Family and Spirit
Kathy Engel

My mother seems annoyed
by my warmth to strangers.
What gash I wonder

renders random nods
and waves a threat?
Unsure, I try something

new, shift codes: kneel
on green sprigs till they stencil
my skin, look to the endless

above, jot down lists
of gratitude like a school-
girl tracing letters.

How, in a bloodland
of blind touch can I
practice translation

tender enough
not to break the skin?
My mother’s is thin

as a wafer, tearing at the
slightest rub. She walks
miles with her dog, holds

a pigeon pose
and balks at instructions
to lie still for the wound to heal.

A family doesn’t know
what it claims daily.
I re-map, request help.


Kathy Engel is the Chair of the Department of Art & Public Policy at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has spent her life working at the nexus between art, imagination, and social change. She is deeply grateful for her family and beloved community.

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