Autumn Rain

Autumn rain
soaks, chills, permeates
fleshy layers
seeping into the marrow
of those with hearts tender still.

Cold rains evacuate wormsautumn rain
and crawly things
from their earthy tunnels,
uncovering the ugly
but harmless
under the dirt.

Autumn rain
ends the summer heat,
heals the burn
of the preceding months,
restores the breath
to lungs deflated
by smoke and flame.

As if pulled from the fire,
the singed and blackened heart
soaks-in the cold waters.
Loss seared into the spirit
lessens as life returns.

but not soured.
Autumn rain
ends summer pain.


Stephie De los Santos

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






I never felt more alone
than when I was with you.

August 2018

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


Stolen Moments

They 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.



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.


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.
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.
I’ve got to let him fall
so he knows
how to get back up again.



 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.


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.



 Hope for My Child


A child –
lost innocence,
Dreams crushed
Hopes scattered
like seeds in a seemingly barren field.
Some will die,
remain buried deep.
Others will hide
below the surface
waiting for the warmth
of the sun,
the refreshment of the rains.
They will be reborn,
even blossom
in time.
Purpose will prevail,
though it alludes her now.
Yet, I dream of her.

The child I hope foradoption-symbol
hopes not for me,
agonizes at the thought
of my home,
would rather be
Yet, I hope for her.

This child
resents the intrusion
into her life,
at the disruption
of her world,
yearns for love,
but not from me.
Yet, I love her still.
My child
feels abandoned,
out of place.
She hears others laugh,
wonders where
she left her joy,
her smile.
Yet, I welcome her,
yearn for her,
feel blessed
to call her mine.

My daughter,
not yet mine,
will be forced
from her home
by a stranger.
She is struggling now
to concentrate in class
because she is hungry,

None of this
is her fault,
though she feels
she is to blame.
She is angry,
but she can’t
tell you why.
She is bruised,
but she won’t,
tell you how.
She cries,
but no one sees
her tears.

Fall Remembered

Dry, fallen leaves crunch beneath my feetfall-leaves-copyright-free
Burnt orange, crimson red, chestnut brown, and lemon yellow
hang from soon to be barren trees
White-gray clouds billow from chimneys
Gaseous, white puffs of breath escape with each exhale


The season silences the chirping birds and
Sends rabbits scurrying to their refuge under naked shrubbery
The cold, rough leather sphere stings as I catch my cousin’s pass

football-copyright-freeBarbecue beckons us indoors to Auntie’s kitchen
Sweet, smoky, savory chicken, ribs, and sausages
Steaming hot chocolate with melting mini-marshmallows
Warms chilled and numb hands.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and hazelnut season the traditional mud pie
Oak and maple logs burn in the weathered fireplace
Orange, red, brown, and yellow
On soon to be barren trees
Dry, fallen leaves crunch beneath my feet.

Pearl in the Sand 

Your eyes play hide-and-seek with mine
as you slip back into class
hoping no one notices,
praying you will be left alone.

You know I know.
I know you know.
pearl2Your heavy eyes hold mine
for an eternal moment.
until your gaze is sucked to the floor
by the force of your failure,
a gravitational pull
constraining your eyes,
restricting your vision,
confining your view
to below.

Below the laughter and the smiles,
beneath shared jokes and common experiences,

You hide
you are truly beneath them.
Stripped of your self-worth,
You continue to meet their expectations.
You fail again
and again
and again
until someone notices
the pearl in the sand.

Soft Rains

soft-rainsLeaves turn,
Warning us with veined bellies
Of a coming storm.
Gentle winds
Tousle our hair
Leaving the impression
Of disarray,

We hide away
In cars,
We take shelter
Within ourselves-
Within our own mind
Among our own kind.

We brace ourselves,
Secure doors and windows,
Hearts and minds.
We startle at each unfamiliar
Or suggestion.

And the leaves turn.
Gentle breezes subside.
Soft rains cease.
The earth is cleansed.
There was never any reason to fear.

A Mother Cries

As he’s pulled from his mother’s womb
and cat-like cries pierce through expectation,newborn
doctors clean
his wrinkled, red form.
Daddy brings him close for a kiss.
A mother cries.

A tiny body
With fever and pain.
A mother tries
to comfort,
to soothe.
a mother cries.

In anguish
he sprawls out on the cold tile.
Contorted and wet,
his little red face
floods her heart with compassion.
Unyielding sobs echo in the foyer.
“Don’t. Leave. Me. Mommy!”
She hugs him one more time.
On the way to work,
a mother cries.

Home from school,
a bedroom door slams
shutting out his pain.
His face flushes in anger.

They can’t bully him here.
Music is his only anesthetic.
He doesn’t hear her questions
from the other side of the door.
A mother cries.

Laid off again.
The economy is down, they say.
The bills keep coming.
What will happen if he can’t pay?
The car – repossessed,
a foreclosure on their home.ca807-lange-migrantmother02
They still have each other.
Life is much worse for some.
Far away,
a mother cries.

Starting over at forty-nine,
twenty-two years of love behind.
The fire of their love
fades to blackened coals.

No longer one,
but two souls.

The divine burns away
and cold ash takes its place.


How will he go on?
Without her.
His teenage son’s shattered heart
is motivation enough.
Somehow he will be strong.

Still her little boy,
a mother cries.

Lines accent his eyes and forehead,
telling more than just his age.
Happiness found him again,
though, some would argue, too late.

His mother lies
on a narrow, rigid bed,
cold white sheets,
pale walls,
a mixture of disinfectant and urine
perfumes the shared halls.

His mother tries
not to let him see her pain.
She’s not afraid to die,
Just terrified to leave him too soon.
A mother cries.

She’s as fragile as a baby bird.
No trace of the rosy blush of youth.
They must say their goodbyes.
He holds her hand
as she says her last prayer
for him.
One last time,

a mother cries.

©  9/14/2012


The highway overpass shelters me
From the vindictive wind and rain,
And I wonder why I feel safer here
Than all the places I’ve been.

No one will hurt me tonight.highway-698744_960_720
No one will make me go
To yet another loveless house
More cruel than the one before.

I hope that you are safe tonight,
That your heart knows peace and love.
I hope that you have been protected
As they promised me you would.

One day soon we’ll meet again –
A reunion so well deserved.
We’ll be free from the irreconcilable past
Free from all the hurt.

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