Amy Small-McKinney


Amy Small-McKinney’s second full-length book of poetry, Walking Toward Cranes (Glass Lyre Press, 2017) won the Kithara Book Prize 2016. Her work appears widely in journals, such as Connotation Press, Construction, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Tiferet, Pedestal Magazine, and is forthcoming in ONE ART: a journal of poetry. Her poem “Birthplace” received Special Merits recognition by The Comstock Review for their 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest. Small-McKinney’s reviews of poetry books have appeared in several journals, for example, Prairie Schooner. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. She resides in Philadelphia where she teaches community poetry workshops and private students.

The Doctor Said We Need to Return in Two Months After Further Testing Including Bloodwork

How do I mourn a husband who sits beside me? Who cannot remember doctor or diagnosis. Who called me Honey, held my hand. I could have held him all night, woke to memory, the word dementia. I cannot close my eyes or hide. Who do I tell? What do I need to remember? My shoulders are mountains where a shepherd must stop, her sheep hesitating then moving upwards. They hate the dark. What to remember? On the top of the mountain not a burning bush. A woman, ruins. Below where sea stifles land my body a sunken ship, its ruins. I am drowning in remembering. In memorari, to be mindful of. I don’t want to be. Want to forget alarms for medications, cups of water to be thickened so he doesn’t mis-swallow into trachea or lungs. Forget legs as stems that barely hold him. Not-remembering is venomous, a stonefish, unnoticeable, unremarkable at first, easily mistaken for polished stone. My shoulders are his mountains. I don’t live in the mountains, never a shepherd. My city has its own steep cliffs of loss. This city where I walk two blocks for apples. When the emergency dispatcher demands who is with him the man on the floor? He remembered to push the emergency button. We are on our way. I am not a mountain or shepherd or sea, I’m on my way.

During this virus, this isolation, my husband was ill. The day the rehabilitation center was going to ban visitors, I brought him home. While caregiving, I felt all that caregivers know well, but often fear saying out loud, exhaustion, frustration, resentment, and did not want to hear, one more time, how strong I was. I was in mourning, deeply submerged in anticipatory grief. Finally, we had to make the impossible decision to not have another surgery. He entered hospice here at home. Surrounded by family, he died late June. We write what we must, don't we?