The Unspoken of our Days poems by Nancy Manning

picture of Nacy Manning

Nancy Manning’s The Unspoken of Our Days is a collection of poems describing the author's troubled childhood at the hands of an abusive father and uncommitted mother. It continues with poems about avoiding parental mistakes when the author becomes a mother herself and depicts the author’s rapprochement with her mother. The poems also recount travels with her husband and daughter as well as a variety of relationships, some of them with her beloved students; a love of the natural world; and dismay at environmental and political disasters.
  The Unspoken of our Days cover image
  Front cover sculpture: “ Mother and Daughter by Carol Lordi

Vivian Shipley has written these words of praise for the book. “Slippery as a fish, love darts in and out of Nancy Manning’s compelling collection, The Unspoken of Our Days. An introductory quote from Sylvia Plath, I am not cruel, only truthful, gives perspective to the first section centering on a difficult childhood with a father who slices open his daughter’s beloved rag doll, Clownie, because she has tried to stop him from beating her mother. By revealing her need for love and praise from a mother who withheld it, Manning constructs a scaffolding to carry us into the reality of being human. Poems courageously root deep into multi-generational relationships for the daughter who overcomes the suicide of her father and becomes a loving mother and a devoted teacher with a passion for urging her students to celebrate life. Throughout, Manning charts her own unique course: Sailed to the left when told to keep right.  She ultimately develops compassion for her mother as she celebrates the birth and childhood of her daughter, and travels to her husband’s homeland, Ireland, learning Forgiveness frees a heart but is hard to forge when a body has been drained of so much blood. Family life is always at the center of these poems and it is finally a source of deep joy. The Unspoken of Our Days is infused with a deep understanding of what it is to be human because Manning has cored it from the heart.” 

Nancy Manning holds BA and MS degrees in English as well as an MFA in poetry from Southern Connecticut State University.  Her work has appeared in an eclectic mix of publications, most recently Noctua Review and Craft Verses Inspiration.  Her first poetry collection is entitled Amethyst Garden, and her novel Undertow of Silence won the TAG publishing award.  She has given readings throughout New England.  An avid reader, she participates in two book clubs and three writing workshops.  She teaches high school English classes and lives in Oxford, Connecticut with her husband and daughter.

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ISBN 979-8-9855621-0-1
First edition, 2022
98 pages

Copies of this book can be ordered
from all bookstores including Amazon
and directly from the author:
Nancy Manning
16 Oakwod Dr.
Oxford, CT 06478.
 Please send $18 per book
plus $4 for shipping
by check payable to
Nancy Manning.
The author can be reached at



copyright © 2022 by by Nancy Manning


Tongue Stuck in My Jaw

title from “Daddy,” Sylvia Plath


When I was five, I ran hand in hand with two sisters.
To the woods we went before Daddy’s car drove up the street.
Then we followed the leader, skipped alongside Adz Brook.
Nature became our teacher.

We clasped blades between thumbs. Tasted sweet milk
and blew, making a whistle of its tune. Chickadees chirped.
The sun bathed us as we spun god’s eyes,
made up stories.

We wandered among daffodils dancing. Pretended to picnic
on a blanket of green, recited rhymes. For supper
we returned home in slow steps, muddied, tired.
That night, fairies streamed

through our dreams, until father’s singing like an overplayed
record woke us. He pulled Mother out of bed, insisted
she twirl in his arms. But she was graceless,
a sleepy raggedy Ann. 

He wouldn’t stop until I kicked, punched.
Back to bed I slid deep, deeper under sheets,
had little air. I hid there, hoped he wouldn’t
seek me out.

The next morning, in the hallway, I found
clumps of cotton scattered on the floor,
discarded like scraps. My father, a heartless surgeon,
had sliced open the torso,

left the chamber an empty cavity of Clownie, my beloved
ragdoll. Such a brute. My own pretty heart broken in two.
Through sobs, I vowed never to forget,
never to forgive.

Prohibition Ended Years Ago


Go ahead, try to stop me.
Handcuff me, cart me off.
Interrogate me. Confine me to a cell,
pigeon-holed like a letter in a box.
The truth has been exposed.

For here in open field under August
sky at Bread Loaf, I have found
my voice, decided my life.

I will paint in syllables the stories
I have so long held back. I’ve given
life to the steeples of evergreen,
made them sway like churchgoers
singing glorious hymns. I’ve captured
the curve of line blowing through rye
like the arc of a cello, plucked
in rhythm to the cicada’s symphony.

I’ve even revealed how your brown
eyes squeeze the skin between your brows.
How your ears aren’t open to sounds
of my canvas. How you kept your hands
pocketed every time you listed what
I could not do.

So try now, if you will.
No one can thwart my efforts.

Best Day Ever


Fear has locked you inside, Mother, so many recent days.
You could be sunburned, stung by a bee, catch cold.
I plead with you to ignore those worries,
spend this summer day with me and your granddaughter
for a visit to the John Hay estate.

We tour the homestead, enjoy a picnic lunch
on the broad white porch. Talk adult to adult
in the presence of twelve-year-old Kathleen.

Strolling in the garden, I persuade you
to hike with us through the woods.
My daughter and I already rambled
it many times. Despite protests you join us.
A feeble smile sours your face.

We follow the Yellow Arrow Trail that
eases down a slope to lovely Lake Sunapee.
Kathleen skips ahead. Cautious of poison ivy
and snakes, we identify white and gray birches,
cedars and white pines, oaks and beeches
like my Girl Scout days when you led our troop
along the Metacomet Trail in Connecticut.

We pause on the thin slice of beach.
Kathleen skims rocks, I soak my feet in the lake.
You sit back, grin. Remark you have delighted
in this day. Never have I enjoyed so much
sunshine in my heart.


Your Presence
For Linda


You would have skipped        
at recess, picked me sprigs of lilacs
like other nine-year-olds.

At Oak Hill School, I was
your teacher, caregiver, mother
pushing your wheelchair. Cerebral
palsy crippled your legs. Robbed you
of voice, the ability to reason. Spasms
made you thrust arms. Your eager hands
pulled out your stomach tube. Were you
communicating pain? Hunger? Or did
you have a death wish? 
Hand over hand we smeared paints—
blues, red, greens—scene after scene
for each season, each holiday. We stirred
brownie batter, but you couldn’t lick
the wooden spoon. You were champ
at bucket ball games. She shoots, she scores.
We perfected your dunk shot by slamming
the foam ball through the mini-metal rim.
You had to feel something.

Withdrawn from our program,
you returned to Long Island.
Dutifully I packed your bag, slipped
in a picture of us. How perfectly red
were your cheeks, your eyes peered
out from your little riding hood.

Singing every song I knew, I drove
the school van on I-95, over the White
Stone Bridge, though I was afraid. Many
times I had to pull over, lean you forward,
pat your back like a baby needing to make
you cough up thick phlegm, thicker than milk,
as I had done so many days, so many sleepless nights.

At the nursing home, I said good-bye, kissed
your forehead. Elevator doors closed and your
arms sprang out to me from your tense body.

I knew the words even before the phone call.
Asphyxiated. I pictured your hands outstretched, no
one there to lean you forward, pat your back.

The Laughter of Children


I want my daughter to delight
in sunlight. My mother hid

in shadows, didn’t trust. She raised
me on Commandments her own
mother imposed on her.

Thou shalt not bear false witness.
Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath.
And other rules—not speaking up,

not swimming for two hours after
eating, not looking outside during
a lunar eclipse. Not opening doors

for Jehovah Witnesses. Polishing
patent leather shoes for Easter and
wearing clean underwear. Running

past Mr. Tate’s house because, because
he was a bad man. We didn’t believe
in ourselves. Were silenced into

submission. But I want my daughter
to sing, dance, pen her own poetry.
Reach beyond the stars.


On My Daughter’s First Christmas


Striesand serenades us as we
lounge before the fire, our newborn
nuzzled in my arms. On the mantel

hangs a trinity of woolen stockings.
Strands of lights spin spirals
around our tree, an angel graces

the top. When you are older, Kathleen,
you will help string the lights, wrap
garlands around branches like the gold

of a queen’s stole. You can place the duck
and plaid cat on branches. Add the brown
schoolhouse and tinkle its bell. You can 

spell out our names with wooden blocks. 
On Christmas morning, you’ll be wide-eyed,
tearing open gifts, as a hurricane of wind.

When I was a child, there was always one
gift with my name on it. A doll, a sweater,
a pair of mittens. Our tree silver, plastic.


In County Sligo


Our daughter joins my husband and me as we hike
beneath Ben Bulben. This towering rock left by glaciers,
accordion-pleated atop green limestone. Cold chills

our fingers and faces. Wind roars in our ears. My husband
and daughter converse in his native Irish. “Conas atá tú?
Tá mé go maith.” In the rumbling, I also hear the echo

of Yeats and Maud Gonne, in mystical marriage,
strolling here as waves edge gray on the faraway shore.
I tell my daughter to imagine Gonne, a political prisoner

for Home Rule, confined in a cell, extending a hand
through her window to feed a gull. Upon release, Gonne
gallops away on horse, her hair trailing away black,

her dress billowing. Little patience she knew 
in childhood, so much more she showed in her fight
for freedom. My husband has taught us so much history—

farmers battled English landowners, were denied
the planting of crops. A devastating famine followed
a potato blight, though the soil remained lush like velvet.

Our daughter reads Celtic myths of leprechauns,
Druids, kings, queens, a beloved saint who rid the land
of snakes. As people open their homes to us, share

their daily bread, Ireland’s poetry and history pour
through my daughter’s soul like love. The acts
of Gonne and the words of Yeats still alive.

Winterizing the Flower Beds


I start with tiger lilies that tower
over all. Grab clusters of stalk,
trim them down to the base of stem.
as I do in a poem. The black-eyed
susans are next. Their leggy stalks
shriveled to pencil nothingness. I snip
and snip, keep clusters of green leaf.

The catnip has grown out of control.
Its minty beauty overwhelms like bad
hyperbole. It must be simplified, cut back.
The iris once blushed purple; now its
leaves droop in submission. It needs 
thinning. Myrtle, far from shy, strangles

meaning with her green arms, stretching
here, there, everywhere. She should
soften the mood so curious bees don’t
buzz off. Lily of the valley are fragments 
like commas that make me pause, take

too many breaths. I edit them. Lines
of exclamatory marigold need toning down.
I prune orange, yellow, gold. Like extra

words, I rake away cuttings, dead leaves.

Shovel the heap into a compost bucket.

At the Beardsley, Summer 2020


Even during this Phase Two re-opening, 
zoo animals remain zoo animals.
My daughter and I wear masks,

follow arrows of one-way traffic.
Feel how cages confine wildlife.
Prairie dogs stare, mirror us through Plexiglas.

Beyond fencing, deer freeze as we remain
motionless. Saki monkeys, pale-faced, peer
out from iron cages as nimble fingers fire

popcorn back at us and little eyes delight.
Peacocks strut radiant feathers as if arriving
at the same indoor gala we attend. An ocelot

disappears into bark, as if we never existed.
A gray fox positions himself to pounce
as we lean forward, wide-eyed.

A gator flashes teeth at us. We smile back.
An Amur tiger paces from end to end as we pass by.
Leopard cubs steal some fun as I tickle my youngster.

Our tour ends at the carousel. Music sets our horses
in motion. Allows us to forget the world outside.
Makes us remember when we weren’t so caged.