That time I broke the rules

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When my (now ex-) husband and I separated, I left our small community and moved downtown. That meant that when I had the kids, they lived in with me in a small apartment on a busy city street… totally out of their element.

Our time there — and how we made our way through the separation and divorce — wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was quite clumsy in lots of ways. There was some kicking and screaming on all of our parts at one time or another. But we made it work.

This picture above of two of my sons playing hockey in the park popped up on Facebook’s “On this day” feature recently. And that’s the story it tells me: we made it work. Along with everything else, snow days downtown were far different than in the country, but they had a magic all their own.

It’s a magic I wouldn’t have found — along with confidence in my own brand of motherhood — without breaking the rules and establishing a home base that seemed to others totally insane, a home base that seemed disorienting even to us sometimes. Turns out, challenging the old footholds was the best way to find our own.


The rules — or breaking the rules — is the subect of a new poetry prompt at This Is Not a Literary Journal. Here’s my response (the rules I made for myself were to force each line to contain something from a line above it — though I didn’t always manage it — and to mess with syntax/tense some –though I didn’t do that as much as I wanted to).

It’s been a while since I’ve written online and in public, and I have no idea what the hell is going on in this draft.

An Official Statement Regarding the Misunderstanding

All those years, we said.

We said, One thing meant another.

Any other day the sun came through the window completely unnoticed.

What the clerk meant when he asked will that be all is everyone lies about feeling complete.

Notice how the register is a polygraph, the beeping an indication of the intent to mislead.

On the way home we know what we never intend to forget.

How far back do we go?

The vocabulary of this argument is California navel oranges and bananas from Costa Rica. The spider stowaway the true fact of the matter.

For years this way: untrue.

Check out. The clerk’s friendly smile

the only confirmation we found everything we were looking for.


  1. I like the rules you crafted for yourself… might have to play with them. And this line… “What the clerk meant when he asked will that be all is everyone lies about feeling complete.” is perfect as is the one that follows. The really ground this poem quite well in a scene we all know. And, what Neil said 🙂

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