Kate Gaskin


Abecedarian for My Son Just before His Diagnosis



Always I am this sorry


body swelling at the least hint of hurt,

childhood like a rag tied up from my jaw to temple.

Don’t we


ever get to leave anything behind? My sorry


face is your face, my weak

genetic map is your fate. Now you’ll never

have your keys when you need them. Your


instinct will be both fight and flight.


Just listen. Just listen. Just listen. We can’t be what we

know we think we are deep down,

less than and glitchy, cursing our overripe


melons for brains. My son, this is you


now, you always, frenetic blur

of moth wings against bare bulbs, your relentless

porpoising through this, our sea-green world of both


querulous and joyous astonishments. Your anger is my


rage, and your delight incandesces the mean

stinging nettle of my heart. If we are truly in this

together, then we’ll always be a little


unlaced, undone, unmoored, unmoved, unimpressed by the


vast difference between

what we know we should do and what we really want, which is

X when X is actually Y when


Y is your whole wondrous life unrolling like a carpet of fragrant

zinnias before you, blood-red and flaming and true.


Kate Gaskin is the author of Forever War (YesYes Books 2020), which won the Pamet River Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Pleiades, The Southern Review, and Blackbird, among others. She is a recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as the winner of The Pinch’s 2017 Literary Award in Poetry. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

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