Poems by Ellen Catherine Scherer


i’m too afraid to name her

i keep tripping over the same curb in front of my doorway

keep patching the same hole in my leggings

my left kneecap peeks through the thinly-knit fabrics

each time i bend               they break

i go lie down


i’m too afraid to name her

i’m remembering my mother hanging bed sheets on a line strung from our porch

they were anchored there by her clothespins but somehow they were able to float

i want to be like that      weightless

instead i’m calculating the ways in which doing laundry overwhelms me

i go lie down


i’m too afraid to name her

i’m willing and unable to do anything outside the bare minimum

which is ‘so unlike me’

go to work now                   come home now                make dinner now

i go lie down


i’m too afraid to name her

i’m breathing up too much air and i’ve wandered around too much space

so i’ve burrowed myself in bedroom blankets

strapped onto this mattress in a nice little package

you can’t even really see my body            but my head is still here

will you come lie down?


i’m too afraid to name her

i keep tightening the straps as days leak through my windows

60 seconds at a time I tear into myself                   i pick at the smallest parts for hours

until I’ve sorted them sufficiently into piles of standard and substandard

i throw both piles out and start sorting all over again

and then i lie back down


i’m too afraid to name her

i’m drifting in and out of sleep and people are screaming somewhere

she plugs my ears from the inside and sings softly           she is protecting me

no one comes in

if they do she sends them out

i lie back down


i’m too afraid to name her

i can feel the tips of my fingers and toes begging for me to stand

there is an energy here among the layers of my near comatose cells

i imagine the small sparks slip out each time i open my mouth to whisper

‘i want to be ok

don’t lie back down’


i’m too afraid to name her

still i pick up this pen in attempts to confess my sins

to acknowledge she is only an animal who has followed me home

but this animal sits guard in my gut

and breeds me to live exclusively in dissatisfied exhaustion

i lie back down


i give up on naming her

when i try to leave quietly she becomes spiteful

she casts out jagged splinters that must be coming from my bedposts

they are flying so fast they pierce straight through tough layers of my skin

no longer protecting

no longer singing softly

she is screaming at me


i lie back down


When I found her,

she was a shredded pansy petal,

died indigo and trapped against damp pant-suits

stiff collars and lash lines

that were smeared with distracted tenderness.


When I found her,

she was curled tight to the chipped linoleum.

Her palms clutched to her kidneys

and the sharp edge of sympathetic Hallmarks

slapped with mass produced emotion:


sorry for your loss…

thinking of you…

heartfelt feelings…


When I found her

she sniffled and choked on a cough.

This woman leaked from her eyelids

to the corners of the nakening fluorescents

in a funeral home bathroom.


When I found her,

I crouched to hand her one last cut of cardstock.

It was a leftover scrap from the photo collage

they made together last winter

when he was still here.


The torn edges of the paper scraped

her fingertips as she saw the large scrawl in pomegranate:

I miss him too, mommy.


 Poem by Pheadra Perkins

A Mother’s Thoughts: A Silence Understood









Do you have anyone to communicate with?
If not you can talk to me
I understand
Keeping things bottled up can make you feel lonely
Do you have anyone to show you unconditional love?
If not my heart is big enough to distribute
I understand
It’s hard finding someone caring
That is willing to contribute
I understand
You need someone to help carry the load
For you to feel free
Well I am here to dry all tears
I am here to comfort you
I am here for eternity
Once the flesh is gone
My soul lives on…
Inside of you