Francis Daulerio

Poem for a Sick Child on the Fourth of July

Night again,
and the two of us rocking,
both wanting sleep,
while the neighboring farm blows off
the last of its mortars,
my hands still smelling of hose water
and Pink Brandywine leaves.

A small plastic giraffe
with big green eyes
and a pair of blue overalls
is digging
its outstretched arm into my hip
from its misplaced home
between the cushions of our glider.

Outside, as the celebration dims,
the night resigns itself again
to darkness, and your gut-sick body
finally slacks into mine.

you love me now
because, when your mother sleeps,
I am left of what you know,
            and yes,
in tomorrow’s tired daylight
I will likely hide this toy giraffe
somewhere far from you and this chair
that has, tonight, assumed itself
our cradle.

For now, though, I will
breathe you in,
commit your tiny form to memory,
and stay here,
uncomfortable like this,
for as long as you will let me,
knowing how quickly time takes us
away from who we’ve been.



In two months’ time
the garlic leaves
will brown
and we will dig papery bulbs
from cedar darkness,
twisting them like widows’ braids
to swing from the attic beam above
my dead grandfather’s sawhorses.

In two months’ time
my daughter will take wobbly steps,
an unripe tomato gripped tight
between her chubby fingers,
toward the June bug trap
we’ve warned her
away from again and again
with exaggerated eyebrows,
playfully stern.

In two months’ time
I will look behind me,
shocked at my distance,
eyes to the creek rushing
storm water west,
and say something quiet,
mostly to myself,
about how fast it all goes
or how I’m scared to go to sleep,
            each new dawn receding so quickly
                        back to sunset.


Melatonin Dreams & the Ending of Winter

I am remembering tonight
what happiness feels like –

bare feet
tracking black mulch across
the hardwood foyer,

the way little white flowers
my wife calls starlight
bloom sideways
out of the quiet walls of the creek,
swaying in the wind above
shallow water
crawling over swollen firewood
tossed in, those drunken nights
warmed then only by the closeness
of our bodies,

and my heart,
slowly regaining itself,
pacing with the cadence
of the small green frogs,
a call bouncing out of mud,
            answered somewhere farther off
            in the early darkness
            of morning.



Francis Daulerio is a writer, teacher, and author of two collaborative collections of poetry and art. His 2015 debut, If & When We Wake, chronicles the process of healing after loss. His newest collection, a 50th-anniversary reinterpretation of Richard Brautigan’s Please Plant This Book, benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Kaveh Akbar has called his work “staggering, gorgeous, essential.” Francis lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife, daughter, and a small herd of deer. More information can be found at