Amanda McDowellAmanda McDowell is a life-long lover of all things literature and a relative newcomer to poetry. She’s a freelance writer and editor whose work can be found at www.amandaemcdowell.com. Along with working on a record for highest library fines, she gets up in the morning (late morning, preferably) for anything involving cheese, good whiskey, dark chocolate, and her much-too-intelligent cat, Copernicus.

 

Nebulizer Pantoum

Gasp, release
My lungs pull in, chest tightens at the lack
“What brings you in today?” (a multi-layered question)
Sometimes I just can’t draw forth what isn’t there

My lungs pull in, chest tightens at the lack
The medicine does its work
I just can’t draw forth what isn’t there
Clear kinked tube puffing and whirring its way to freedom

The medicine does its work
I pull in towards the pain, protecting it until it eases
Clear kinked tube puffing and whirring its way to freedom
Shoulders hunch and curl

I pull in towards the pain, protecting it until it eases
“What brings you in today?” (a multi-layered question)
Shoulders hunch and curl
Gasp, breath, release

 

I Am Enough

I was enough in my mother’s womb
when I was just a blob with the
barest hint of fingers
I was enough when I came out
screaming and furious
into a world I couldn’t understand

I was enough when I decided to roll instead of crawl
to pick myself up and start running
I was enough at my kindergarten graduation
floppy brimmed construction paper cap
and gap-toothed smile

I was enough without a father

I was enough when I first rode my bike
wobbling triumphantly down the street
I was enough years later when I crashed into a ditch
and had to limp home, picking gravel out of my knee
blood pooling in my sock, holding back tears

I was enough when I made the honor roll
I was enough when I failed my first math quiz, and my second,
and my tenth
I was enough when the hormones started changing
when girls got catty and I felt alone

I was enough when I packed up my car to drive off to college
I was enough when that bright-eyed optimism faded
into a nervous breakdown my second year
I was enough at a community college, at a state school

I was enough when I met the man I thought would be
the love of my life
When we rode a tricycle down the dorm hallway, bent in half
with laughter, towels tucked into our t-shirts like capes
I was enough when we broke up and tried again
and repeated the cycle three more times

I was enough when he was gone
I was enough when I shared my bed with someone
and just as enough when I stretched out alone

I was enough when sickness broke me
when I got fired from job after job
when the doctors could find no cure

I was enough when bipolar came for my mother
during her first inpatient stay
during her next one
I was enough during the years that followed
I was enough to keep us afloat

I have had glimpses of this completeness
in nanoseconds
in slight gasps longer
every day of my life
but I could never believe it

I scream it now
into the void
into myself
into the faces of others
that love me or hate me or couldn’t be bothered
that knew I was enough
or weren’t able to grasp the completeness in themselves
to see it in anyone
I scream it at the bill collectors
at the fear
at the pills that help me be a person

You cannot stop me
You cannot silence me
I have encountered ten thousand problems
and solved them all
I am ready for the ten thousand more
that will come with the sunrise

I am enough in this exact moment
and I will be enough as I take my final breath
I know this now

I do not pray
but still- I pray
for the strength not to forget it

I am enough.

 

Filing a Police Report Was Ineffective

this afternoon I stood in the sun
back braced against my car
eyes closed, soaking in its heat
this afternoon I stood in my yard
trying to erase the shadow you put there

the darker shadow that came from
dragging you into the light
the indifferent policeman standing over me
while I hunched in my chair

“but did you tell him no?”

he asks, as if that wasn’t obvious
the years I cringed as you sidled over to say hi
the angry family who demand to know
what I had done to encourage you

this grass is mine
this busted chair and table
this sun and willow tree
this budding sapling
this soggy patch of moss

I will stand here at five in the afternoon
in striped pajama pants
I will own this sun on my pale skin
claiming its warmth on my arms and face

I pluck a dandelion gone to seed and close my eyes
I wish for peace, I whisper
one puff
two puffs
three
still some stubborn seeds hang on

I walk a few steps further
I wish for peace, I whisper
staring at your house
one puff
two

I angrily rip off the seeds that remain
peace is illusive
but dandelion seeds get me closer
than any police report ever could