Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Breaking the Broken Things

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In the back room my oldest son is banging on his drum kit,
wailing lyrics I can’t understand—something about

breaking the broken things. He’s pissed off because
his kindergarten teacher told him it might snow today

in our town where snow never falls, and this morning
all he woke to was frost. So I sent him back to the drums

to work it out while I type on Facebook with Janice
and Cory, playing a heavyweight bout of who can

embarrass themselves more. Today’s theme: childhood
pets, the missing and the dead. I go first: 1978, after

my dog ran away, I cried every time I heard the theme song
to WKRP in Cincinnati: Baby if you ever wondered,
wondered whatever became of me . . .  Next up: Janice.
In third grade, her cat died and for weeks she sang

“I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” Mostly
in my head, she says, but probably also a little bit
out loud. Cory claims he doesn’t have a pet song story,
but now somehow he wishes he did, which opens up

a hole for a joke. Waiting for it, I remember the day
my youngest son burst into tears for reasons unknown,

how I found him sitting on the toilet, jammies bunched
around his ankles, chin trembling on his bare chest,

while in the kitchen Gloria Gaynor vowed survival
to a disco beat. It’s just so sad, he said, how they
loved each other and now they don’t. Oh childhood,
you asshole, you unconscionable purveyor of loss.

On my computer, Janice suggests, Cory, you could
buy a hamster then accidentally lose it while singing
All by Myself.” And I imagine the three of us busting out
laughing like we used to years back, leaning against

the scuffed brown wall at Hemlock Tavern, a guitar solo
from someone’s roommate’s friend’s band splicing

our ear drums. But now Janice is in Poland, Cory in Berlin,
and I am still here with this kid who has splintered the tip

off his drumstick, pounding out a song about broken things,
in a city where promised snow always refuses to fall.

Winner of the 2008 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Cheryl Dumesnil’s books include a collection of poems, In Praise of Falling, and a memoir, Love Song for Baby X: How I Stayed (Almost) Sane on the Rocky Road to Parenthood. She is a regular contributor to and Huffington Post. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her wife and their two sons.

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