Tracy Darling



Little Black Dress

Never wear

your favorite little

black dress

to your dadís funeral

because then


itís no longer

your favorite little

black dress



Busted my knees


ice skating


Busted my ass




I canít kneel, I canít sit

definitely not going to mass on Sunday

wasnít going to mass anyway


And you might think, might even say

Iím getting too old for such activities


But I say

I just need to learn how to


not so hard forward, not so hard back

but gently to the left, softly to the right

catching myself, then moving on


Itís Just Like That

Thereís nothing wrong with my hometown and thatís why

I had to leave.  Just like thereís something wrong

with my marriage and thatís why I stay.

Just like they are my sisters so there must be rivalry and jealousy,
comparison and competition.  Like they are my parents so I must fight against myself
for differing views and opinions.  My Daddy is dead

so I miss him in the same way I wouldnít want to see him if he were alive.

In the same way I avert my eyes from the heavenly glare when I run by

church Sunday mornings.  In the same way I lied to those sorority girls
about my Daddyís blue collar job.  In the same way I glorify the richness of the South
while my accent embarrasses my tongue.  Just like I only know what the hell Iím doing
when my children are near.  Itís just like that.




Broken But In Repair

My three children with their small, delicate

hands hold needles and thread

in three different shades

my youngest son fire truck red

my only daughter pink

my oldest son silver, his uniqueness shining

They gently and lovingly stitch

the tear in my heart, each one

a small section

the colors overlapping


strengthening one another

until they come to one area

the rip too jagged

the cut too deep

the blood loss too much

their hands too little

thread too weak

skills too few

they must abandon the task, too much

for me to ask of them


They return with sponges in determined hands

in three different sizes, only what each can hold

they set to work soaking up my tears

the ones trailing down my face

streaking down my arms

the ones accumulating into puddles at my feet

but as hard as they try, they canít reach

all the tears remaining beneath my eyes

frustrated, they abandon the chore, too much

to ask


I gather up the needles and thread, the sponges tossed aside, look down

at the damage Iíve inflicted on myself, and I watch

as my own hands

repair myself

I had to ask




Itís Stephen Dobynsí Fault Animals are Now Scurrying and Flying into my Poems and
Jeff Epleyís Fault This Title is So Long

I hold the homing pigeon in my hands, pull her to my chest

sheís a variety of domestic pigeon, like me her place is in the home

pigeons can only go back to one mentally marked point they have identified as their home

like when I say the word home my mind travels back

to my childhood home

the yellow cape cod with burgundy shutters

I always get the same question:  do your parents still live in the yellow house?

yes, I answer, but only one parent now

yes, I answer, but the color has grown a little dimmer

with the smiles of the three girls long gone, the shade more muted

with the laughter transported to other homes

a homing pigeon only returns to its own mate

I wonder if I should have married my high school sweetheart

not that he asked

but the last time I returned to where I used to nestle in his arms

I felt something, still, after twenty years, my true mate?

I hold the pigeon in my left hand, reach for the black sharpie with my right

I want to make sure the letters survive the journey south

I left my childhood name at the altar, my married name at my writing desk

in mid-life Iím becoming someone else, not sure who yet

Iím still developing the character

homing pigeons are referred to as carrier pigeons when they are used to carry messages
written on thin light paper, rolled into a small tube

attached to the bird's leg

I wonder how much my name weighs, what it is worth on a scale

and whose eyes watch my balancing act

the pigeonís feathers are the same smoky gray I apply to my eyes

brushing on feathers to the corners like wings crushed by crowís feet

I had my bangs feathered in my teens and when a hairdryer blew them back

well they were called wings and I flew away

ainít goiní back to that diction

I return my name there instead

press the black sharpie to the pigeonís wings

write out all four names -- first, middle, maiden, married -- that make me who I am

Chris Abani says if thereís nothing at risk, it cannot be art

what am I risking?  the life of one homing pigeon? 

donít think they are an endangered species

I worry it appears I risk nothing, protect everything

by sending my name away, signing another to my writing

but I know the name only fills the emptiness of a blank line

the words leave permanent marks, scars

he knows

and He knows

I think of Demi Moore in The Seventh Sign

Would you die for Him?


the thing is Iím still answering no

Iím not ready, love my children too much

and like Demi, I know what yes will mean

I throw up my arms, what else can I do?

release the pigeon to the sky, she spreads her wings

the jet stream will carry her west to east, sheíll have to turn south

on her own

she knows the way






Sometimes I Write Poetry About Shoes and Sometimes I Donít


There are things you know

as original as sin, as shame, as guilt

you should soak the wooden skewers in water

before setting them on the grill so they wonít burn

the flame searing meat from pink on the inside to blackened on the outside

you should burn with a match the very tip of a safety pin to black

before prying a wooden splinter

from beneath pink flesh to the air

no more pain, exhale, breathe

dip only the tips of your fingers to holy water

press lightly to forehead, to chest, to left shoulder and right

donít pray for too much or for too little


look down, turn away from your wants and needs

stand strong gripping the wooden pew in front of you

knees locked, knuckles white

Ďtil the last hymn

go home

step away from your church clothes

cry softly into your pillow

the weight of your worry only heavier, not lighter

knowing what you know

blood stains

tie an apron around your weaknesses

strike a match to the coals

watch the flame


the pain of hunger away




Slightly Ajar


He came to me in a whisper

mommy, lay with me

and I should have said no

should have taken more pictures, spent less time on laundry

all my time divided between task and chore

kid, child and baby

because when you have three kids

time alone with each is borrowed from one, taken from another

time to yourself stolen from all three

Iíd already spent my allotted time with him

lying beside, talking, kissing, nuzzling noses

but this night his little voice pulled me to him

and I let it

he climbed into his bed, slithered down seeking warmth

reaching for sleepís best friends Ė

his favorite blankie and two fingers to suck sleep towards him

I crawled into bed beside him, placed my hand on his back

he smiled his thanks

my hand felt him breathing, my face confirmed

and though I was tired, my eyes opened wide

inhaling him

one last whisper broke the love

take your hand off my back

his final words for the night

I smiled and complied

obstacle removed, sleep announced itself

in shallow breaths and warmed body

stepped through the door with one last quiver

and I thought it was just the four of us

my son and sleep, me and my thoughts

but because Iíd left the bedroom door

slightly ajar, my dad, gone for six months, entered

making it five

my thoughts lingered by another bed in another room in another state

when I had hoped to escort my dad not into sleep

but into wake

I waited and willed my daddy to wake

from his coma in that hospital room over four days

with my mama

and two sisters reliving our entire childhoods

in laughter and words, tears and even cheers

but my very presence, my love, my assumed power

that had just worked so very well for my son

didnít have the desired effect for my daddy

and I donít know why

for I gave

all that I had to give

© 2011 Tracy Darling

Tracy Darling is an emerging writer, as in she just emerged -- mostly intact -- from eleven years as a stay-at-home mom to three children.  With her youngest in kindergarten, she is now focusing on her writing career, or lack thereof.  Born in the midwest and raised in the South, she's called the suburbs of Southern California home for the past fourteen years.