First labor, second childbirth.
Francis Anthony Byrne slid easily out of the womb,
right side down.

He was a big boy, a tall boy,
but Frankie was easy on his mother.
Sara said to me, “Labor’s not so bad!”
She said she’d rather have a labor than another Cesarean.

Frankie is easy on his dad,
happy to watch hockey late into the night,
bouncing on the big Bouncy Ball.

Frankie’s easy on his sister, Evelyn.
He never cries too much
and he lets her stroke his head and kiss his face.

Frankie was especially easy on his Grandpa Byrne,
who never admitted before now
how much he wanted the Byrne name to live on.

And Frankie smiles at Grandpa John.



When should I arrive?
Will she come early or late?
It takes so long to get from Madison, Wisconsin to Brockville, Ontario,
but Sara wants me with her and her husband in the labor room.
I am afraid to see my daughter in such pain.

So Evelyn decides.
She’ll just be breech, they’ll schedule a Caesarean,
no more poring over train, plane, driving schedules.

Evelyn is a planner, like her mother.
She doesn’t like the Aries due date,
she would rather be a Pisces.
But her mother had planned another week of fabricating jewellery in her studio.
Evelyn overrides.

Everything depends on Evelyn.
Evelyn is Irish, like her father, so she arranges to be born on March 17th.
That night Grandpa Byrne dons green for the annual party and brags about
his St. Patrick’s Day baby.

Everyone’s sleep depends on Evelyn.
And everyone waits for Evelyn to burp.
Washing clothes, washing dishes,…
Fortunately food was cooked and frozen ahead of time,
but Evelyn decides when we sit down to eat.

Mighty Miss Evelyn, Evelyn the Decider,
Evelyn of the auburn hair and rosebud lips,
Evelyn of the tiny cry,
Sweet Evelyn, upon whom everything depends.


The hands on their kitchen clock move silently,
I open cupboard doors.
Sorting two entire lives takes time.

I wanted to avoid it after dark,
but really–could this kitchen frighten?
It has fed us visitors
so many Sunday brunches
I can still find memories spattered on the stove.

Arnold and Romelle
pass all these things to us:
crystal, silver, all her diamonds
(which I put in a sandwich bag.) Under a lace tablecloth
I found Romelle’s young face,
my husband’s mother in a wedding announcement.
I could have talked to that face better
than the one that always wore authority.
I might have liked the bride
who Xed recipes in A MODERN KITCHEN GUIDE.

Shortly after midnight
I hang freshly ironed curtains,
step back, straighten, step back,
straighten, wear the motions
that she used to make.