Arts & Culture · Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Without Introduction

There are no words to give safe entrance to these Chanel Brenner poems.  You must go bravely on your own.


Mothering a Dead Child

I can’t stop writing poems
about my dead son.
He’s why I started,
and I worry I won’t
be able to stop.
I’m afraid of trapping
his spirit.
I like to think
I keep him alive,
but can’t know.
I’ve found no
classes to take
or books to read
explaining how
to mother
a dead child.
What if I’m
boarding up
his bedroom windows,
locking the door,
keeping him for myself,
torturing him
with my poems?
How will I know?
Who will tell me?
How will I stop?


Riley Died Again Yesterday

We ordered food from a place
we used to get delivery, before.
The doorbell rings and there she is,
glowing and smiling like always.
How are your two boys?

Desmond stands, close, so like his brother,
you could mistake him if you squinted.
My hand on his head, I tell her Riley died.

She goes dark as a sudden cloud,
hand over her mouth as she sobs,
she says, I’m so sorry too many times to stand.

I hug her,
and say it’s okay,
he was a beautiful boy,
and we miss him,
my arm wet with her tears.

She says she was excited
to see our order, to enjoy his running,
hug, and Spider-Man stories.

She says, My cancer came back
and almost got me. I picture
the last time they saw each other,
Death’s finger pointing,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.


I Have 2x the Love for 1 Child

Since the death
of my older son,

I worry that the weight
of my love is too heavy.

I see my son hunched over,
carrying my grief

like a load of stones.
I worry he’ll learn

to bask in that love
till he sunburns,

come to crave
the sting and heat of it.

I worry that he is forming
like a rock in a river bed,

my grief-ridden love
rushing over him

like whitewater.
I worry that one day,

a woman will ask him
why her love is not enough,

and he won’t know
the answer.


       Poems reprinted with the poet’s permission



chanelbiopicChanel Brenner graduated from California State University in Sacramento and is a long-time member of Jack Grapes’s Writers and Poets Collective.  Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Rattle, Cultural Weekly, The Coachella Review, Foliate Oak, Memoirs Ink, L.K. Thayer’s Poetry Juice Bar, Caveat Lector, The Write Place At the Write Time, and Wild Violet. Her poem “What Would Wislawa Szymborska Do?” was displayed at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana; her “July 28th” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest,  judged by Ellen Bass.























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  • Turiya June 19, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    I love your poems. In May, I woke up one day very depressed and couldn’t shake the feeling. Then, I realized it was May 19th, my infant son’s birthday. It’s been 38 years. This used to happen every year, but it hadn’t in a few. I don’t know why it happened this year. You never really get over the death of a child;he was 2 months old. You simply learn to deal with it better. Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen Ross February 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Chanel’s poems are exquisite in their unsaid pain, yet they make me feel hopeful and uplifted after reading them. Beautiful!

  • ellensue spicer-jacobson February 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Beautifully sad & touching. Gets you in the gut!