In Cincinnati

By Don Munro

I don’t know anything

about Cincinnati,

just that it’s in the middle of


well, sort of,

at least more in the middle than

New York,

where I live.

But what I do know about Cincinnati

is that I wouldn’t want to

live there.

You see, I had

a dream.

And I was living there,

working in a TV station as a


and the whole time I was on the job,

I kept thinking about how

lonely I was,

and that I didn’t know anybody,

and that I missed my nephew,


Yet, at the same time,

a voice in the back of my head

kept urging me to go out and

make new friends,

find a new Al-Anon group,

do the work.

But I just couldn’t;

I was too depressed,

the kind of depression

that drags you down deep

and you stay there,

cause there’s no escape.

I’m glad it was

just a dream and


is not

where I live.



By Don Munro

Coffee machine

near me

on the kitchen table,

perched on a red-checkered

linen cloth,

perfectly ironed.

It steams,

breathes deep,



in its own


It’s like my

heaving chest,

and poor head,

in my perfectly ordered world,


of the horrors

to come.

The Bedroom

By Don Munro

Donnie sat on the edge of a bed in a small room, the ceiling only inches from his head. He wore a hat, canvas, with a brim all around, the kind that fishermen wear.  The sun was streaming in the window, and he was staring right into it, blinded by its yellow light.

He was quiet. This was the first time in 80 years he’d been back in this room.

He turned from the window and glanced at the door, and in his mind’s eye, his mother, Christine, appeared—red hair in a bun and a white apron tied round her waist. She was coming in to wake him and Roddie, his older brother, for school, the smell of porridge rushing in along with her.

He saw Roddie’s face, too. Not the face he gazed on in a coffin in 1930 — when Roddie died in a fall from his construction site on the George Washington bridge.  This time, Donnie saw him as a boy lying beside him in bed—the lanky body of a teenager; freckles, tousled hair the color of sand; and green eyes thick with the crust of sleep.

Donnie thought about the day in 1923 when they’d left this room, this house,  saying goodbye at his fathers grave … to granny Munro out at the farm … the neighbors … to Alness.

He remembered, too, how excited he was to board the train, and then the ship to America. At the time, it all seemed like a wonderful adventure. As a boy, he imagined America a land of cowboys and Indians and movies. Money, like giant flakes of dirty snow, floated down from the skyscrapers to the streets below.

But leaving made his mother’s heart ache. She lived another 25 years in America, but hardly a day went by when she didn’t talk about her “bonnie Scotland.”

And now, finally, he was back. His grandson, the one the family called “wee Donnie,” stood beside him in the room. The air was still and warm–a relief from the chilly wind that blew down from the mountains and through the street outside.

Donnie picked up his cane and rose from the bed. He went to the window, looked up into the Highland sky and whispered:  “I’m home, Ma.”


By Don Munro

“Jesus Christ,” he said,

under his breath

but loud enough for me to hear.

I throw the ball back,

even more oddly.

It swirls far from him,

so that he has to run way left to catch it.


No amount of encouragement

can make me feel good about myself,

can make me throw

and catch

and run

and hit

like the other kids.

But this rejection,

using my Lord’s name,

the one we beg

to help us

be kind to others,

is too much.

I put the ball down,

and I won’t pick it up



Instead, I pick up

the pen.

Wish I Could be Still

By Don Munro

Wish I could be still
legs, heart shake behind a podium,
voice jumps,
no control.
Pure fear,
its taste on my teeth,
despite my efforts to breathe deep,
laugh off this audience of writers
as just people, too.
Wish I could be still,
as I stand before them,
expose my words, my very core
and wait for them to clap
or be silent
or laugh
at my creations — at me.
Wish I could be still
the next time,
because even as I walk back to my seat
after the critique,
all glowing,
all applause,
I fear that I will shake again
from fear.