Kristen Witucki

Mourning Dove: My Son’s Spirit Animal

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

The dove calls a note.
Then his voice rises
A third or fourth
Then repeats the heart note,
Coo, coo, coo.

What does the dove lament?
Its lost love
In a different life, on a different branch?
A lost meal?
Its pause before flight?

My son
to my terror
walks along the outside
of the porch rail
as if he might fly.
Does he lament
that he never will?

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What if I, the Mother…

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

“No, Mother, do not weep.
Most chaste Queen of Heaven,
Support me always.
Hail Mary.”
–Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, Aged 18, Detained since 25 September, 1944
Translated from the Polish

Movement II of Henrik Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, “Lento e Largo” which I discovered early in the pandemic via a book called Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day by Clemency Burton-Hill.

What if I, the mother
to whom you pray and beseech
to whom your tears flow
cannot help you,
or anyone?

What if I fail
to nourish you?

What if my knowledge
is wanting
and you do not learn?

What if my patience
Deflates in one
awful torrent of words
I can’t take back?

What if the
stone wall
upon which you scratch your plea
is also the stone within
each of us?

What if you die there?

What if you survive?

What if you emerge
from the dank cellar
and walk into the sun
From which we humans have turned away?
into mountains we’ve leveled
into people we’ve destroyed
into a world that we,
from its beginning
have plundered?

What if the strength you perceive in me
is only age and
one resounding, trembling chord of wisdom?

What if I weep?

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(listen to the poem, read by the author)

I named my daughter

Now corona-virus
has that eerie name distortion,
a crown without mercy,
Or the colonel “Karuna”
without compassion.

Karuna, age one,
who doesn’t know that
pronounce her name
like a disease.
Indians call her rightly
with a rolled, emphasized R,
a sound we barely hear.

“Ah-wee,” she says.
“Sorry,” she means.

If she trips over my foot,
runs into something,
if I run into her.
“What a polite girl,” my husband says.
Her brothers never apologized
as babies
And still need prompting
to admit their wrongs,
To ask or answer in forgiveness.

Oh how I have failed!

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To Ask for Food

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Is gelato essential?
Chocolate holds at bay
the “what if?” and “when will” thoughts?
Food delivery,
that fragile strand of independence,
snapped. The spider’s web is
stronger after all.
So is virus RNA.
If one of several neighbors asks me,
“What food do you need?”
I am relieved.
If I ask them,
“Would you bring food I need/want?”

I am not unemployed.
I can pay for perishables.
Am I,
A blind woman,

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About the Author

Kristen Witucki is the author of two works of fiction: The Transcriber and Outside Myself. She lives in Highland Park, New Jersey, where she teaches students who are blind or have low vision. Kristen also brings her experience and expertise as a blind person to her work for a web accessibility company.