Tag Archives: deadbeat dads

A Poem for Papa (教皇的一首诗)


Four years ago
you left for work.
It was a humid early summer day
in the spring New York City swelter.

Leaning nonchalantly in the doorway,
you said, “Later,”
like nothing doing,
and turned for the stairs.

No kiss goodbye, not even a glance
in my direction.
I leaned out after you, and called down the
creaking stairwell
to tell you
not to bother returning.

You did not.

This was smart, for me.
Maybe the wisest words ever
hastily spoken.

Since you had no problem with
helping me spend me my money or
using my body in bed,
losing you was a gift,
in retrospect.

Three years ago
I gave birth to your son.
Alone, in the dead cement of NYC winter,
I welcomed a new human being into this
Only two Franciscan nuns sat in the
otherwise empty hospital room
as i suckled at my breast
the child you have not even
sent one birthday gift to.

No flowers from Daddy arrived,
not even a card or cheap chocolates…
only a pathetic
and rude text message, something
about a paternity test.
Called me “Baby Momma”,

I remember the sound the phone made as it
hit the cold tile floor.
Its screen shattered.
The baby began to cry.
So did I.

Your son met you, once
and was in my arms when
you, once again and years later,
brought me to tears.
He talks about it
to this day.

“Daddy mean at Mommy. Mama cried.
Daddy mean.
Are you happy,mama?
Be happy, Mama!”

They remember everything, the
little ones. Like
elephants in miniature,
they never forget. For you, my
ex-lover, this
is a lifelong liability.

Your son speaks of you
rarely now,
except to mention in passing
that your favorite color is yellow.

Two words: good bye —
from me to you,
were the wisest words
i have ever spoken.
I will say them now and
i will say them again.

Like a leaf, fallen haplessly
from the massive oak
over our little home,
your memory
lies, dried out and faded
in the driveway of my mind.



Welcome to the world, little one. Three days old, William James.

i love you i love you i love you my son.

just born

The view from my hospital bed at St Luke’s Roosevelt at dawn. WIlliam was 2 hours old. 2.09.09.

And I would do it all again.

good bye, baby daddy. where my face was, there is ether.

the closest i will ever get to you again. Only to say goodbye…to your countenance on a piece of canvas.

Janice J. Cunningham 7.04.12. Cleveland, Ohio


Filed under children, diary, life, sadness

to forgive

1997, oil on wood. 8.5x11.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”    — Mark Twain

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Filed under diary, imperfection, life, love, people, Uncategorized

To a Fatherless Son

This makes my heart swell with love, joy, pride of mama-hood,

and sadness for an innocent little elf who deserves so, so much more.


God bless you, William James Maxwell Cunningham.

You are my everything.

I will never, ever abandon you — and I will give you every iota of my heart and soul

as long as I am alive

on this earth.

♥ ♥ ♥


Mommy xoxoxox


Cleveland, Ohio.





You will be aware of an absence, presently,

Growing beside you like a tree,

A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree —

Balding, gelded by lightning — an illusion,

And a sky like a pig’s backside, an utter lack of attention.

But right now you are dumb.

And I love your stupidity,

The blind mirror of it.  I look in

And find no face but my own, and you think that’s funny.

It is good for me

To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung.

One day you may touch what’s wrong

The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush.

Till then your smiles are found money.

Sylvia Plath        26 September 1962

i love you, my firstborn and only son. You are a shiny soul.

even angels need to close their eyes sometimes.

my cooking buddy.

shiny shiny soul


Filed under children, cool stuff, diary, love, nature, photography, Uncategorized


Per Mia Dolce William James (dall’estate 2009)

Mia dolce William,
L’estate sta scivolando da subdolamente, con un vuoto lasciato tra le mie braccia dove hai utilizzato per essere costantemente. Un’altra Domenica trascorso sul ponte, inutilmente lettura di 2 anni arretrati vecchia di Newsweek e resistenza (non sempre con successo) la voglia di e-mail di tuo padre sui danni che ha fatto.
Tutto ciò che fa male così acutamente. Vedendo gli altri ragazzi del bambino seduto nel seggiolino per bambini dei carrelli della spesa a Pathmark. Annunci Magazine per la formula di bambino. Il tuo cappello piccolo dom denim, ora troppo piccolo per la testa, sdraiato tristemente in panchina pianoforte.

Più tardi …

E ‘quell’ora magica, quando il fiordaliso azzurro del cielo comincia a girare sempre in modo leggermente rosa e, come sempre, sto pensando a te, figlio mio dolce. Ancora una volta la piscina per bambini ha accumulato una collezione pietosa di foglie e insetti ribelle, che, pensando che può fare un tuffo veloce, ha incontrato la loro prematura scomparsa. Le lucciole stanno appena iniziando a lampeggiare con orgoglio i loro gruppi ottici posteriori e vorrei poter mostrare loro a voi. Ma tu non sei qui, e qui mi siedo – potatura mia pianta di basilico su qualcun altro … e di nuovo ponte a guardare le formiche senza meta, mentre meandri che desiderano fossi uno di loro. Oh, se non altro per non sentire nulla.

Il sole sta calando, e stanno crescendo troppo buio per vedere quello che sono scarabocchi. Sto piangendo, desiderio di abbracciarti e non lasciarti andare.


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Filed under art, children, diary, imperfection, life, Uncategorized

For My Sweet William James (a letter to my son, while ill. Summer 2009)

My sweet William,
The summer is slipping sneakily by, with a void left in my arms where you used to constantly be. Another Sunday spent on the deck, pointlessly reading 2-year old back issues of Newsweek and resisting (not always successfully) the urge to email your father about the damage he has done.
Everything hurts so acutely. Seeing other baby boys sitting in the baby seats of the shopping carts at Pathmark. Magazine ads for baby formula. Your tiny denim sun hat, now way too small for your head, lying forlornly on the piano bench.


It is that magical hour, when the light cornflower blue of the sky begins to turn ever so slightly pink, and as always, I am thinking of you, my sweet son. Again the baby pool has amassed a pitiful collection of leaves and wayward insects, who, thinking they might take a quick dip, met their untimely demise. The lightning bugs are just starting to proudly flash their taillights and I wish I could show them to you. But you are not here, and here I sit – pruning my basil plant on someone else’s back deck…and watching ants meandering aimlessly while wishing I were one of them. Oh, if only to feel nothing.

The sun is going down, and it is growing too dark to see what I am scribbling. I am crying, longing to hold you and never let you go.


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Filed under children, diary, imperfection, life, love, nature

The WHY of Single Motherhood, or, to Hell and Back

On single motherhood — why?

If any of you are wondering why I wrote that I was sad that my baby would not have a daddy:

The baby has a father, yes. To call him “daddy”, however, would be a sad misnomer. I have been fooling myself that I am okay about this, but today I am very, very sad for this soul in my womb. My parents are both dead, and my child will never know the joy of saying Dada or having a magical Grandma.

Why? Was I abandoned? Well, yes and no. As a proud and newly humbled young woman I will be honest. Here is a brief transcript. I kicked the baby’s father out one night after one teaspoonful too much of disrespect and being taken for granted. I told him after the fact, about a week later, that I was with child.

The phone rings one morning quite unexpectedly.

Jordan: “I was in your your neighborhood, Janice, and was wondering if you’d meet me at noon at Starbucks to talk about, um, er….your child (hello? MAJOR lack of acceptance for 50% of the responsibilty? BIO 101: Sperm meets egg. HIIIII!!!!! Let’s make a baby! NOT egg meets egg. Hi Jordan. Wake up and smell the fucking cat food!)”

Janice: “Sure! See you then.”

Smiling, the misguided moi puts on her prettiest pink dress and matching lipstick, sprays herself with Chanel, and heads out into the noonday sun with a happy heart.

We meet at Starbucks. He does not offer to pay for my coffee. This I never noticed nor cared about, this little quirk of his, but just like the niggling and giant fact that he did not call his own mother on Mother’s Day, it is seemingly insignificant yet all-telling. A veritable red flag that mine eyes were blinded to by the sheer idiocy of…love? I, the Queen of self-delusion, remain ever the optimist. We sit near the window, he with his and me with my venti decaf Sumatra w/soy, half ice.

Jordan: “So, you are really pregnant and you are sure it’s mine?”

Janice: (MAJORLY showing at only two months enough to warrant comments in clinic that it must be twins) “Well, honey, I was in a coma for the first half of the year and you are the only guy I have slept with in 2008…..”

Jordan looks me directly in the eyes — the straightforward blue-eyed gaze of the angels that won me over the first night we met as I was taking out the trash at 2 am — and calmly, without feeling, says,

“Well, if you do not kill it right away I will never speak to you again. I want nothing to do with you if you keep it. Too much baggage.”

I nearly choke on my iced venti decaf Sumatra soy half ice and stand up, resisting the urge to deck him in public (damn, those missed golden opportunities) or slap him concisely across his handsome stubbled boy/man face. Straightening out my pink sundress over the bulge of tummy and hiding my reddening cheeks behind my Mary Kate-sized sunglasses, I say my piece. One tear falls with a big plop onto the wooden stool, and my pride is shattered.

“I. Am. Very. Sorry… you feel that way, mon petit amande. In that case, I wish you the best. Have a nice life. I am not killing OUR baby. You will be hearing from me re: child support. Buh-bye!”

I nearly run out the door, blinded by the noonday sun, walkingfastwalkinganywherefastanywherebuthere away away away no one can see me cry no one can see me cry GODDAMN YOU MOTHERFUCKER I LOVED YOU I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING! I watch all the people, each independently revolving in their private bubble/universe, trudging in the thick summer air down Third Ave, heat rippling in urban mirage up from the concrete. I realize the world is still turning.

This moment is frozen in time as if a giant Polaroid — sepia shots only — was lowered from Heaven by the hand of a God with a sick sense of humor and screenplay. I know I will never regret my decision. I keep walkingwalkingwalking fasterfaster now, fighting hot tears and feeling itchy.

Run, rabbit, run. Into the 99 cent store i, bunny girl, run. Mindlessly, furiously, I bury myself in the sadly cheerful aisles of dusty crap that suddenly seem very necessary. Bizarre close-out fridge magnets, froggy pencil toppers with googly eyes, generic baby toys, Puerto Rican flag-adorned lighters, no-brand oven cleaner…the mundane soothes me and i buy a bottle of pink Baby Mistolin to clean the nursery.

I will be okay. I have a big heart that will be the death of me, and I harbor no hatred — for my sake, and that of my unborn child.

The baby is due on Valentine’s Day 2009, ironically. I am fighting not to cry with every tick of the clock and replacing grief with joy through my art, my friends, my faith in God, and my love. I will bake gingerbread men this holiday season with my sisters and girlfriends and we will be laughing and decorating the tree, the scent of Frasier fir and baking cookies reminding us that There. Is. More. To. Life. Than this.

Hannah Francesca Grace. Daniel James. William Maxwell…whatever your name shall come to be… I love you.

I have always, and will always love you. No one will ever harm you as long as Mommy lives.

And maybe, someday, Daddy will come home.

And if he does not, which seems the most likely end to this game of Life — with too few tiny plastic people in the little plastic car — you will only know the most beautiful things about him, and that he loved you.

So very, very much.

Even if it is a lie.  It is.

summer 2008

When your stuffing is falling out and you are full of holes and scars, it is only then that you become Real. I am Real.
(a la the Velveteen Rabbit – my hero)


January 9, 2011 · 1:19 am