Deep Secrets

Thirty-six years

I’ve carried the secret with me

tucked between heartbreaks

and sunshine.

It has sped down distant highways,

leaped dark ocean waves,

and hiked foreign mountain tops,Image result for foreign mountain hike

clinging resiliently

to my heart’s unhinged door.

Stashed so deeply

I forget it’s there.

Babies birthed.

Daddy died.


attempted. I tried.

Sun rises

on time each day

while sunsets

make the pain go away.

I forget

until a smirk on a stranger’s face

sends tingles to my toes,

until I ache to share

a breath-stealing description

found nestled between yellowed pages.

I forget.

Successfully securing

beneath smiles and congratulations,

beneath friendship and hard places

– the depths of the sea

buried within me.

Stephie De los Santos


Untitled (Stolen Memory)

Image result for first day of schoolThey stole from me the memory

of walking you to school,

Your first day of kindergarten

and I wasn’t there

to pick out your clothes

or comb your wavy brown hair.


I imagine you demanding

your hair up in a butterfly chongo –

one purple, one pink.


I imagine the two of you

hand in hand,

like two puppies

taking their first walk

stumble-running towards the unknown.


They stole from me those moments.

Strangers walked with you.

I wonder if they took 1st day pics

outside your new school,

or if they shook hands with your teachers

and pretended to be proud

of their twin girls

who will never truly be theirs.

Letting Go of What was Already Gone

How many times have you sat next to me
just to feel the warmth of the one you love?
How many times did you reach for the phone
in the middle of the day
longing to hear my voice?
How many texts to say “I love you,”feather blowing in wind
or “thinking about you?”
How many times have you smiled at me
from across the room –
just because.

How many times have you held my hand,
kissed my cheek,
pulled me close?

This week?
This month?
This year?

I know.
You don’t know.
Rare were the occasions, if at all.

The truth is
our marriage was over long ago.
I just couldn’t let you go.
The signs were there –
emails and pics in your inbox.
Your public pride
in my knowledge of your language
hardened into stone
beyond the threshold of our home.
Inside our private world,
your eyes never met mine.
My profession,
my passions,
lifted your head
and straightened your spine
out there.
In private, you never knew me.
Other interests filled your mind and time.

I will miss the man I thought you were.my_broken_heart____by_jeanutti
Those moments of kindness,
glimpses of concern,
the way you found pleasure in simple things.

But I don’t know which you is real –
the one who smiles and shares
or the irrational one who
accuses and swears.

I don’t know if you ever loved me,
or if you were just in love with love.
But we both deserve a chance
to know what love feels like.

I will forgive.
I will try to understand
why I wasn’t enough for you.
But I have to let go
because you’ve been gone a long time.





Fears of a Child in 2018

Like other nine year-olds,
he fears
what lurks
in the shadows of the night,
under beds,
inside closets.

He fearslightening
the flash of lightning,
the crash of thunder.

He fears
losing sight of Mommy
in a crowd.

But he also fears
and dying.

They are not the same thing.

He fears Armageddon.
He fears packages left on doorsteps.
He fears large crowds
and stray bullets.
He fears school shooters.
He fears bombs,
nuclear attacks,
and Kim Jong Un.
He fears tweets from Trump.
He fears dying young.

My helicopter-mom status
failed to shield him
from shifts in cultural norms.

April 2018

Distant Love

father son handsYou sit at the kitchen table
eyes tracking
Likes & emojis.
“I need you, Daddy.” he says,
but you don’t hear.
“Daddy!” he tries again.
“Okay! Okay!” you hiss.
You scroll on,
He calls.
And he calls,
his voice groggy with weariness and anxiety.
He disappears into his “adventurous dreams”
without your goodnight kiss,
without the warmth of your form beside him,
without “one last drink, Daddy.”,
without giggling at one of your corny jokes.


soical media screenYou son fades away from you
one night at a time.
Missed opportunities pile up
like snowflakes in the blizzards’ highest drifts –
imperceptible to you
within your isolation.
Like an addict

imprisoned by moments of euphoria
and methods of escape,
you sacrifice the only things that matter.

But the blizzard rages still
for your son.
Strong winds
the stability of his steps.
He loses part of himself
in the mounds of snow –
each step deepens his loss.
The accumulation
swallows parts of him
until he’s not sure
who he is anymore –
who he wants to be –
who deserves his attention and affection.

Old age is stealthy,
surrounding us
with the fruits of our life.

Strained relationships,
stretched and soured
by years of neglect,
await you.

Your wife tired
of a loveless marriage
and found contentment
without you.
You hardly noticed.

But, your children.

They love you
from a distance.
They love.
The right choice.
A choice they can live with.

Yet, their hearts and pursuits
are as far away
as the clouds
that darken your life.
They stopped reaching out
for love
long ago,
and learned to cope
with half a heart.



Small Talk

 Small Talk

*Dedicated to introverts everywhere

I see you coming my way
and I realize it is inevitable,
this obligatory encounter
that is as joyous
as marriage counseling.

Hallways, offices, and doorsstay away hands
laugh at me from a distance,
condemning me
to meaningless interaction,
forced fakeness,
compulsory conversation.
Escape is not an option this time.

And it happens.

Your pace slows,
we make eye contact and smile.
          Just. Keep. Walking 
          Don’t completely stop.
But you do.
“I’m so glad it’s Friday!  How are you?”

What do I even say.
Energy and motivation drain from my veins.
But, I’ll play.
With pretend purpose we pause
long enough to say

Yes, words echoed off the walls
and friendly laughter fooled them all.
But what was shared?
Five minutes felt like fifty.

And now I need to sit down,
and think.


On Why Friendship is Enough

Like the ocean needs the moon,
without you I cannot move.

Honey bee visits Texas bluebonnet

One day without you
is like spring
with no Bluebonnets –
endurable, but without majesty.

Imagine life without music,
and you know how I feel.
A future without your laugh
will leave me unfulfilled.

With all the voices in the world,
I will always listen for yours,
for a library filled with books
is just a lounge
without Tolstoy on its shelves.

Like a woodwind and its reed,
My voice projects only wind
without the confidence you give
each time you reassure.

Your smile,
closed lipped
or teeth bared,
sends tingles dancing up my spine.
A feeling I dare not live without,
even if you will never be mine.

SLPD 3/27/2018

from Little Bird
Ana’s Character


The Stolen

ripped from the patches of tulips and roses.
Our moments,
our memories,
our childhood.

Image result for tulipLike a bud uprooted before spring,
you suffocate our dreams,
drown our ambitions,
pilfer tomorrow’s
as if nothing beautiful could have come from them.

One-of-a-kind hues and
intoxicating fragrances,
never experienced or appreciated.
How many missing blooms
leave the garden incomplete,
less vibrant than it was meant to be?

You rob from us
what could have been,
but you cannot penetrate the past.

With This Pen

This pen.
The pen I purchased to fix my life,
the lives of my children.
A fine-tipped, smudge-proof, black Sharpie,
perfect for filling out forms,

With this penImage result for fine tipped sharpie filling out forms
you and I destroy what we
swore would never end.
We break promises.
We break hearts.
We alter lives,
opening holes
that cannot be filled,
exacting wounds
that will not heal.

With this pen
I write away abuse.
I write in peace.
I exclude hostility, anger, and unfaithfulness.
I incorporate love and affirmation.

With this pen
I break my promise
as you have broken yours.
I build a hedge of protection
around our children
who don’t realize yet that they need it,
I introduce new pain that will bring
new healing and hope.

Training Wheels

No Fear

No one told me I couldn’t do it.

At thirty-four pounds, it weighs as much as I do. Yet, I reach above my head to the handlebars and tighten the fingers of my left hand around the rubber, ribbed grip. Slippery with summer sweat, my right hand grasps at the metal frame and slides unsuccessfully down its slope. I let my ride fall to the ground and rub my hands in the dirt.  Right foot on the frame, I pull the handlebars until it stands upright.  Now, my grip holds. Dirt provides excellent friction.

I wheel the bike across the front yard and lean it against the humongous rock.  Almost as tall as me, this boulder mocks and scoffs at young climbers and promises not only defeat, but skinned and scarred knees. For me, it is a breeze.  I conquer it in seconds and carefully straddle this two-wheeled horse. My left foot dangles as my right foot keeps me and my metal companion standing erect.  

Ready, set, go!

No hesitation. I push off with my right foot and I roll, my feet kicking the pedals as they rotate. I imagine how fast I could go if only my legs were long enough to pedal properly. Luckily, our front yard slopes downward into the neighbor’s property and the bike quickly picks up speed.  The rubber, knobby tires bounce over the uneven terrain, almost catapulting me over the handlebars. I laugh hysterically and right myself on the seat.

Kicking harder and faster, I clumsily ride past the parked Honda in Bobby’s driveway, barely missing the front fender. My front tires lunge off the gravel driveway and I plummet down the hill parallel with the road.  To my right a car creeps down our gravel road.  “I’m winning! I’m winning!” I shout triumphantly.  Giggling, I extend my legs and coast with my face to the sky, “I’m free!” I scream.

The car’s motor hums from farther away indicating a change in direction.  The road turned to the right and yet I race on across the grass. With no time to stop, I brace for the end of my ride.  How deep is the creek anyway? One more dip in the earth beneath my wheels and, like a sling shot, my too-tall bike hurls me into the air.

Suspended in the air for a single moment, I bask briefly in the warmth of the sun, the weightlessness spins my equilibrium. Lightheaded, I still feel no fear. This is what the astronauts must experience in space! This is my moment.

Momentary ecstasy before the fall.

Then my back slaps the surface and I wonder if somehow I missed the creek. But earthy water swallows me, assuring me that I am in a safe, familiar place. I never touch bottom.  Instead, I kick and splash like a frog until I bubble to the surface.  Laughter explodes from my chest and I float for a few moments feeling like Evel Knievel.

I wade out of the water and hoist my bike out of the mud.  It takes fifteen minutes to drag the bike up the embankment, across four lawns, back to the monstrous rock by the driveway. My mom cooks dinner inside while my dad burns trash in the backyard.  My brother plays Hotwheels downstairs with Bobby.  Casper, my best feline friend, raises his head in approval from the porch.

I conquer the rock for one more ride.

Uninherited Caution

Nine years old,
Beady brown eyes beneath barely-there brows.
He has my ears, my mouth, my forehead.
That fair hair and quick-to-blush skin
Shout out our relation.

But he did not inherit my courage.

Positioning the bike precisely where the driveway threatens descent,
he struggles to mount.  Helmeted_boy_on_training_wheels
He tries again,
feet fumbling
with pedals and medal.
Balanced on training wheels,
The bike dances back and forth,

He did, however, inherit my tenacity.

White-knuckled hands
mold themselves onto the rubber grips
becoming an extension of the handlebars.
He will not let go.

I watch from the lanai as he grits his teeth.
He pushes the pedal propelling
the bike forward.
It rolls and stops.
Soon he is in motion again.
He’s got it this time.

Anxiety rises in my throat.
He’s going way too fast.
He breaks.
It wobbles.
The training wheels aren’t enough.

I rise from my seat,
desperate to rescue my boy,
to spare him hurt,
to vanquish embarrassment,
to shelter him from disappointment.

I ease back down
onto the warm iron bench,
bracing for impact.

I sit, swallow hard, and wait.
The bump at the end of the drive taunts.
Bike and boy tip to the left.
Metal and plastic clatter against pavement.
All is still.

I wait
as he lifts his pant leg
to inspect his wounds.
He looks back at me.
I smile and wave.

As I still my heart,
my boy climbs back on,
grits his teeth,
and moves forward
through the world.

Stephanie De los Santos