In these wide-ranging poems taking us from her early life through some difficult later years and on to her life as wife, mother, grandmother, and most of all, teacher and advocate of poetry, Elizabeth Thomas reveals the rich inner life that has made her such an inspiration to everyone who knows her and has learned from her. It is characteristic of the poet that one of the commendations on her book’s back cover is by a former student, since she has devoted so much of her time to working with the young. That student, Alex Lopez, has written this: “Elizabeth has once again produced a work that is as beautiful as it is inspirational.  She has produced a book for teachers, students, and parents alike with the confidence of being an example of a woman/mother/sister/mentor who produces results. In a culture that expects results from its educators, Elizabeth Thomas has found a way to make a unique connection in her book, as in her classroom.” Another tribute comes from one of the many educators who have benefited from the brilliance of Elizabeth’s work at the front of their classrooms: “What distinguishes us as an educated society? I’d argue that it is our ability to create and appreciate art, communicate effectively with the spoken and written word, passionately embrace the beauty in our world, and confront its ugliness. The poems in this collection do all of that and more. They resonate with life so that the poet in all of us may sing.” (Jeff Ostroff, Principal, Lyme--Old Lyme Middle School)

Elizabeth Thomas is a widely published poet, performer, advocate of the arts and teacher. The author of two previous poetry collections, she has read her work throughout the United States and has been a member of three Connecticut National Poetry Slam teams. In 1998 she was a member of the U.S. team that traveled to Sweden. Much of her energy and time is devoted to designing and teaching writing programs for schools and organizations in many parts of the country. These programs promote literacy and the power of the written and spoken word. As an outstanding advocate of youth in the arts, Elizabeth Thomas is a coach and organizer with Brave New Voices: International Youth Poetry Slam and Festival. She is also the founder of UpWords Poetry, a company dedicated to promoting programs for young writers and educators, based on the belief that poetry is meant to be heard out loud and in person. She hosts a website at

Click here to read sample poems.

And to hear Garrison Keillor read Elizabeth's poem "Lies My Mother Told Me" on The Writer's Almanac, go to Writers Almanac April 3, 2009.

Click here to view Elizabeth Thomas's upcoming events. Click here to read ancillary material in the Seminar Room.


ISBN 978-0-9798451-6-1
100 pages, 6" x 9" perfect bound




If you keep eating raw spaghetti
you’ll get pinworms,
then I’ll have to make
a necklace of garlic for you to wear
each night while you sleep,
until they go away.
If you’re mean to your younger brother, I’ll know
because I have a special eye
that spies on you when I’m not home.
You cannot hide from it,
so don’t try.
If you touch your “down there”
any time other than when using the toilet,
your hand will turn green and fall off.
If you keep crossing your eyes
they will stay that way
until the wind
changes direction.
It is bad luck to kill a moth. Moths are
the souls of our ancestors and it just
might be Papa paying a visit.
If you kiss a boy on the mouth
your lips will stick together
and he’ll use the opportunity
to suck out your brains.
If you ever lie to me
God will know
and rat you out.
And sometimes
God exaggerates.
Trust me –
you don’t want that
to happen.


for Kiana Rose Andle

The chair is as old as my son –
brown wood, still sturdy after all these years.
Gold painted basket of eggs and feathers
even now overflows.
And somewhere along the seat,
teeth marks notch the surface.
It was the nicest piece of furniture we owned
and we dragged it
from apartment to apartment,
state to state.
When I was pregnant
his future grandmother offered it, saying
“Might as well be comfortable
while we wait.”
And it became our special place
for songs and fairy tales.

The chair now gathers dust
in this old room.
I see my son
learning to pull himself up
and he is teething.
I wail when he uses the rocker for both.
“Time out! Time out!  
Look what you’ve done to my chair!”
I have no appreciation
that all these years later
I would rock,
seek out the marks,
run my finger across them –
like someone blind
needing to remember.


And then there is Max –
a foul ball smashed into a neighbor’s window,
a broken drum stick,
a single flower
where you least expect to find one,
a contradiction.
“Will you write a poem about me?” 
And I suggest he write the poem
and he does,
but I must pull it from the wastebasket
after he’s stuffed it there
on his way out the door.
And maybe I should have left it,
not read what he had written
about depression and his mother
who drops him off everyday in her brand new car
and his pain echoes through me.
His last words –

“It’s like falling down a bottomless pit.
Hit the bottom already, will ya.”

And unlike Humpty Dumpty,
I know poetry could put him back together.
This is only first period
and the day bleeds out before me.
I want to tell him
poetry saved me.
Tell him how
I’m 16 and the monsters
are no longer under the bed.
They are in the bed
and I’m suffocating beneath the pillow.
    Can’t breathe
can’t breathe
can’t be

watch my life skitter
just beyond my fingertips
like a dog escaped from its leash –
a few steps ahead of me,
a tease.

And I’m 18
hoping he’ll pass out
before realizing he can’t keep it
hard and it’s not
    my fault
    not my fault
and I lie
beneath him
hardly breathing
So, I write my way through
trying to capture
the unexplainable
allowing words
to light deep closets,
shine under the bed
through nights dark
where words become stars.
I want to tell him this.

He says, “Depression
is like a chalk board
with no chalk.”
And I say,
“Then get your magic purple crayon
and forget the chalk!
You don’t even need
a chalkboard.
You have a brilliant
black sky.”

First his, then mine, then sometimes
together, the lines arch out, and settle
exactly where we want them.


His T-shirt says, “I am God”
and I think - My lucky day!
I’ll run up,
shake his hand,
ask for an autograph.
I might never have this chance again.

But, as God sits there
waiting to step into the Vice Principal’s office,
I look closely at his faded T-shirt
two sizes too big,
sneakers older than he is,
thin legs swinging
barely long enough to reach the floor,
dirty hands massaging a dirty forehead and think –
This is not God.
This is a little boy
who maybe swore in the lavatory
or tussled on the playground.
A child who probably forgot to eat breakfast,
did not expect a good-bye kiss.
When he gets home from school today
he’ll let himself in with the key
that hangs around his neck.
He might help himself to Twinkies
and a glass of Coke,
a micro-waved pizza in front of the TV.

As he struggles to raise his head
the circles under his eyes
slope toward his chin,
pick up the lines around his mouth
and carry it down as well.
It’s not easy taking care of the world.

Using the back of his hand
he trails snot and tears across his face,
into his hair,
which heads out in all directions
as if just lifted from a pillow.
He looks neglected
like homework after a long weekend.
This boy ain’t been loved in a long time.

I want to walk over,
kneel on both knees,
use my sleeve to clean his cheeks,
tie his sneakers.
He looks up
and in his eyes
I see my own son.
Unable to look away,
I want to say something,
make some excuse,
beg for forgiveness.
But, this is God.
What could I possibly say
he does not already know?

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