Anne by
(27 Stories)

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She was a quiet girl, soft of face

soft of movement,

and her long brown hair

often curtained her eyes

so as to be soft of broadcasting feelings.

Both of us were novitiates to the 

buzzing tech-worshipping work world

where we met.

We hit it off, mostly 

because at age 18,  

we knew everything, and

we both needed to escape

the cubicle-filled 

fluorescent space to go 

outside at lunchtime

even in the rain, 

even when our co-workers

shook their heads 

when we would come back to the

sluggish, dull-office afternoon in wet clothes

and muddy shoes and 

secrets shared.

We would buy goldfish crackers

and bottled Pepsis-  munching

crappy calories and anti-health food 

as we shared our histories,

sitting on the carefully edged, mowed and 

greenly-fragrant lawns spotted

with islands of rebel daisies making a stand,

or striding through the suburban

neighborhoods, or using louder voices

as the rain pounded on the roof of her

adored mustang convertible.

She slowly revealed,

one story at a time

that her father drank a lot

that he beat her mama 

pretty regularly 

and worse for her mother

he had flaunted

on-going affairs, with trampy-looking women

who wore bright red lipstick, just a bit smeared,

and painted their eye-brows on in

a way that left them always looking

just a little surprised.

Then her mother would melt into

one of her paralyzed puddle times 

when she forgot

to eat, or bathe or dress., until she 

could remember her children.

One day Anne gently moved

the hair from her face to say

she had given a baby up for adoption

when she was 16, and since then

she finds herself compulsively 

staring at any child

who was female and the age of the

vacuum left in her heart.

Then she almost whispered

her boyfriend also beat her sometimes,

only when he was drunk,

only when she forgot to keep her mouth shut,

only because he has so much stress. 

Years later I found out that

in her mind she felt that it 

was my incredulity at her staying

that helped her leave, though

my memory of her flight was different.

She has moved back and forth 

across the country, trying to outrun

the darkness that would close 

round her throat each month

with the bright red blood

flowing from her, the hormonal

shadows coloring every

contentment with grief

She called me sometimes,

often it had been months

since she surfaced to tell me:

I have just checked my son

into an institution to keep him alive


I couldn’t make my marriage work


both my brother and sister are battling addictions


I have found my long lost daughter!

But mostly

and that the storms of her childhood

refused to give her sunshine.

She was crumbling into herself in the blackness. 

Today, as the rain finally

pours its treasure on

this drought- parched land,

that  finally-found

daughter worriedly 

wrote to tell me

it has been 2 years 

since she has heard

from her mother, 

hopeful that I may know how/where she is.

My mind

flashed on crunching 

dry fish-shaped

wrongly- orange 


looking through a silver- dropped curtain

on the window

while this sweet gentle voice explained 

in her quiet, softly sad

way, how she deserved what 

love gave her.

Profile photo of January Handl January Handl

Characterizations: moving


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Oh my goodness January, what a heart-breaking story! The only too real story of an abusive relationship repeating itself. A mother’s aching love for the lost child, searching, finding, but unable to sustain herself or the relationship. The beauty of your phrases bely the actual events. I am so moved by your story.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    OMG, January, I am in tears reading this, Your descriptions and imagery are amazing. Beautiful poem.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    By the way, one of my friends loved your previous poem about getting organized so much that she thought she should tattoo it on her arm!

  4. Heartbreaking story rendered beautifully by your unique phrasing. Reminds me of a couple songs, Green, and Cherokee Louise, by Joni Mitchell who, like you, spins pain into beauty without diminishing truth or consequences.

  5. A very moving story January, your imagery brings this anguished young woman out of the shadows for us to see before sadly she disappears again.

  6. Suzy says:

    Thank you for another beautiful poem, January. This one is heartbreaking, with its tale of abuse over two generations. Your closeness with Anne was precious, and she left her abuser because of you! Since she apparently has disappeared and resurfaced periodically, we can only hope that one day she will resurface again.

  7. John Zussman says:

    Simply stunning—and, as others have observed, heartbreaking. I was glad to learn that your friend resurfaced, but also glad you let the poem end in uncertainty.

    May we all receive more love than we deserve.

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