Poems by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach




Our Midwest summer ground is covered
———in fallen cherry blossoms, melting
——————because they were never
———petals. I listen to thunder and look up
meaning again, because so little
———makes sense–fires, floods,
——————wars upon wars–origins
———rarely help. Still, I search. Still, hail
means health, prosperity, and good
———luck first. It means cheers. Hail drinking
to forget or remember. Hail my children,
———their full bellies and hearts. Their persistent,
——————hungry mouths. Hail
———means kind hello as much
as falling ice. At first, it sounded like my son
———slamming action figures into the walls,
——————so I didn’t notice, and the smell
———of my unwashed hair after too many
chlorinated swims, taste of lavender, medicinal,
———bitter, on my children’s cheeks, lather
——————never thoroughly rinsed
———from their curls. My son’s afraid,
so we tell him the sky
———is hungry, clouds grumble
——————like his stomach.
———He doesn’t believe this.
Knows nature is
———not body. Asks, how much it hurt
——————when he pushed his sister
———off the loft and she hailed down,
her ulna snapping like shattered
———ice, bending the radius
——————to the arch of the rainbow after.
———He asks, if he goes out
and lets the hail hit him now, will it hurt
———that much? I do not answer.
——————The secret of silence
———is not that we keep things
from our children, but that we have
———so few answers ourselves. When split
——————in half, a hailstone shows rings
———like a tree or onion, the original
ice at the center, then layers
———of encasing growth crystals.
——————Each from a different hungry cloud,
———a different height in the atmosphere.
Each line, a border between places
———we will never know or touch.
——————What borders are there
———between bodies? Between us
and our children? My son longs
———to hold a frozen rock, to crush it
——————or perhaps just feel it
———melt against his palm. Hail
his longing. We watch the pellets fall,
———his forehead pressed
——————to fiberglass. I keep
———the door closed. Keep him
close, inside.


A catalogue of gifts on Mother’s Day


The laminated “Mom” sign, its “o”
replaced with my daughter’s

purple handprint, her teacher
likely holding down her almost

two-year-old palm while she yelled
“no no no” because my child hates anyone

touching her hands and doesn’t
understand “gift” as concept or day

as measure of time. The head massage
that ended with my hair

netted around my son’s fingers,
the strands he kept for himself. A hug

and abandoned pizza crust
he didn’t want in his own month.

His mouth, kissing hard and wet
and full of snot even when I asked

he stop. Flowers
from my sister-in-law. Expensive

running pants I bought myself
but will be reimbursed by my mother

because paying is how she knows
to love at a distance.

A lavender bush, It’s your favorite, right?
My husband said, Purple with the strong smell. 

Lilac, I corrected and put the potted bloom
near enough the window in my office,

beside the crib and diaper bin and torn-chewed
board books, the unfolded clothes and dinosaur

who doesn’t roar. The many gifts I am
surrounded by, all near enough

to die quiet and unnoticed.
Instead, today, I gave myself

a run. Long and mine. Not pushing
a stroller or carrying a child or chasing

both, but rushing towards the sky
as I crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge

I’d promised myself since becoming
a mother. Its peak rising seventy

mother-bodies above the river.
And has any one of us

who’s stopped to look
so far down that water

becomes another ground,
not thought, how beautiful,

and for at least a split second, how easy
to jump, before we kept on going?


A messy house is a lived in one,


a mom writes. A messy body
is a lived in one too, I think.

In the shower I stare at the happy
trail from my navel down to where

I’m still ashamed to go. I razor the hairs
to uncover a trail of stretch marks

they’d been hiding. A messy body
is a happy body, I whisper. Forgive her

softness and growth. Try
to thank her for it. Say beautiful

and mean it about the places
I try to scrub away. Stay steaming

under the scald a bit longer.
My children already

banging on the door, hungry,
always for what my body

can no longer give, for everything
it keeps on giving. I’d spent years

starving in my teens, lying
about what’s been in my mouth

and when, for months, I lost
the blood that makes me woman,

I became afraid I’d never make
a body I could feed. A messy body

is a hungry one. Feed her and forgive
her evening consumption

of ice cream and wine and a screen
full of other people’s scripted misery

the only time of quiet and alone.
Forgive how she finds it beautiful.

How she’s ashamed it makes her feel
better about her own mess.

Body and house.

A messy house is a home.
A messy body is one too, I think.

Forgive the home she lives in
and try to thank her

for walls soft and big enough
to curve around so many houses.


Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Ph.D. (www.juliakolchinskydasbach.com) emigrated from Ukraine as a Jewish refugee at age six. She is author of three collections: The Many Names for MotherDon’t Touch the Bones; and 40 WEEKS (YesYes Books, 2023). Her poems have appeared in POETRY, Ploughshares, and American Poetry Review, among others. She is Assistant Professor of English/Creative-Writing at Denison University.


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