Poem of the Week, by Tania Runyan

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

In the university class I’m teaching this fall we gather online, small heads nodding from frames, mics unmuting, videos flicking on and off to show children climbing on laps, housemates in the background, dogs and cats, the sound of traffic. Thank you for doing such a good job in difficult times, I tell them, and I mean it.

The thought of us all trying so hard makes my heart ache the same way it aches at the memory of my young son, shuffling out of his first locker room with his first pair of flip-flops threaded through the wrong toes, knowing something was wrong but not knowing what, insisting he was okay —I’m okay, I’m okay.

I read this poem and wish I could go back in time and put my arms around my little boy. And my students. All of us trying so hard.

Villanelle for My Son, by Tania Runyan

You cried because you dropped a butter knife.
Everything I do is stupid and wrong!
I want to reach into your nine-year-old life,

but my mind, too, is murky and rife
with the morning’s thoughts like ricocheting frogs
that made you drop the butter knife.

You collapse on the couch, your naked strife
abrading your throat like a funeral song.
I want to reach into your nine-year-old life

and gather the joys that scattered like wildlife
the first time you stared at a question too long
and felt your spirit dissolve like butter on knife.

I’ve lurched and careened my way to midlife,
and child, I will not lie to you: even the strong
reach from the middle of their nine-year-old lives

for rescue from the wreckage, the jackknifed
pileups from adulthood’s rushing throng.
You cried because you dropped a butter knife.
I’m desperate to save your nine-year-old life.

For more information on Tania Runyan, please click here.
Words by Winter: my new podcast


  1. Marion Dane Bauer · October 10, 2020

    That is so lovely, Alison, and so very real!


  2. Mim Kagol · October 10, 2020

    As always, Alison, your introductions are as lovely and powerful as the poems you choose. Heart-filling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alisonmcghee · October 30, 2020

      Mim, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much.


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