of the judges said with a smile. “Are you a good student?”

“Yes,” Julia said. “I never get in trouble, do all my work, and get good grades.”

“Excellent. You’re the kind of student that we’re looking for.” The judge picked up a pen and wrote something on a paper in front of him. “What are you going to sing?”

“Beauty and the Beast.”

“Please call up the soundtrack,” the judge said to some unseen person. “Julia, when you’re ready, nod and the music will begin.”

Julia took a deep breath to steady herself, raised her eyes and looked at the back wall of the auditorium. She nodded and when the music began, she gave the best performance she had ever done. She hit every note and followed the beat. When the music ended, she smiled a satisfied smile.

The audience clapped and clapped and then people stood until even the judges were on their feet. Julia blushed and bowed her head. It felt good to have so many people standing just for her. She loved it when they shouted her name over and over.

When the audience quieted, Julia turned to leave. While she was pleased that so many liked her performance, she believed that was because she was only eight. She thought she didn’t stand a chance at getting that cherished spot in the school.

Before she had taken the second step, the judge said, “Where are you going?’

“I thought I’d go home.”

He smiled at her. “Don’t you want to hear our comments? Aren’t you interested in knowing how well you did?”

Julia looked down at the stage floor. “Yes, but I’m just a little girl.”

“You’re a little girl with a powerful voice,” the judge said. “In fact, you have the best voice that we’ve heard all day. How does that make you feel?”


“Well, then, we have some great news for you. Are you interested in knowing what we have to say?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Julia Smythe, we are prepared to offer you a complete scholarship to the academy. It will cover your tuition and your room and board for as long as you succeed and wish to stay.”

Julia clasped her hands and bowed. “Thank you. Thank you so much!”

“All we need is for your parent to complete the paperwork and the deal is sealed. Is one of them here with you?”

“My mother id dead and my dad is away, but my aunt brought me here today.”

The judges took Julia, her aunt and Nat into an office. When they gave her aunt the paperwork, they said it had to be signed and returned within two weeks, and then Julia would begin school August 24.

Julia and Nat skipped all the way to the car. They sang “Beauty and the Beast” over and over until Nat’s mom couldn’t take it anymore. When they got to Nat’s house, her aunt sent Julia upstairs to change.

“I contacted your dad,” her aunt said when the girls came down for lunch. “He said to say that he was proud of you. He won’t be back in time to sign the papers, so he asked me to fax them to him. I can do that on my computer, so I’ve already sent him the paperwork. We should get it back later today.”

Julia smiled. In her borrowed clothes she had beaten out her stepmother’s nieces and all the other kids. Within a month she would be out of her miserable home and into a cherished academy. Life was turning out to be good after all.


If I Saw a Werewolf

I saw a werewolf dancing a jig

He jumped, he spun, he shifted his wig

With twinkling toes and red-sparkling nails

His laughter echoed through hills and vales


His grin, his teeth, incredibly big

A handsome werewolf dancing a jig

His partner, a fairy in sparkling array

Acted as if she were dancing for pay


Amid  bold sneers and snickers guffawed

He heard only admirers applaud

That handsome werewolf dancing a jig

Was outdone by a talented pig


Judges awarded ribbon of red

“I thank you,” the winning dancer said

“I beat you fair and square,” said the pig.

Then that werewolf quit dancing a jig