I do want hope, belief
in intercession. That my children,
if in need, could expect bread.

To know them is to know the dirt
-engrained lines of their shoeless feet
as they belly sprawl over coloring books.

Just one state over, a blue newborn found
in a blue cooler beneath a speed limit sign.

This, exactly, has happened before: a life
as iteration of the facets of human cruelty,
what I read the first occurrence only
to me—tragedy sealed in Ziplocs
and four-wheel drive Suburbans parked
windows up in summer sun.

Blame it on the snake, or belts, or lineages
of fists, but my children are too real
to allow anyone such grace.

I watch them totter in pajamas.
They bicker about games and turns
and who looks at whom, dip
crackers in milk and brush crumbs off
lips with forearms as they dance,

make it hard to understand that as humans,
something monstrous lives in us all.
No parent can be innocent
and expect to keep their children
the same while they sing at bedtime.

After mine are tucked in, I lie
in bed under the fan as the dog
circles its rug. Tomorrow, again,
I look for new roads, choose one
that leads to more than that.

Poet’s Note

Even before the twenty-first century, many felt battered by the brutality of daily news, but today, the internet and social media allow us to track the struggles of everyone we know alongside those we’ve never met. We coexist with tragedies that are simultaneous with our most innocent moments. “Things I Need to Know” grapples with the braiding of children’s play and horrific abuses, and emphasizes the necessity of this discordance. My intention is to show a speaker ready to break under the world’s weight, while also allowing them to recognize their worthiness of the very grace they seek for their children. In a world where a narrow few hold seemingly overwhelming power, I see this poem as a reminder that we must grasp our own agency if we hope for anything better to follow.