What to Say by Susannah Sheffer

What to Say

Sometimes there is nowhere to go
but the shelter of our own need

to believe in a way to care for each
other, remembering how we do that

when we need to. That’s what I said
when I had to say something

about how to tell a child that people do
terrible things to other people sometimes.

I said tell her we do know          we do still know
how to care for each other afterward.

Is the sky an example? No, but looking at it is.
I mean one person pointing out the specific beauty

to another, that could be an example, yes. But not
the birch tree or the wren or the mountain range,

not all by themselves. We are talking here about
human hands and what they can do.

Someone will find the right vase for the flowers.
Someone will have started those flowers from seed.


Susannah Sheffer is the author of the chapbook This Kind of Knowing (Cooper Dillon Books, 2013) and the full-length collection Break and Enter (Kelsay Books, 2021), and her nonfiction books include Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys (Vanderbilt University Press, 2013). She is a clinical mental health counselor and directs the Texas After Violence Project’s Access to Treatment Initiative, and she lives in Western Massachusetts.

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