Laura Donnelly


Laura Donnelly’s first book, Watershed, won the 2013 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize. Her poetry has appeared recently in Passages North, Indiana Review, Grist, and as the Missouri Review poem of the week. Originally from Michigan, she lives in Upstate New York and teaches at SUNY Oswego.



for my mother

Today we’re out birding, you
in your red coat, the binoculars

we borrowed swinging from our necks.
Yellow warbler, catbird mewling.

Mostly, I’m learning to walk more slowly,
ignore my phone’s itch,

not rush you, remembering
how we sat in the hospital

playing cribbage while a line dripped
into your arm, the tangle of wires

that meant I shuffled for you.
We agreed whoever was ahead

when the doctor came in would win
and I was relieved it was you.

You were not frightened of the knife
but the drug that would lay you out

cold on the table –
to disappear like that for an hour,

two, while they dug a tumor
the size of a robin’s egg

from your right breast. To not know
where the mind will hide out,

how they’ll call it back down –
Down the hall, a woman

had both breasts removed.
I watched her husband

in the waiting room, his eyes
small behind tiny glasses.

They gave me a buzzer
with flying saucer lights

that would flash when the surgery
was over. I carried it

through labyrinth halls searching coffee,
some off-hours café, wondered

if buying a chocolate cookie
was wrong under the circumstances.

It took twice as long as expected.
Twice I came to the counter

to ask if my buzzer was broken.
When they wheeled you back swaddled

in blankets, one covering your head
like a woozy nun, it was my turn

to fear. Couldn’t find you
anywhere in there – darting

eyes, hands like birds, your talk
of tigers filling the room (one

just there, you pointed,
at your side). All I could do

was say it had gone well, you
did great, try not to look away.