Child Ward of the Commonwealth
Praise for Child Ward of the Commonwealth:
We humans often lie about the nature of our childhoods because certain wounds can’t be born enough to be fully expressed. In Child Ward Of The Commonwealth, Eileen Cleary brilliantly captures the truthfulness of child consciousness within a world of trauma for her speaker. That Cleary’s poems do this with such beauty, clarity, and formal acumen astonishes me. This is a devastating collection, one in which many readers will find the relief of seeing themselves.Erin Belieu, author of Come Hither Honeycomb (2021)
Foster Care Definition
Baked macaroni and cheese
on a plate too high to reach
or cupcakes only seen on Mr. Rogers.
Or, it is an empty red, white and blue
where I keep the beads
earned as a Blue Bird
at meetings where I’ve never stayed
long enough to fly up to Fire Girl.
Or, it’s a trip to the zoo where
I learn the zebra knows its herd
because patterns dazzle
their family names across the green.
I want my name to dazzle too.
I begin to wish myself an elephant.
At St Boniface’s, St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s,
St. Francis’, back to my third grade
report on pachyderms, how I pray:
make me an elephant, God.
Let my skin wrinkle over my hide,
not for the size, Not for the skin.
I want to be family. Let me in.
Ask her name or where she lives.
She answers: Burke, Fitzpatrick.
Shaughnessey. Old family, new family.
Wake up, we’re home in Rockland, Salem,
Braintree. Her brothers: gone. Or born last
week. Mothers: aunties or ma’ams. Leenie
slurps noodles straight from a pan, stuffs
liverwurst through porch slats, swallows
meatloaf, thin-sliced and too fast. While
the real share dinner in the next room.
She’s four, seven and just turned ten. Never
an only, mostly an extra, always between.
In the next town over, it’s October again.