My dog got scared this morning
tail tucked
hackles up
as two silver labs came right her way
my sweetest voice didn’t overcome the pounding in her ears of
run now
this could be the end
their wagging tails mean nothing as she
and they look to their owner for clarity
I should be proud of her for learning to
protect herself
to say no
without biting
but I’m angry
that she didn’t go quietly
didn’t let this invasion of her space
go undiscussed

my upbringing brought up this fear
this need to hide
and be unbothered
when bothered
to believe
way way down
in a vault I can’t open yet
the idea that
disturbed waters
can only wreck boats

I want to be like my dog
my little rescue mutt
that walked through the desert
for 7 dog years
sub 20 pounds
and still can make a damn good
second impression
because with her
you have to earn her trust
yet somehow
despite the scarcity and fear she lived
it only takes 3 minutes
and her tail is out
her ears are back
and she’d lick your teeth
if you let her

bird feeders

“some people have bird feeders” he says
as we pour oats and sunflower seeds onto a rusty pie tin in the garden
nestled between two bamboos and a bale of hay
two blue-green mice have made their home
the compost their endless feast and in the pie tin
always dessert
we defend their kingdom from the neighborhood cats
and find their tunnels in the compost
warm in the morning when we bring out our eggshells

all I want to talk about anymore is life
the mice in the straw
the carpenter bees on the gladiolas
The peonies growing
the jumping spiders in the greenhouse

a universe is such a subjective thing
sometimes I wonder who’s setting out all of these treats
for me
who’s watching from their back porch
“I hope she likes what I left her”

give it back

sometimes it feels good to know that I will return to the earth
that the ground will take me back and I can once again
be useful
I wonder which parts of me will go to the tree
which parts to the mushrooms
stepping easily between the kingdoms from my home below the surface
because up here where I take parts from the trees
parts from the mushrooms
I can never be sure if my words are working
if my actions are aiding
but I take energy from the other realms like an IOU
because we both know that I’ve got my carbon on loan
and every fall I take is a small payment
iron rich interest left on the rocks as I learn
and heal
I’ve been falling a lot lately on my path to use
to knowledge
and I’ve been keeping quiet about my cuts
scared to show you how many sharp things I’ve kept
close to my heart but
there are worse things than bruised egos

I don’t know how to write this apology
my eyes were bigger than my lifetime
and I’ve taken too much
but I will do my best to share my stolen goods
these things I haven’t earned
the comfort of this skin
the shade of this tree
the silky cap
of a shiitake

first snow

it stops cars
lawn mowers
the first snow still stops hearts
after all of these years
it’s so quiet
like everyone is just
because they are
and they’re all telling each other
to watch

we spend all fall worrying over
the hard freeze
the last chance
clenching my jaw and tiptoeing around
the end of season stress
and not eating

then it hits
and we melt
as the obligation of wrapping up
under that white gentle blanket
putting all plants
and worries
to bed

black widow

there’s a black widow in my shower window
for months I’ve greeted her with the name “mama”
even though she’s always the same size
always without eggs
there’s not enough world for her to grow strong
to become a mama
so she subsists on the cellar spiders
that dawdle by and slip down the wet walls
her small little graveyard
in the groove of the sill

my brain gets caught in shower webs
memory loops
infinite moments
my clenched jaw my unheard panic
why can’t I help her why should I help her
why is she broken why can’t she be okay

I don’t think I’ll ever stop fighting the urge to scream
to cry
to fight
to call and call
and call
and text
that you should call

so I set timers
and chant reminders
constantly holding a seat at the table
for my screaming crying
no one else wants to have her for dinner
but I can’t just leave her out in cold
we sit together
so she can cry into my shirt

I hold her hand
I take her phone
I tell her
“We aren’t going to call again”
I tell her
“He will always come home”
I tell her
to add 5 minutes to the timer

if my black widow doesn’t escape her sill
maybe it’s because she doesn’t need to
maybe she’s found somewhere safe and warm
and maybe that’s enough
maybe strength has nothing to do with it
maybe strength has everything do to with it

some april snippets

wrote a poem-a-day for national poetry month – all can be viewed on my instagram, @toritoripoems
but here are a few:

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day 16 // national poetry month

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day 18 // national poetry month

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day 24 // national poetry month

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day 2 // national poetry month

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cremation 1/2/3


my dad wants some of his ashes in the ocean
atlantic or pacific
it doesn’t matter
just put him where the naval carriers go
his blood so full of the sea breeze
it must be returned

I can keep some
he says
so when that day comes
I’ll listen to my urn to hear the waves
hitting against the hull
smell the salt and sweat
of a battleship
a home
my dad never fully left


my grandpa was burned with his comb
no words out of turn
no hair out of place
until the end
Tom Todd was a well dressed man
at the mortuary
his part was all wrong
so my grandma returned with his comb
to fix him up before the beyond
my mom and her siblings agreed
the comb was part of the deal
so they laid it down with him
now a part of him

each of them
with their tiny tombs full of ash
sitting on top of their fireplaces and mantles
can uncork it any time
to hear grandpa whistling through his teeth
from the master bath
as he combs his hair


my mom smiled when she talked about dying
at first she said she wanted to be cremated
where those ashes went
she didn’t care
said to throw in all remaining cartons of virginia slims we could find in the house
they’re meant to be on fire anyhow

as she snuck away from my father
she said she’d be fine just buried in the yard
if we could get away with it
it’s cheaper that way

my mother
forever the keeper of accounts
the planner of plans
when her day is done
I think she wants to let the wind take her
let the world play it by ear
and for once in her life
she’ll let the unknown do its job

I know bodies are temporary
an urn of ashes like a teddy bear on the shelf
but it’s funny how real
that bear can feel sometimes

I don’t care if my mom doesn’t care
I will keep her
those cigarette ashes
and I will tell her my secrets
I’ll listen to hear
like a genie in a bottle
as she says to me
“to-ri eliza-beth
my smart
beautiful girl”