Scream into that wind,
though your voice is unheard.

Yell out into that silence,
into that vast space of life.

Speak of the ills,
of the strife.

Plead with wet eyes,
to let your voice be heard.

Add yours to all of those
righteous, talking heads.

And none are listening.

So let it be known,
you speak not for yourself.

Keep trying, keep sighing,
it’s not for yourself.

No matter that no one listens,
that no one reads.

It is on your heart that you tried,
that you said your mind.

You cannot quit,
the possibility is too great.

That there’s always one,
just one, who is listening.

And that has to be enough.






Water Words


Those names we called,
trying hard to draw blood.
The pointed looks meant to cut and wound;
the sneers,
the laughter,
thrown ’round like mud.

In halls and on slippery river banks;
never friends could be.
Put our armor up, and formed our ranks;
spread my hate for you,
your hate,
for me.

The past is long, so long,
and forever trapped inside.
Too long to despise,
to not bother to find;
any love buried, deep,
so we hide.

In halls and on slippery river banks;
we should have looked harder.
We should have tried,
but we thought it all a waste of time,
of space; like spiny thorns,
buried deep inside.

Now we live with the knowledge,
the valued lives, they are taken away.
And with those who loved them,
and true friends;
we cry with hearts broken,
a tragedy, every day.

The halls and the slippery river banks;
have left us with remorse, with guilt, with shame.
Left us with all that wasted time,
and only myself;
and only you,
to blame.

Where is Jane?



When she wasn’t home, I became alarmed;
she was always home.
Fear of stubbing her toe on a sidewalk seam
kept her reclusive.

Everything looked normal,
the empty bookshelves stood.
The hundreds of typed pages, sometimes
printed with only one or two words,
lay strewn about the hardwood floors,
and topped empty tea mugs and carefully placed books.

I tiptoe around Emily Dickinson; Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte,
careful to not knock Edgar Allan Poe from his precarious perch
atop the cuckoo clock, worn and stopped, or Charles Dickens
from an odd looking bust of John Adams.
Yes, everything was as usual, and accounted for, but her.

She was missing from her post at the old typewriter,
in her old wicker chair.  Normally she’d be there,
frantically typing click-clack-click, letter by letter and
page by page before adding five or six to the piles at her feet
and on the armchair and next to the waste paper basket.
Stopping to sip weak tea and eat a dry biscuit, or straighten an
errant doily.  If the doily wasn’t covered with paper or acting
as bedclothes to a well-thumbed book.

Perplexed now, I enter further; down a long hall,
over a floor dressed in a worn carpet runner,
covered in paper and lined with stacked classics and
contemporary work and dark poetry chapbooks, atlases
and coffee table literature.  Down the hall to the back door, I peek
out the kitchen window to spot her napping on the lounge chair,
dappled in the early evening sunlight, a not-so-important paper
clutched in her old white hand, and I smile as I wonder:

Had she found her Sense and Sensibility at last?


SUNY Broome Boundaries 2017 “Only Words”


    “Only Words”
By Celena McDonnell

That morning, I was strong. I had words. She didn’t want to go, but they said she had to. Cuts on her legs too obvious to be brushed under the carpet; the pills taken two weeks before— just now discovered—too loud a cry.

“You must be evaluated, we are sending you to the emergency room. We’re sorry, sweetheart.” Instructions from her therapist and mental health nurse practitioner that could not be ignored.

She didn’t want to go and was angry, so angry. Tears and sobs as I took her home first, trying to give her some semblance of control over her life, for wasn’t lack of that part of her depression?

“I know you don’t want to go…but you have a choice, at least. A choice in how and a choice in where,” I said. “I won’t go anywhere,” she replied. “You must,” said I. This decision was no longer ours to make. Only how we did it. “You need to pick. Come with me and I will take you away; to a different hospital, where they may be kinder, may be more respectful, may help and not hurt, may give you hope. Make me get an ambulance and police, and they will take you back to where you hated. We will no longer have this choice. You must decide the best of two bad decisions. Let me know.”

I was still strong then, she needed that, this couldn’t be avoided; I had to help her realize and make the best choice for herself, and so I used as many words as I could find. “I won’t go anywhere,” she replied. And she cried and sobbed and cried up in her room, her older sister yelling at me in the kitchen that I don’t understand, how could I, I didn’t have their problem…I was making it worse. She’s crying too, now, as I’m trying to explain that this was no longer a choice…no longer a choice, no longer a choice.

“She must,” said I. “Fuck you,” said she.

Up in my fifteen-year old’s room, I beg again. Then leave. And pace the kitchen. And breathe. And pray. She comes down to say that she’ll go, but only to that different hospital, thirty-five minutes away. And she will refuse to stay.  I breathe again. And I stay strong. And use my words to let her know that I am on her side.

A long, quite drive on a beautiful October day; the glitter air kind of day, sun bouncing off the leaves of the trees that lined the highway. No more words, I let her sit and sob, not wanting music, not wanting a soda. Not wanting anything.

Too soon, we march into the emergency department.“Hi, honey…what brings you in today?” says the nurse in triage. The beautiful girl; too thin, too pale, with long, black hair and a beanie on top, she looks at me to explain. Not as strong as I, she can’t speak. I was still strong and so I again found my words. “Her therapist wants a psych eval,” said I. “She doesn’t want to live anymore.” Still strong.

“Okay, sweetie…how beautiful you are. Let’s see if we can help you,” smiling, the nurse is caring, empathetic….kind. She explains that they just got crazy busy, she didn’t want us in there with all the busy, and would it be okay if we used the private family room for our visit? Of course, I say.

And this was wonderful; a large flat screen television, plenty of large, more comfy chairs. A computer. She could be evaluated right there, no need to leave except for the bathroom and urine test that the doctor who came in, right there in that family room, ordered for her. And the lab lady would even come in there to draw her blood.

All this made me stronger. This was respect. This was care. This was what we didn’t get in our own area the last time she didn’t want to live. Or the first time she didn’t want to live. This was why we didn’t go back there, why it was so important that she listen to my words, and go with me willingly. If I’d needed help, we wouldn’t have had this choice. We would have had police and ambulances, and they would have taken her back THERE. It was important that she listen to my words, and let me lead her choice, important that it BE her choice. That my words lead her here.

I watch her leave with the lab lady to do her urine test. A tall, thin, beautiful, broken girl with long black hair and a beanie on top, joggers and band tee, and black Nike’s on her feet. We exchange small smiles as she leaves. I focus on the TV, chin in my hand, propped on my knee. Still strong. The words are in my head now, but as background noise only because she is someone else’s responsibility for a moment. Someone else had eyes on her for a moment.

I breathe.

Led back in, I see they have changed her. Gone are the joggers and band tee, replaced by a hospital gown and scrub pants, thank God, she hadn’t wanted the livid scars on the front of her calves to show. More respect for her, they didn’t even ask, had just handed her the pants. And let her keep her beanie on her head and Nike’s on her feet.

She sat, the lab lady went to work drawing blood. I broke. No words were needed now, nor were they appropriate. It’s time for business, and this was real. The fact that she was even thinner, even paler, in that hospital garb, and the thought of her possibly wandering around a locked ward by herself, without me and my words for a few days….I broke and tears came into my eyes as I looked at her, and she was thankfully busy watching her blood flow out of her veins and into the tubes, and didn’t see my fall.

By the time the lab was finished, I was strong again. I used my words to tell her what she had missed on Bones while gone, and made small chatter until the crisis counselor came in and I was banished from the room, albeit kindly done.

Her evaluation is done through a conversation, with a tech named the same as my sister, an unusual name for girl, yet they both had it. My sister with whom my broken daughter shared the strongest bond, they were so alike that she’d been dubbed mini-me by her aunt. The same tall, slim figure, the same in sexual orientation, the same in clothing choices, and it would appear the same in depression and an anxiety so deep, so hard, so hopeless, that they were also the same in suicidal thought and action. I went back to high school again; and again willed my sister down off of our roof, about thirty years now past.

It was odd though, that when I’d seen her first walk in, in that hospital gown and pants that made her look even thinner, even taller, even sadder, my mind flew immediately to my sister; odd that when she sat in the chair for her blood to be taken, I looked at my daughter yet saw her aunt. And the crisis counselor had my sister’s same name. Not a usual name for a female, not for any of the three girls, but they were female all the same.

I could still be strong, because my sister was suddenly in the room with us, sharing her strength from thousands of miles away; I could feel her as my daughter found her own strength, and her own words to speak on her own behalf, and save herself from a three day stay she wanted no part of. She put her life back into my hands, for me to oversee and guard and protect and save; and with my words I proved I was able and steady, and the counselor let her go home with me.

I stayed strong, and still do, using my words to help my beautiful, broken daughter, as I did her aunt long, long ago; before she had someone else’s eyes to watch over her. Using my words to show she is not alone, every day, every hour; I watch, speak, listen and prove that I am ready for when she needs me again.

The Broken Ornament


Domestic violence is silent…

A brilliant blue sphere,
wrapped in shadow and light,
brushed with glittered speckles,
a silver ribbon binding tight,

lines that snake and stretch,
they wind across and through,
angst and fear and hopelessness,
all sealed within that glue.

a brilliant blue sphere,
now thrown against a wall,
glass breaks, and glitter flies,
as small shards begin to fall,

fragments in the smoky air,
the ribbon unraveled and split,
an ornament, and no longer whole,
she turns from dust to grit.

The Gutter

A societal issue.

Grub along each gutter,
pennies tight in fist.
Cigarette butts half smoked,
how did it come to this?

Peel through life’s trash left,
discarded without thought.
Maybe a treasure here,
or the scrounge will be for naught.

Bread and milk to buy,
a nickel here and there.
The search goes on and on and on,
while people stop and stare.

Beneath a full moon laid to rest,
in a velvet bed of stars.
Hung above a bus stop sign,
outside a string of bars.

The weary walk this earth, my friend,
the tragedy is all around.
Take the moment to check ourselves,
or in this gutter we be found.