I have spent my life fixated on your flaws. Wishing you were someone else, delicate and gossamer. Others viewed us as porcupined. It was not fury but fear that forced me to quill you. Nearly passed down those sorrow-pointed swords to my daughter, self-doubt always hungry for a new home. Now you hand me a damaged heart. A heart does not need to hide forbidden candy, does not need to consume the world in one sitting. Does not compare the width of skinny legs to the span of a butt. Our heart, the size of two clenched fists, needs only to beat. Remember, and how can we forget, those rebellious breast cells, how at first, I longed to ignore them. You wouldn’t let me. I welcomed in toxic warriors to quash the disease. We were both grateful. Our heart sang, yes sang. This weakened but stubborn heart. And our body’s almost sixty-thousand miles of blood vessels, how if we follow that trail, we could cross the world twice. Unless of course we stop somewhere, having never seen a beach like this or trees like that. And then we would come home, wouldn’t we?
Because home becomes more beautiful.
The heart opened, finally, to its vast
and fragile invitation.
Oh body. Is it too late to say, I love you?
I want to meet my daughter’s children, her own body
caring for her as she learns to love it back.
third chapbook, One Day I Am A Field, was written during COVID and her husband’s death (Glass Lyre Press, 2022). Her second full-length book, Walking Toward Cranes, won The Kithara Book Prize (Glass Lyre, 2016). She has been published in numerous journals, for example, American Poetry Review, Pedestal Magazine, Cortland Review, Baltimore Review, Connotation Press, Comstock Review, and Banyan Review, among others. Most recently, she is a contributor to Anhinga Press’s new anthology Rumors, Secrets, & Lies: Poems about Pregnancy, Abortion, & Choice.
Small-McKinney’s poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. Her book reviews have appeared in journals, such as Prairie Schooner and Matter. Her current manuscript still looking for a home was a finalist with Trio House Press, White Pine Press, and Barrow Street Press. She was the 2011 Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate, judged by poet, Chris Bursk. Small-McKinney resides in Philadelphia and has a degree in Clinical Neuropsychology from Drexel and an MFA in Poetry from Drew University.