Child Ward of the Commonwealth / Eileen Cleary


Child Ward of the Commonwealth

poems by

Eileen Cleary

ISBN: 978-1-59948-746-5, ~64 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date:  June 26, 2019


Eileen Cleary is a Pushcart nominee and graduate of both Lesley University’s and the Solstice of Pine Manor’s MFA programs. She co-founded the Lily Poetry Salon of Needham, Massachusetts and edits The Lily Poetry Review. Her work is published or forthcoming in The West Texas Literary Review, J Journal, The American Journal of Poetry and The Main Street Rag.

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


In this her first book of poetry Eileen Cleary takes us deep into the mind-set of a child who endures parental neglect, and subsequent placement in foster care situations as dangerous as the family of origin she had been taken from. Cleary’s poems tell the story of how that child survived, and how, as she came of age, she forged an integral, caring self via a wonderfully protean, and always lyrical imagination. ~Fred Marchant


The human wreckage of these poems will haunt you, but the resilience of Cleary’s speakers will leave you marveling at our species’ capacity for perseverance. With brutal honesty and expert craft, Cleary captures the pain we wreak on each other as well as the courage we need to survive that pain and find wonder on the other side. This is a startling debut from a poet who, for our mutual betterment, we should all keep a close eye on. ~Iain Haley Pollock, author of Ghost, like a Place

When the Social Worker Took Me


Mom wears a sundress in December,
rocks herself to sleep. I watch
over myself─ teach myself
to speak. I say lipshick or pisgetti,
poke holes in my tights, pull snarls
from my hair, toss and catch
a puppy on the stairs ─ I hide
in an attic, clamor through the halls,
map my slap-dash kingdom
in crayon on the walls. The neighbors
dial phones, shut behind their doors.
They call me feral. Are they scared
by the poor? My dog Sheba snarls.
I Mother May I on the lawn,
two giant steps forward ─
Then, fe-fi-fo, I’m gone.



Foster Kid


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.



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
Wo-He-Lo box
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.





Five of us stuff
into the back like boots
into bulging luggage.

The car door opens.
My brother Michael
crams beside us,

his jagged elbows
careful not to stab.
All morning

my parents open
nip bottles, toss
them at their feet.

At a red light
my father slurs,
He should know

he’s not my son.
Mom cries, He’s sixteen
today. Not today.

What will he think of us?
Before the light changes
Michael jumps out.

My mother chases
and chases until Mike’s
the empty chair at her wake.


SKU: 978-1-59948-746-5 Categories: , Tag: