2 Poems by Shawna Ervin

F

F is for family, foster, for fragile safety. F is for faded sheets, faded clowns, circus elephants, lions, reds turned pink, blues like a haze over the mattress on the floor. F is for the streetlight I watched flicker beyond the window rather than sleep, for frightened of each creak, for the echo of footsteps, for the breath that stuck between five and four when I counted backward, for the fears that woke me, my body frozen. F is for the outfit my first foster mom washed, this is a good way to make a fresh start, don’t you think? F is for feel free to sign up on the dry erase board by the staircase if you want to talk to one of us. We will try to find time for you. F is for fuck off you’re not mine, I’m not yours, you are not my family.

F is for flash forward, for cradling foster, mine and son’s, for loss in his clenched fists, feeling my loss too, for forcing myself to wait until he is ready to be held. F is for family, this is his home now, mine too, for finalized adoption, for finally. F is for his foster mom misses him, for gazing at photos so we don’t forget. F is for furious at the distance from Denver to Seoul. He falls into my lap, his head hard into my chest, cries, pushes, yells, stomps. “I want my first mom, my foster mom, not you.” F is for fight to stay calm, fight to hold him, keep him safe, fight to keep his story where he can find it, fight to give him what I needed. F is for fumble through this version of forever. 

Father

Old Spice steams 

from his cheeks, small red

dots form on his chin. “That smarts,” 

he sings to the side

of the foggy mirror. Lines 

of dirt fill creases 

along his wide forehead. 

He traces the wall from the light switch

to the doorway, his fingers delicate 

on the wall, the shape of me 

ahead of him too vague 

to believe. His blue eyes

shake, a dancer spinning, 

falling, caught. I wait

to be found. He listens 

for my breath, pats my head. 

He bends down, brushes

my little girl eyes

closed, rests my palms 

on his face, says he can

teach me to see. 

About the contributor

Shawna Ervin is an MFA candidate at Rainier Writers Workshop. She is a Pushcart nominee and attended the Mineral School residency. Recent publications include Tampa Review, Sanskrit, and others. Her chapbook Mother Lines was published in January 2020.

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