Poems Exploring Motherhood, Friendship, Teaching and Loss

By Katharine Covino


A single glance over your shoulder and you’re gone.

A flash.

A bolt.

A molten ball of speed – compact and sure.

An echoing whoop, 

full of joy and pride and fire,

the only record of your passing.

Beautiful, confident, fearless – 

wild and unrepentant – 

you are unstoppable.

Heedless, you coast over innumerable hidden perils.

Ice, rocks, twigs, roots, and boulders

are nothing to you.

May you always be carefree.

May you always coast above danger,

unknowing and unmarked.

Fearless, free, and full of grace –

all potential and promise.

In my life, I have come to know the cruelty of the mountain,

as well as its beauty.

May it be a long-time finding you, my wild one.

May your innocence carry you,

unfettered and unafraid.


I had thought ‘best friends’

a term I’d left behind

in middle school.

That performative dance

of secret notes

of tribal belonging

and cutting cruelty.

Or in the bubbled world

of high school

where cliques and status

ruled supreme.

Or in college

where living together

with family of your own choosing

created a heady, liberating, wonder –

Friendships thicker than rope, and

thicker than blood.

But ‘best friends’ as an adult

with a house, two cars, and kids

to love and to manage?

But, then I found you.

Such strong, beautiful women –

You carried me when I was broken.

You kept checking in as I pushed you away.

How I love you.

Thank you

for such an unexpected

and such an undeserved

gift of friendship.

I had not thought to find it.


I did not teach you to be a parent, 

yet you will find yourself caring

so deeply for the children 

who sit in front of you 

on the multi-colored carpet 

that it will frighten you.

You will come to love them,

as if they came from your own body.

You will not be able to help it.

I did not teach you to be a counselor,

yet you will find yourself

listening to Laura from 5th period

because you are the one adult she trusts.

Unable to comfort her and

unable to advise her, 

you will hold in silent, angry tears

reduced to bearing witness,

and shouldering her grief 

as if it were your own. 

I did not teach you to be an advocate,

yet you will find yourself fighting

to secure services for your students.

Like Ysidro, whose parents don’t speak English.

You will help him navigate a winding labyrinth.

You will rage with him,

in defiance of a broken system

that demands a 15-year-old child

serve as a translator for his parents

at his own IEP meeting.

I did not teach you to be a soldier,

yet you may find yourself 

crouched in a supply closet,

holding the doorknob shut,

as tightly as you can.

All the while, 

brushing away tears,

and singing softly, 

to the fourteen first graders

cowering behind you.

These are lessons I did not teach you. 

But, hear me now.

To be a teacher is to live all these lives.

To give, to serve, and to love 


with your heart outside your body

both depleted and made whole again

by the burnishing practice 

of empathy and care.


A fleeting feeling,

the smallest pause,

a twinge.

Something missing.

Something wrong.

Scanning the bright glare of the water, 

sure that your head will pop up,

white teeth and a salty smile.

So many other children,

rushing, swimming, splashing, yelling.

So many, but not you.

Calling, shouting, screaming your name,

searching with frantic, frenzied eyes.

Seeing everything.

Seeing nothing.

The ice-grip of panic,

of unreal loss.

Dry heaving shin deep in the water;

desperate and alone.

Another mother runs for help.

But who will help?

How will they help?

You’re already gone.

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