little pocket poetry

Both of my parents are dead. There is nothing else like it, no matter how well or how horribly you got along with your folks when they were alive. Sometimes poems arise in me unbidden about my father when I wish they wouldn’t. On the other hand, I find it difficult to generate poems born out of grief for my mother who I miss very much.

When I came upon KellyCressio-Moeller’s poem Threshold II, I was moved to tears. The artful constraint of her expression is something I aspire to in my own poems.


Today’s poem, Threshold II, is the second of a pair written by California poet Kelly Cressio-Moeller.
When I wrote Threshold I, I didn’t know it was going to be the first in a pair and quite honestly didn’t know it was about grieving my father until he showed up in the last lines. The serpentine form of each poem reflects how shifting and unsteady mourning can be. When my father died it was the first time I lost a parent. When my mother died it was the last time I would lose a parent. Equally devastating but for different reasons. I felt shell-shocked by the first, unmoored by the second—orphaned. When I was able to write again, everything came up elegies.
—Kelly Cressio-Moeller
Threshold II

Two months ago, I scribbled poem notes on hospital paper towels—
                            my mother dying, snowed on morphine, pneumonic lungs sinking boats  
                                 she wanted no one to bail out. Her small hands inflated twice
                                         their size as if to keep afloat. The echocardiogram detailed a

                                              scalloped shell of aortic waves, mitral valve murmurations.
                                                   How many secrets did her starlings harbor?
                                                        To mark each changing hour, Pegasus, nailed mid-flight
                                                            on the beige wall, shook his mane from side to side. I
                                       consulted the meadow priests of purple thistle whose prickly
                            heads provided no comfort. They said, Death is a circling
                                  wolf. There will be no one left to call you by your full name.
                                            Grief falls in rain-whipped sheets; the shadows of the dead

                                         weigh more than you know.
I looked to the night sky for a
                                     comet tail, but only cold stars stared back, unblinking.
                             That month my mother died, I did not bleed and the tips of my hair
                      wintered. A book finished inside me; my ink tongue froze.

                       What is there to know, if anything?
                                After my mother’s last breath, the color
                                         in her face did not drain down and away, but rose
                                                     like a wing catching air or a window opening.

—by Kelly Cressio-Moeller
published in burntdistrict, vol. 4, Issue 1, Summer 2015

POET NOTES                                                                                              
Kelly Cressio-Moeller lives in Northern California with her husband, two sons, and their immortal basset hound, Stella. She holds a Bachelor’s in Humanities and has done extensive graduate work in Art History at San Jose State University. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. Kelly is looking for a home for her first, full-length poetry manuscript. She is an Associate Editor at Glass Lyre Press.
Ms Cressio-Moeller’s poetry has been published by the following: Boxcar Poetry Review, burntdistrict, Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, Rattle, Southern Humanities Review, Spillway, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and ZYZZYVA among others. You can also find her work in Best of Pirene's Fountain: First Water (Glass Lyre Press, 2013), The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward (Wind Publications, 2013), and Erica Goss’s “Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets”, (PushPen Press, 2014).
Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s poem Threshold I can be found here:
You can read more of Kelly’s poems on her website:
What writing habits or rituals have you developed, if any?
Each year I attend silent writing retreats in Big Sur—it’s a crucial way I fill the well. The silence and solitude are essential for me. I’m a very, very slow writer. Learning to trust the process is something I struggle with daily. A method of note taking is always with me. Pen and paper in coat pockets, purses, the car, voice memos to myself on the iPhone, hospital paper towels…
How do you go about beginning a poem draft? What inspires you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard?
Threads, images, snippets emerge, from where I don’t know—just grateful they do. I collect scraps of paper, notes I’ve made by the bedside/shower/car/walk—knots I want to loosen or untie, then sitting down at the desk and beginning, always in longhand. Or sitting down at my desk and seeing what comes up.
Do you find any value in keeping the revision drafts of poems you have written?
Absolutely. Those drafts are the poem’s memory, and it may need to retrieve something from it. As time goes on, poems can expand or shrink but they also should be able to look back. I’m a big believer in salvaging what no longer fits in one poem and placing it in my notebook called “Orphan Lines”—nothing is wasted.
Do you have other interests, artistic or otherwise, that inspire your poetry making? Reading widely, daily—music, painting, nature, films, walking, gardening, photography, the Pacific, the stars, coffee, whiskey, and candlelight. Being open, curious.
Is there any poet, living or dead, you would like to go for a walk with? Have a conversation with? Why? 
Four-way tie between Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Joanna Klink, Mark Strand, and Pablo Neruda—to give thanks.
Are you ever afraid of writing a poem? If so, how do you address that?
All the poems I was fearful of writing were the ones I knew I needed to write, and they made the most noise, utterly insistent. “Threshold II” was one of those poems.
Any advice to new writers or writers trying to get their poems published.                         
Know your work and start reading journals (print and online) where you think there is a good fit and where you would be thrilled to see your work. Check the “Acknowledgements” section in favorite poetry books to see where the poems have been published. Make sure the poems you send are really ready. Follow submission guidelines to the letter. Keep excellent records. There will be long strings of dark days—keep moving forward and learn to write through rejection.
Anything else you would like to share about your writing life?
I protect my writing and well-filling time, fiercely. It’s as essential to my self-care as getting enough sleep. I do love how insular writing is, but it’s important to have support—either from other poets or from family. I’m incredibly lucky to have very strong, life-saving scaffoldings from both.
—Kelly Cressio-Moeller—
All poetry used for the April Gifts project was either available in the public domain, or permission for use was granted by the poet. Biographical and publishing information was found either online via poetry websites, or at the good old reliable public library. Poet quotes were gleaned from an assortment of online interviews, from books in my personal library, or through correspondence directly with the poet. All other writing, stories, anecdotes, and musings are the happy consequence of my own creation.
—Susan Frances Veronica Glassmeyer of Little Pocket Poetry
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