Poems by Claire Scott

Broken Birdsong

A Feminist as Fuck T-shirt
purple dreads, pierced upper lip
passing out sandwiches in People’s Park
sorting cans at the County Food Bank
marching for gay rights, trans rights, disabled rights
marching for the right to choose
               Ho-Ho, Hey-Hey
               Women’s rights are here to stay!
you, my only daughter
I go back and back to visit your grave
before you were born
before you were allowed to be born
syringes, suction, cramps for days
the lure of tall buildings and kitchen knives
doses of mind-dulling Risperdal
but I went on, diminished, but I went on
and you did not
No bird, no wing, no song
I walk backward into the future




To the angel of fallen cakes, flat tires and forgotten children left at violin lessons, softball practice, gymnastics, who can keep track? Please send a better recipe, remove nails from driveways, bless tired mothers up all night with a coughing kid, honey and tea, humidifiers, back rubs, a bit of bourbon for both. Mothers who can barely remember which child hates mayonnaise, which one flunked a spelling test, whose filthy soccer uniform needs washing for tomorrow’s game, which kid needs to take a birthday present to some party somewhere and what day of the week it is anyway. Must be Sunday since the house is quiet, maybe a few extra seconds of peace. But what is that crash and which kid is screaming and why do I hear sirens? Please send a burning bush or two along with a few mind-bending miracles. Like a Mercedes-Benz minivan. Or a square mile of solid sleep.



I Am Trying to Love You Less

I see you forget
the name of your favorite cake
that I made this morning
yet you thank me, touch my cheek

I see you forget your pills
two pink, three white each morning
I see you walk stiffly, slowly
stumble over curbs

Trip and fall and fall
scrapes on elbows and knees
trying to hide them from me
but I see, my love, I see

You bring me morning tea
with a sliver of lemon, a gentle kiss
I see your hands shake, the tea splash
I read the doctor’s report buried deep in your drawer

My heart clenches with all the tiny dyings
I pull away to bypass grief, to staunch tears
I am trying to love you less
but my love you are making it hard      



A Berkeley Dilemma

Do I exist if my mother doesn’t recognize me
calls me by her sister’s name or her aunt’s
or simply stares and says nothing at all
her mind skipping through the decades before I was born
am I subtracted from this world as her memory fades
a dilemma far more serious than a fallen tree
in a dense forest with no one to hear
but I still know her and us together
our nut brown hair, pale blue eyes, dimpled chin
sandcastles and sea glass on the Jersey shore
raucous rounds of Old MacDonald with cows
camels and plenty of poop on the farm
year after year candles on a lopsided cake
my name in pink frosting
doesn’t that count for something




A Steinway. A red silk dress.
The audience still, anticipating the first note
of Schubert’s B-Flat Sonata.
Anthony Tommasini ten rows back
will write the most sensitive Schubert ever
in tomorrow’s New York Times.
My hands hover over the keys.
I begin with lyric phrases
followed by an ominous trill.

My little brother.
Composing contrapuntal music at the age of five,
playing flawless Chopin preludes presto con fuoco
on his gleaming grand piano.
Illustrious teachers line up to listen
tweaking their moustaches in disbelief.
Downstairs I bang fortissimo chopsticks
on the old second hand upright.
The red dress lies crumpled at my feet.



Breach of Contract

I want to lodge a complaint
it is being notarized as we speak
you promised to count the hairs on our heads
although I can’t imagine why you would bother
surely there are better ways to spend your time
what of a family living under layers of cardboard
rain washed, wet clothes, constant cough
or a mother stealing insulin for her son
shaking and sweating, thimble heart racing
or people walking lockstep with cancer
unable to pull ahead

If you really want to count hairs it’s OK by me
after all you are the Big Man
but the fine print assumes we will have hair to count
nothing was said about our hair falling out
from weekly infusions that kill harmful cells
but also heaps of healthy ones, leaving us
listless, nauseous, anemic & fog-brained
sending our daughter to school
without a peanut butter sandwich
with a dab of grape jelly & no crusts
too weak to read Goodnight Moon
skipping pages, hoping she won’t notice
sit by us now, don’t forget those of us with no hair
wearing scarves, baseball caps and ill-fitting wigs
we are still your children



My Father Has Alzheimer’s and Lives with Me
on the South Side of Chicago

He has wandered off again/how did he figure out the new lock/
busy washing his peed-in pants/cleaning Cheerios off the floor/
checking to be sure he took his Aricept, Atenolol, Lipitor
               riding high on his shoulders at the Macy’s parade
               watching a super-sized Snoopy float by
grab my parka/head out into high winds howling off the lake
a desperate prayer to a god who left/long ago

Check with Molly next door who gives him almond biscuits and milk
stop by Wells Fargo where he sips free coffee with plastic stirrers
               hiking in the Sierras/sleeping under stars
               Orion, Taurus, Pisces, Gemini
call 911/stumble home in the snow/where I find him curled up
in the kitchen with Sophie, my now grey-haired retriever         
exhale/buy a better lock/lord I wish I believed in you/
or at least had a prescription for Xanax



dscn2200-copy-2Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and The Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.