I wonder if he sees
that your step is lighter
when you cross the threshold
of his front door and head out
to your car,
the same way
you used to feel when
your mother was sick and dying
and you’d leave the nursing home
after spending time with her,
all that death and despair
sitting on your shoulders
like a heavy winter coat,
not just your mother’s
slow slide into death
but everyone else’s misery
in the home clawing at you
to stay
so that you felt your force
being siphoned off a little at a time,
and you would leave
the building and take
big gulps of fresh air,
relieved to be back
among the living.


  1. Sarah Freligh

    Whoa, Anita, this is FINE work! The line breaks are first rate–brilliant move to break the first line at “sees” for how that extra white space says “notice this,” in effect SEE this. And that extended metaphor smack in the center of the poem (yeah, yeah, it’s a simile but it’s my term for ALL comparisons)–the weight of the death and despair like a heavy coat–and how it paves the way for the ending, when the speaker steps out of the nursing home into the weather, the outdoors where she can breathe again.

    Thinking that that first “I” s/b “You” as the rest of the poem seems second poem down the line. And “force” — I sense what you’re getting at there, the way the dying can siphon the life from the living–but maybe something more in line with the extended metaphor you set up, i.e., death and despair as the coat that’s heavy on her. Metaphors usually come to me when doing something very un-writerly, and I’m sure that will happen here, too.

    This is just first rate, brava!

    • Anita Brienza

      Oh, gosh, yes, I saw that “I’ when I posted it (and a few other things I wish I’d noticed, like striking “into death” and just leaving it as “slow slide”), but of course – once the button is pressed, no takebacks! Thanks for your comments – I’ll noodle on them and see what comes out.

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Anita, what a superb and heavily filled poem, and I love the pathos (way more into sad, than anything resembling happy!) Love your effective use of enjambments, and the voice remains consistent throughout. I feel as if you could balance the intensity with some whimsy, quite possibly through imagery (something that might offer the speaker some reprieve after the line ‘…in the home clawing at you/ to stay.’ (such a great verb!)

    Not sure if you identify as a poet, or if that even matters (I struggle with this as well), still, this piece is really superb work. And I love having poets in the mix with fiction or flash writers. We are all siblings, are we not? I often feel as if prose poems and flash fictions are just kissing cousins.

    • Anita Brienza

      Hi, Robert! I’m not a poet, in fact I feel completely out of my element with poetry – this is only the second attempt at poetry since I started focusing on creative writing a few years ago (I’m a business writer by trade, so I’m learning…in fact, I had to look up “enjambments!” It’s entirely possible to be doing a thing without knowing that one is doing it.) I liked that one of the prompt suggestions suggested a poem – we ought to always try what scares us, right?

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  3. Koss Just Koss

    Hi Anita. This is strong–the short lines, and yes, I agree the end stops are great. I like how he appears at beginning and then disappears from the text. I like the idea of the coat, but I wonder if there is a way to do it without a simile–something more of a metaphor, or letting grief be an actual coat, rather than the coat being like grief. One other note, while “claw” is a powerful word, there may be one that sings better with the other descriptors. I am picking here, but I think this is a strong, spare grief that does a fabulous job of nailing it in a spare, condensed format. Nice work!

    • Anita Brienza

      Thank you, Koss, for taking the time to read and comment. I’m getting some great suggestions here to contemplate.

  4. Jayne Martin

    Wow. This is superb! I love that opening and how leaving “his” front door gives her the same sense of freedom and being alive as leaving the death-filled nursing home. It tells us everything we need to know about this relationship. Stunning. Just stunning, Anita!

  5. Andrea Marcusa

    Hi Anita,
    I loved the music of this — and the wonderful last line — beautifully done. You so very well conveyed the feelings of this PN and did it in a way that is universal and filled with feeling. Great work! Andrea

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