Toward the Clearing


poems by

Jean Cassidy

Poetry chapbook, 48 pages, $17.95 cover price

Release date: 2014

includes a CD of the read poems with solo musical accompaniment


Jean Cassidy grew up in Chicago and began her working career at age eight as founder and CEO of “The Scrub Club”—a cleaning business she began with neighborhood children. She spent her professional career in community mental health, helping develop and manage clinical mental health services at Hampton House in Detroit, Michigan; St. Joseph Hospital in Tampa, Florida; Catholic Rural Social Services in Cumming, Georgia; Psychological & Educational Consultants in Gainesville, Georgia; and Mountain Area Health Education Center Ob/Gyn Residency Program in Asheville, North Carolina. Jean was a member of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, for 17 years. She has been a member of the community chorus Womansong of Asheville since 1996 ( and is currently managing editor of SheVille of Western North Carolina (

With a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and a poets heart, ]ean Cassidy evokes the telling details of a world, one that is at once present and vanished. Hers is a sensibility that locates the ponderous in the intimate, bringing into poignant relief the past that persists and embellishes our days.
–Holly Iglesias, Author of’ Angles of Approach

In this fine new collection of poems, Jean Cassidy takes on the small and ordinary in life, which indeed is the groundswell that nourishes a human being and makes us real to one another. She “honors small things” that exist “in ordinary time.” To Jean, this means not onryrthe environment and history per se but close Family and on out to the generations she so unequivocally stitches together with silk threads both delicate and sturdy. To do this, one must write (and ride) a thin line, assuming the persona of a child then flipping like an acrobat to see the same circumstances from the view of a mother, Father, or brother… Humor, great kindness, and sorrow allow her to make her journey ours. The insights are revelatory, bright and dark in an instant…These poems have a large heart, and we grow stronger through reading them–one by one, life by life. What a varied gathering of private and historical perspectives we have here to treasure.
–Katherine Soniat, Author of The Swing Girl


She seemed like a fragile flower, petrified
as though she had inhaled the dust
of late-summer’s
drought, the summer
my mother came

By then our two-flat felt like a crooked house, three generations
listing, top-heavy with age and infirmity. At the window
she dozed and tilted in her chair, wheels locked.
I learned to slide
out the front door
happily avoiding her
impossible gaze.

Things were not right.
Vigilant on my tricycle with the big front wheel, I traveled
the neighborhood.
My uniform, a babushka and a too-big leather bomber jacket,
I patrolled Francisco Avenue to Devon and back up.

I scoured backyards, houses, alleys and gangways inspecting people.
I knew of no other preschooler in this line of work; I felt important.
I rode with purpose, avoiding pitfalls like old people,
tree-rooted sidewalks, kids.

After circling awhile, I’d return down the back alley,
slip into the house through the basement door.


Cast in sand
footprints along the shore
engraved migrations
and again, the child hovering
behind that open door, rocking
one foot to the other

Through hinged crack
pressed tight
eying a slice of stairwell—I wait
father’s familiar footstep
quiet hum
(his shadow slides
up the wall—Silhouette-man)

Deep breath
I leap to the open door
(aloneness disowned)
He’s Home


to survive
this short while.

Scrawny claws
scratch deadwood powder,
scatter sweet-sour peat
plunder the earth.

High above decay
flit skyward
up and up no tether no bounds
until the tiniest branch becomes
your temporary rest.

You are, after all, only wing and feather
almost imperceptible,

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