creating more love


No Traveler Returns
Brenda Shaughnessy

I was like you once, a sealed plastic bag of water filters floating on the sea.

I thought my numbers proved my time and space on earth.

I thought having children was a way of creating more love.

I thought thoughts I was ashamed to speak in case they were what everyone already thought or in case they were unthinkable thoughts nobody would dare think much less say which would blow up the world everyone else had to live in if I said them.

I muddled that distinction to extinction—pure silence not a piece of peace and a breathlessness not of wonder but blackthroat, choking on backwash.

Once a wild tentacled screaming creature every inch a kissed lip of a beloved place, a true and relentless mind, all heart if heart is a dumb hope of reusable pump.

What was it you said that made me think I was like you once?


Remember the last terrifying moments? You clenched up and wanted me to be completely open.

We’d broken up (remember such terms? Such luxury? We thought breaking up a kind of preservation.) and to cut off circulation decided to sever at the place where our hair had grown together.
An axe, a pair of kitchen scissors. That rusty axe fully-fatigued and scissors which cut raw chicken bacteria into everything it touched.

Nothing did the trick. To come apart we’d have to come, together; and so I tried to make you come; you said it was our last time so you’d remember it.

You cried out, then cried and I cried and I hardened against you, then softened, then wished we could go back, wanted to love you like before, twisted myself like nobody’s pile of wires.

Did you try to make me come, and I couldn’t, wouldn’t? Or did I give you that and let you let me go?


And there will be no other way to be, once this way’s gone. The last song on earth, the last jellybean. Last because nobody wanted it, or everybody sang it, till the end.

Once this day in November’s over never another. Each day nothing like the last except that it’s the last and that’s new too.

Each moment broken glasses, a covered mirror, foxed. The waste stays in place. The rest disappears. The unrest, too.

There’s no way to follow my own mind. My own mind is not leading. I’m unleaded. I’m gasoline.

I’m everything in between this flame and that attracted wind. I forgot my glasses—how will we drink?

Seeing isn’t believing if I believe I see better with something I can so easily forget.

And what if I can’t forget? I forgot the heft and squirm of my own baby in my arms, in my own womb.

I’ll forget anything and call it an accident, match to fuel and breathing it all in as if I’m living normally from day to re-registered day.

Why is it, if I can only remember what I myself experienced, that I can also forget what I experienced? Who records the records and collects the recollections?

I had that baby in my womb for 39 weeks, for three quarters of a year, a full calendar minus summer. An unforgettable summer, each day fucking endless.

Oh I know all the numbers; everything adds up. I’ve never seen my womb but my doctor has. I never saw that doctor again.

Photo by Yifan Zhang on Unsplash



Brenda Shaughnessy
If only you’d been a better mother.

How could I have been a better mother?
I would have needed a better self,
and that is a gift I never received.

So you’re saying it’s someone else’s fault?

The gift of having had a better mother myself,
my own mother having had a better mother herself.
The gift that keeps on not being given.

Who was supposed to give it?

How am I supposed to know?

Well, how am I supposed to live?

I suppose you must live as if you had been
given better to live with. Comb your hair, for instance.

I cut off my hair, to sell for the money
to buy you what you wanted.

I wanted nothing but your happiness.

I can’t give you that!
What would Jesus do?
He had a weird mother too . . .

Use the myrrh, the frankincense, as if
it were given unconditionally, your birthright.

It’s a riddle.

All gifts are a riddle, all lives are
in the middle of mother-lives.

But it’s always winter in this world.
There is no end to ending.

The season of giving, the season
when the bears are never cold,
because they are sleeping.

The bears are never cold, Mama,
but I am one cold, cold bear.

Photo by Adam Willoughby-Knox on Unsplash



Brenda Shaughnessy
is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,

No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I’ve ever made
with these hands
and life, less

substance, more rind.
Mostly rim and trim,

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less.

Fatted from the day,
overripe and even
toxic at eve. Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must
know, if I must bend,

to that excruciation.
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,

yet I find myself
somehow with heart,

With heart,
fighting fire with fire,

That loud hub of us,
meat stub of us, beating us

Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing,
congealing dayless

but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting
(a lesser

way of saying
in darkness) there is

for the pressing question.
Heart, what art you?
War, star, part? Or less:

playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,

Photo by Jiroe on Unsplash