Melinda Coppola

twenty four may | from the inside out

Melinda Coppola

twenty four may | from the inside out


Here is a sampling of some of my published poems. I hope you enjoy them!

Seeing Through

In the summer, after rain,
over mint iced tea this time her weary
eyes, careless gray hair fell, heavy,
onto drooped shoulders. The blouse
so inappropriate, I thought, seeing
right through it. A woman should
wear a nice bra at least, I thought, seeing
right through.

I hadn’t wanted it, this awkward date.
She’d caught me off guard with her call.
These days I loathed forced smiles,
cheeriness that smothered the bare
truth of my life. Avoided Let’s have coffee
at all costs. Off guard.
I tried not to look again at her
tasteless I thought again bra
that wisp of a blouse on one her age
seeing through it. Right through.

Focused now on her thin lips, feeling
downright mean
I made to-do lists in my head
as she went on and on trying
to reach a point, perhaps, or find words
…died….I heard her say
murdered in his apartment. They think
my heart skipped a beat
it was a random burglary he
shame crept crimson into my selfish
was to be twenty the next day.
Her eyes bore holes into my skin, words
peeled away my feeble layers. Seeing right through.

-Melinda Coppola

This poem first appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review 2/2017. It was republished 3/27/2022 in One Art: A Poetry Journal.   

Poets Notes: This piece sprung up from the surprisingly rich ground of mild depression, fertilized with distraction and the human tendency to make assumptions about others without actually entering their story.


I used to be eight-limbed
like the sad
blue woman
on the inaugural cover
of MS magazine.

So many hands
to hold
everyone else’s needs.

When I filled them all,
I’d juggle,
keeping a hand free
in case you,
or a neighbor,
a need.

The lower left
was the first to go.

It was an accident, really.
So many arms
to keep track of,
keep clean
and ready.

I slammed the car door
before the baby could slip
from the back seat
and fall out.

One gone, severed at the bicep.

I think it rolled
down the driveway,
slid into the sewer drain


you know,
I had no time to look,
being universally needed and all.

The second and third,
both on the right as I recall,
fell into the pot
of boiling pasta water
when I turned to catch
the pet hamster
who’d broken free
of her cage.

I remember thinking,
I think I thought,
how nice it might be
to run away like that.

If I bled at all
I didn’t notice,
all that laundry
piling high.

The fourth arm
was, if I trust my memory,
a casualty of
that utility closet.

I reached in for a broom,
caught the vacuum cleaner cord,
turned too fast
when the doorbell rang.
I think that one
must have shriveled up
and become more dust
flying through the rooms
to spray and wipe away
as I never did get to look.

Such a deep closet,
and so many needs to tend.

Truth to tell,
I lopped off the fifth
while testing my splendid
new kitchen knife,
every women’s dream
of a birthday gift,

plopped that arm
up onto the formica counter
and just touched
the shiny blade
to the forearm.

It gave way so easily
under the cutting edge
and I kind of liked
the way the sun
caught the white bone
against the pink muscle.

Arm six
disappeared one night
while I was sleeping.

I mean,
something must have happened
but I was so very tired
from all that need.

Two arms left.

Enough to wrap
‘round my assorted beloveds,
and, after a good pause,

one hand to lift the kettle,
another to pour the tea.

Published in Anti-Heroin Chic 4/2022

Not Now

I dwell in impossibility.
Not the good kind, the stuff that grabs
you by the hand and drags you
laughing, and singing,
higher and further until
you drink and sweat and
piss optimism, until
your bed is rose petals
and you wake each dawn to
certainty that this is indeed
your time, that you were born
to the right tribe and
anointed to be
Just. Who. You are.

No, I hark from the valley
despite my inclinations
to mountain,
to thin air,
to the climb.
and I used to! Climb,
traverse, bear great loads
upon my Balkan back
and skip down smiling
well before dark and ready
for more. I mean,
I think I did.

Truth tells.
Decades of it – doubt,
depression, fear,
have worn my soles smooth,
so treadless that traction
became something they surely lied about,
something that wasn’t for women like me,
who lift one foot towards the path
only to slip down, landing in the armpit
or the elbow
of the valley
where I dwell
becoming one with the lame,
the still-born,
the ones whose time
is Not Now.

Published in Anti-Heroin Chic 4/2022


I offer you gifts
of words newly strung
and tender,
strong and
sometimes proud,

words that are still humming
with the cadence
of my beating heart
from which poems burst forth
onto the page.

I call them my poems,
but we both know
this is folly.

The purled words don’t belong to me
any more than the morning sky
I kiss with my eyes,
or the breath I take in
that my lungs wring out
and return as something transformed.

Here on earth we
borrow things
like time
and plots of land
and beings that come through us.

label things ––
yours, theirs, mine

covet things
bits of shiny coin and
metal beasts that transport us,
wood boxes that give shelter.

think we own so much
of what passes though our lives

yet the Earth always reclaims
her soil
and rubbish
and creatures

as she’ll reclaim our teeth,
our fine furniture,
our soft organs and
all those volumes
of poems
I said I wrote
for you.


This was published online on Third Wednesday Poetry Journal in March 2022. It will be included in their summer print journal as well.  



She soars, sharp eyes, purposeful behind what looks like ease.

Below, her world stretches magnificently in the four directions, all greens and grays, mottled brown and dull blue rivers.

Above, dark clouds, hints of rain.

Ahead, more colors, blurring into horizon.

Again, her eyes train on the earth, where she hones her vision to capture the scurrying mouse, the wee chipmunk.

Does she ever doubt her wings, her talons, her vision?

I think not, for her glide is at once easy and strong,

and if she would deign to speak to me, she might say

You were born to this world. Walk sure-footed on ground, dive into the lakes with the abandon that comes from knowing

if you’re here, you belong.


This poem was published in Auroras and Blossoms journal in January 2021



When I am asked how to meditate
There are no words the color of presence
No shapes that look like attention.


I can only tell you what my senses tell me
Or how I dread and then savor it
and how little I attend to such reaction.


Most of all I love the earned silence,
the way it drapes over my shoulders and
fills the hungry belly of my soul.


The deep delight lives,
not in sweeping thought away,
but in having no attachment to mental litter.


The sit asks little, really. Just to
do it, please, and be with what arises.
Just to be it, please, and not do what arises.


This poem was published in Lone Stars magazine in the Spring 2021 issue.




What if we had drills,
not just for disasters, fires
and hurricanes, not just
for active school shooters
and any possible terrorisms
both foreign and domestic,

what if we had rigorous
training in kindnesses:
how to recognize them incoming,
start a volley with the perpetrators.

Imagine preparations
for frequent barrages
of mutual respect,
muscle building
and visual exercises
to increase aim with
arrows of understanding,
rehearsals in how to see
in another,

and, at last,
commonwealths of decency
brigades of beneficence,
great infantries of amity,

drilling to hone skills
of making, and giving,
and keeping,

this post was published in Auroras and Blossoms journal, issue 6, January 2021  

This poem was also published in One Art Poetry Journal 3/29/22



Please note: the poem below is not from my personal and direct life experience. It is a fictional compilation of the stories of many women.



(Jane Doe testifies before judge and jury)


I said no
before I laid my tender neck
on a chopping block
for trying to quiet his demons.

In the night his face, peaceful,
seemed to beg forgiveness.


There were days, weeks.
To be real
there were years,
tiptoe tiptoe watch out for the land mines:
kitchen, living room, bedroom, bed.

They were unearthed on the driveway too,
and once while we walked around the block,
he and I, and I thought
we look like normal couples do.


I said no,
and I wore scarves,
and long sleeves in the Georgia summer,
and once, pancake makeup
to hide the right calf bruises
at my sister’s wedding,
where I said no to dancing.

The Matron of Honor dress
she chose for me
had a knee high hem.

I said no
the night he swung at my pregnant belly,
twice, three times, four.
He brought his big fists down hard
and I said no.

The blows kept coming,
and I said no,
and his face contorted
with an anger
even I had never seen.


No. I said no. Not the baby!
And he
and his anger
drew back his fist
ready to punch again


No! I said,
and it was then I dropped,
doubled over in pain as I was,
it was then I rolled,
crawled, reached for the iron doorstop.


No! I said as I slid it in front of his feet
and he tripped,
and it was then I
pulled myself up to the counter,
No! No! No!

I grabbed the meat fork
and pushed it hard into his anger,
and his beatings, and his hate.


This poem appeared in Screaming From The Silence, an anthology by Vociferous Press
published February 2020.



The dream stage, when the eyes dance
beneath closed lids,
that which we know as REM,
is also named paradoxical sleep,
because the body rests while the mind
is quite awake.


I wonder if your soul
checks herself in mirrors
as you slumber, scrolls
Facebook, idly clicking Likes
with her ethereal fingers,
as if this tiny dreamland act,
the flick of a mouse,
could change a lifetime’s course.


You, who walk the waking world
following all the rules you know,
making up some you don’t,
doing everything in order,
trying to make sense of the chaos,

You who counts duplicates;
numbers on license plates,
yellow cars in a lot,
who checks and rechecks
the solid fences of her world:
I will have a treat,
You’re a girl,
You will have girl hair when we leave,
Two sides, cheek bink,
Mommy can you fix it.


I want to think you are free in sleep,
different, unconstrained,
that anxiety and compulsion,
autism and obsessions
can’t follow you
when you fly to that misty realm.


I want to think
you can have this respite every night,
relief from all the voices, and fears,
the tensions, demands,


that there is no standard
of normal in dreamland,
or, if there is, you define it,
you abide
quite comfortably there.


This poem was published originally in March 2018 in Songs of Eretz Poetry Journal, and most recently it was republished in Dream Ticket, the summer 2019 edition of Vitamin ZZZ



This morning came twice
to meet my wan welcome.

There was pre-alarm
when my eyelids were
leaden, fingers numb
after some sleep asana,

and there was no joy in me
to power the muscles
to coax the bones
to shape themselves
around some idea of upright.

Half hour later
my hand rose instinctively
just in time
to palm the clock’s head,
pat the button down before it shrieked.

Second chance at fresh beginning,
and the light in dawn-streaked sky
lifted my lids and held them
open like a daisy, an offering,
a demure directive
to stretch already
and rise to meet
the God
in everything.

Reset placed second in the 2019 Light of the Stars contest for Lone Star magazine and was published in their ( print) summer issue.




As far as I can tell, we still revolve,
this planet with people sticking out all over it,
around the sun.


Seems we still burn, and tan,
and crops still turn towards something in the sky
that glows warm.
Tell me if you know otherwise.


No, don’t tell me.
In a year that feels surreal,
in a time that makes it hard to praise
the abundance of good hearts, I praise you.


in the red marrow of my white bones
it’s all I can ever do.

The curtains fall on precious lives,
musty curtains that fast obscure a score of tragic
demises and all that preceded them; lifetimes of sunrises
and sunsets, love between family members, other love;
partners, friends, a cherished pet.


All these details,
brush strokes in each personal masterpiece,
which every life is, after all.
After all, erased.


We forget. We can’t hold
the knowledge that the family of man and womankind is not
wholly kind, that there are deep chemical imbalances on the

planet and in our governments.


We are off kilter, scales tipped precariously,
our hope teetering between
faith and the cable news.
Do you know otherwise?


Street justice: some prefer it to the hot heavy hand
of an unjust judge who claims a blindness as a disability
of privilege, a deafness as a way not to hear.


We turn it against each other,
the judgment. We think the more we talk
the more right we are. We are many, and the many have
much to say, mouthing the words they lately
heard are right, as if to prove to an indifferent world,
Hey, I am not one of them. I am one of you.


I implore you, tell me otherwise,
if you know.


We say things.
We say things like,” Agree with this man, this woman,
this group, or I will not look you in the eye anymore,
will not work with you, will not play with you, will unfriend.”


We say and write these things
when we know in the very marrow of our white bones
this planet with people sticking out all over it,
these people on this planet are in need,
deep need, red need, these people are
in open-weeping-sore need
of more friends, more friending. More.


We feel hopeless, frightened. I am of the we,
and we are sticking out all over this weeping planet
in raw need of more.


Tell me. Otherwise, this I know:

In a praise that makes it hard to time
the abundance of good words, I can only
let them come. And I will, and I do.
I praise you.


-Melinda Coppola


This was published in July of 2017 in I Come From the World literary journal

Art by a teenaged me




My revolution is a quiet one.
It stems from seeds planted by spirit
before I was born. It leafs
only with the good rain of compassion
that sometimes tastes like tears. It blooms
only in the rich, common human soil,
the ground trodden and tilled by millions of sisters
and brothers who have one heart that beats
in its own time, just like mine.
Just like me.

My struggle is one tiny flexed muscle,
so small and slow it is easy not to see it.
My fight is not a fight,
rather it is a realized intention
to shut up and listen,
listen with the ears of my heart,–
that waiting garden, — so
I might then sing and chant and poem
urge others to quiet and still
that they may hear
that they may hear
they may hear

Listen, listen”,
truth hums in time with heartbeats,
we are one we are one we are one
and what we do to each other,
we do to ourselves.
What we visit upon ourselves
we foist on others. Let it be worthy.”

And when I am all used up and
my bag of gifts is empty,
when my body gives itself
to the fire or to the earth,
when my small voice becomes
an integral part of the great OM
which is the song the Earth
hums as she spins through space,
my piece of the great revolution–
(which I hear from my heart is all of life)–
my peace will be revolutionary.
Post script let them say
let them say
She did what she came here to do,
she shut up and heard
what it was she was called to,
what she was called for,
what she was called to be,
and though it was tiny
it was her own kind of mighty,
it was her own kind of fierce.

–Melinda Coppola

This, too, was published in July of 2017 in I Come From the World literary journal



You wake in the middle of the night.

This is not new, I am tired and move
dreamlike to your bed, empty my pockets,
open my arms, offer water and all
that which is music for you; soothing words,
the moontime sway of muted murmured
song and dance, our odd routine.

Someone lost her only child tonight,
somewhere some mother
tightened her grasp around
small bones, soft skin still warm,
reaching down to close tiny eyes
in a final gesture of care-taking,
shielding her baby
from her own wracking grief or a last view
of this world’s injustice. Their world of
famine, war, desperate pain.

Two continents away we feel the shudder,
And I squeeze you a bit too hard,
Almost knowing why,
And millions of us everywhere
Do this dance night after night,
Reaching and holding and rocking,
Wiping the same tears.
We are all one mother,
loving and nursing and
mourning the same beloved child.

Melinda Coppola
This was published in February 2016 in Songs of Eretz




When you lost your hair I stopped
cutting mine,

and that last Spring
every time I passed a lilac bush
I paused to bury my face in the blooms,
purple and white profusion,
my lungs filling up with their heady
sweet fragrance, your favorite,


and I’d still my breath
as if I could hold it there,
will my alveoli to a state of rigid expansion,
propel my stiff body to your bedside and then
finally exhale into your face, sweep
your pale cheeks with my long locks,
as if my simple gifts,
lilac perfume once-removed and
now wild overgrown tresses
like acts of defiance could
keep you from death and hold you here,
hold you here.


-Melinda Coppola, published in Harpur Palate under my former name of Melinda Tromara Kirstein,2002



It’s the little ones who unnerve me.
Small bodies flexible and strong.
They seem to leap to the top of the jungle gym, swinging
By one hand, they jump and land on two feet, laughing.
Their words weave simultaneously stories,
Negotiations, insults and shared delight.
They size each other up
Quickly and adjust accordingly,
The bully, the smart one, the prima donna.
Roles that shape them for the rest of their lives.

Around the perimeter of that same play yard
You stride, little alien, measuring
The meters with the rulers of your legs.
Your gaze is on the treetops, where leaves
Dance in the air and speak a fascinating language
Only you can hear. You stop to fling your hands
Wide, first one and then the other,
Flicking your fingers quickly in a rhythm
That must soothe your ruffled senses, must
Make sense.

In a world where making sense means making cents,
the children on the play yard, the others,
other people’s children,
are already matriculating,
and you don’t even know
you’re left in the dust, and if you did
know this, you would have only odd delight,

the way the fine dirt particles shimmer
in the translucent air,
the way the leaves
dance to meet
your frantic fingers.


-Melinda Coppola, published in Chicken Soup for the Soul; Raising Kids on the Autism Spectrum, 2012. My original title was AUTISM: Other People’s Children




And now this aching,
arms circling against the dry space your
absence leaves, cold hollow in the base of
my spine as if I’d expanded bigger than
you ever were to mourn you, empty
swollen womb a testament to my
yearning and my sorrow, an internal
gravestone around which my
flowering grievings are placed
just so carefully.

Small promise, you were never mine,
I never held your vernix-covered head
against my chest, my rhythmic heart an
explosion of joy and an invitation
to praise. I never heard
your staccato music break
the air, first breath released in primal

My glance never embraced your tiny form,
committed to memory that first contact, eye
to amazed eye as we tumbled
headlong into our lifetime of
adventure, nurture, love.

Sweet nameless one, there is a space
pressed in my heart for you, a capsule
of sacred air that bears your traces, a
blank journal (yes, a whole one, not just a page)
I’ve tucked into my collection
to commemorate you.

The universe has its reasons.
I hardly know how I continue, cyclic
ebb and flow, quest for new growth,
your brief traces fertilizing landscape
of my sorrow, hope, and truth.

-Melinda Coppola, published in Welcome Home magazine under my former name of Melinda Tromara Kirstein, 1998




OK, listen up
I’m only going to say this once
An hour.


Hourly I’ll speak until the truth of it
so saturates your knowing
that it’s all you know and all you’ll ever
know for sure.


For you are surely and certainly
everything you think you lack.
Be certain of this, in the soul of your soul,
that place where the still pond waits
like a lover, to come home to over and over and
to slip into like a deep silent dream, that quiet water
reflecting your grace.

You lack nothing. You are everything.
You are everyone you love, loved, are about to.
Love, that is.
Love that is a mirror in which
when you love
your own perfection is held up to your smiling eyes
like an engagement gift from God.

Say yes. Say yes. Say yes.


-Melinda Coppola published in Moments of The Soul; poems of meditation and mindfulness,2010



Let your Yoga
walk with you in the hours
of your mundane days,
remind you, Re-Mind you of
who and what you really are,

Be your confidante,
hold you steady when the storms pummel your skin
blanket you when the winter’s chill would
crack your bones.


Let your Yoga
cool the flames of your anger,
keep your age a delight rather than a worry,
love you when you can’t love yourself,

Take your hand and lead you along
when fear would have you freeze.


Let your Yoga
soften your hard edges,
invite breath in when resistance would keep you back,

lengthen you when you can’t reach the sun,

strengthen you when you can’t find your ground,
coax your arms open wide enough

wide enough to embrace whatever the Universe wisely sends your way.


-Melinda Coppola published in Moments of the Soul; poems of meditation and mindfulness, 2010




When all the talking is over
When sweet the silence is here
When all the reaching is finished
When clouds of illusion clear

When ranting becomes old-fashioned,
When resistance drops away
When the body’s urges quiet
And we let that quiet stay

When boundaries between, dissolve
When heart is one with mind
When past and future exit
And by clear light we find

That truth as we believed it
Was never true at all,
That Busy-Mind constrains us
Divides us, makes us small

When all the words are finished,
When all the knowing ends
There’s only one real tenet
Upon which truth depends

That anything received with awe
in the moment’s fleeting embrace
Expands to guide and lead us-
We are eternal grace.

-Melinda Coppola published in Moments of the Soul; poems of meditation and mindfulness, 2010