When your first born says he might have to move away, the map between here and there blows shut with Dakota blizzards. You recall the Red River Valley and mix the words to the song:

From this valley they say you are going, Tom Dooley, hang down your head and cry.

But you never say Don’t go. You say I’m so happy for you.


And one night you hear your cousin’s cancer count has rocketed back up to 400. You find the old Prayer Notebook filled with tablet paper and names sketched out in pencil.  It started with Star—the name of the girl from second grade who kicked you when Miss Conry wasn’t looking. All because you asked Star what she meant by being Jewish and why she hated Christmas.

Writing a name in a notebook is a way to share your troubles. Father Michelotti told you this forty years ago when you thought you never listened. A way to send our prayers into the universe. Waves of courage reaching out to lift us up.

Us being the keyword.

You add your cousin’s name, the pilot in the sky, your daughter’s student’s father who is back in prison, the name of your sister’s dead dog.

Star light, star bright—when you wish upon a star—first star I see tonight.

Upon: According to the 1957 The New Practical Webster’s Dictionary: with all your senses.



And someone leaves a surprise on your desk at work, on a crabby Tuesday day. A bag so filled with freshly picked garden tomatoes, you can still smell earth and sunshine in the bag. Too many for you to eat in time—you make a list of whom to share upon such good bounty.




About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

12 responses to “upon

  1. A wonderful collection of thoughts that seem to cover a myriad of emotions. Like a bag of tomatoes, that you could reach into and bring out a different one each time. Yet, you make them all connect. They are all tomatos. Beautifully done.

    • redmitten

      thank you, john. for me, sometimes what goes on inside is an unsorted jumble of . . . what? spending time with this list aligns and connects and i am glad to hear you felt the connection. that means a lot to me.

  2. Do you ever feel the need to trade the Prayer Notebook for spray cans and letters 6 feet high? Though I know it is not about dimension or volume, sometimes the wanting part of me wonders if I ask in too small a voice and perhaps am not heard. And then the tomatoes, the shower of benevolence, says what we do IS enough, it is all there can be. I love how you pay attention. xo

    • redmitten

      marylinn- and you know what? the larger physical act with ladders and spray cans would also help with the process. all those gears jammed inside sometime need a more physical response. i love the idea of the prayer notebook being expressed with spray cans and ladders. father michelotti was a gentle man who guided a handful of kids from a tiny italian church on the edge of town. (and my brothers and i were the token irish) he spent quite a bit of time on kidney dialysis and so our “classes” were spent in his dialysis room. i was fascinated by the mechanisms of his hospital bed and so he would encourage me to crawl under the bed and check things out. so, while i was under his hospital bed- he asked me what my troubles were. i felt so safe under his bed, and i am sure my responses were muffled, but his response was clear. i was not to expect a different outcome from my prayers, but if i could learn to hold still and notice other things (shift my focus) i would start to notice how i felt better inside. and if the prayer notebook could bring this about in me, well then (he said), perhaps this new sense of calm could reach those whose name was in my notebook.

      it is good to hear that my way of paying attention reaches you–for so many decades i kept silent, shushed by others who told me i didn’t make any sense. thank you.

  3. US is definitely the key word. Enjoy the tomatoes, Sherry, along with your thoughts to the Universe.

    • redmitten

      karla- i’m glad you tuned to the “us”, too. and those tomatoes! i can’t plant a garden in my backyard because of charlie the chewing dog, and whatever i plant in the front the deer eat. but this summer i planted one tomato plant and one tomatillo. the deer get 80% of the tomatillos, and my tomato plant might produce a total six tomatoes. i visit my plants every morning before i go to work- gauge the green to orange to redness and try to figure out when i might have a tomato to eat. the goodness of a secret tomato benefactor at work makes me feel wealthy right now.

  4. such a sweet synthesis between the frigidity of the separating Dakota blizzards and the warmth of the connecting tomatoes. you create and close another emotional life loop in – and upon – these words, sherry.

    • redmitten

      amanda- that is such a great term “the emotional life loop”. for everything there is a reason and a season and a contrast–i try to trust in the loop, though often i balk at participating in it.

  5. I have to say I feel for Star. Us Jewish kids didn’t hate Christmas, we thought Christmas hated us. Why else would Santa visit all of our friends and pass us over. A lovely bit from the “other side”.

    • redmitten

      risa- good to hear from you. after all these years, star is the one i remember from grade school and i think it is because i sensed even then i hurt her with my innocent questions. my brothers told me to go back to school the next day and kick her back, but there was no way i could do that. kicking back would have increased the gulf between us and what i wanted was to heal. so a few years later when i was underneath father michelotti’s bed (see my response to marylinn) i told him how i had caused harm here and there. he talked to me about forgiveness and how a notebook might be helpful. but that is for another post, another time.

      getting back to how it felt to feel passed over- i’m glad you shared that with me. star and i didn’t have the ability back then to sort all that out then. i felt passed over in school because i was a dam kid surrounded by town kids. every day i’d ride a bus with my brothers an hour each way to school (and yes, in retelling this now i want to say five hours each way . . .:) ). everyone in school came from the same neighborhood and rode their bikes together, agreed to meet at the candy store after school, played basketball at the nearby park. but as dam kids, my brothers and i were removed from all that and i realize now i was tuned a little more to any kid in school that was also passed over. but my technique of asking blunt questions didn’t exactly help me connect with the kids i felt kinship with. oh my . . .

  6. I like how the feeling of separateness and of fracture, is brought together at the end by the gift of tomatoes. You know, it’s funny but kids never think of (at least I never did)differentness as wrongness, they’re just curious, I think. Poor Star. Poor cousin. I think it is interesting how writing names in a book kind of contains people and keeps them.

    • redmitten

      laurie- yes to that honest curiosity and ouch to learning how to shut it down. i’ve yet to learn how to ask a question that doesn’t make the other person squirm. it’s not my intent at all, but if i think it will make them squirm i stay silent and watch, try to figure it out on my own. and oy! the way i figure things out! yikes.

      there is something nurturing about writing names down. similar to lighting candles. hands on- helps lighten the heart’s weight…(?)

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