The Movements of Life in Vivid Words

New Poetry by Sara Ries Dziekonski

. . .

Poet Sara Ries Dziekonski is based in Gulfport and served as a Creative Pinellas 2021 Emerging Artist. She was recently honored as the first ever Runner-Up for the 2024 Press 53 Award for Poetry, which includes publication of her poetry collection, Today’s Specials – inspired by time spent working in her parents’ Buffalo NY diner.

Sara shares three recent poems here, from an upcoming collection she’s currently developing.

The snow angel I made at my grandmother’s gravesite



. . . . . . I make a snow angel behind my Poet Grandmother’s gravesite and decide: I will save this, then I trudge through snow that’s up to my knees and grab my phone from the car so I can take a picture.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . For more than a decade, we’d write letters to each other addressed to Grams Poet Ries in Tampa and Sara Free Verse Ries in Buffalo, tucking powdered sugar poems into envelopes, sealing the bitter strips with our tongues until Grams’ handwriting curled into flowers so wilted you could no longer name them.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Grams, I was at least a little afraid of you in your nineties, the way it seemed the withered petals of your skin would twirl away to a faraway place where I wouldn’t be able to reach you, the way your body became a sun-starved stem, the way you might slip away into the mattress if I blinked. You read with a magnifying glass, knew every trivia question in the dining hall, said Oh yeah to ice cream in your coffee, lobster for breakfast, and outings anywhere even though it took all day to reach the door. Maybe you kept not dying to show me how to live.

. . . . . . You were my childhood home in the summer: you’d read for hours in one of your trademark dresses by the sliding glass door where the sun made a carpet for the cat. Books scattered across the futon, box of Kleenex, cough drops, bag of bobby pins.

. . . . . . So here I am, the last year of my thirties, reaching for my phone to take a picture of the snow angel. I have come with specific questions, and I know you are listening because when I reach for my phone, it’s 11:11. A few black crows dust snow off a branch.

. . . . . . I’m sorry, Grandma. I was never a good Catholic. I think if I had a religion it would be 11:11, when the world is all openings and pennies heads up, even though we live in a world where children sometimes get snatched from their parents’ arms.

. . . . . . I think, how many wishes am I allowed to make at 11:11, as though magic comes with a manual. It’s tempting to give rules to things. I don’t know who’s right or wrong. I’d like to think the bird in winter sings no matter how cold.

. . . . . . Snow sneaks into my boots as I return to your forever stone. I wipe the snow off your name as though my mitten could warm your face.

A diorama Elaine Chamberlain, my step-mother-in-law, made for me after my grandmother died. An envelope attached to the back was addressed to Sara Free Verse Ries. Little trinkets my grandmother loved and saved are in the diorama.


Busted Balloon Breath

The sunset outside the hospital just hours before my mom passed. Purple and red were her favorite colors, and that’s the sunset she died in.

. . . . . . Our sparkly-bloused mother is a sweet
. . . . . . hyacinth swooping through the doorway
after a night out with girlfriends at the Ground Round,
hair set, rouge splashed with laughter. And Ta da—
she kneels before us to present two shiny balloons:
pink one for me, the blue for my brother, her smile larger
than anything we know.
. . . . . . . . . . . . But before we can take
the strings, her fingers slip and the balloons shoot straight
to the popcorn ceiling, busted balloon breath swirling
. . .   around our small, stunned faces.
. . . . . . . . . . . . And now, over three decades later
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . after Mom’s massive stroke, I stroke
. . . . . . . .   . .her tangled hair and watch her hand
. . . . . . .   . . loosen the grip
. . . . . . . of her rosary on the hospital bed—
. . . . .. . . .and I think of those balloons
. . . . . . ..because that’s what her dying feels like—
. . . .      . . joy bursting into ash
and the five days we say goodbye
I put my mouth close to hers
to smell her breath, swallow
the warmth released
from her sagging
balloon body,
her favorite ceramic
angel rising on her chest
with each inhale,
and I swear
when I press
my palms
to her cheeks
I love you—
I love you,
Magic Mama
she exhales syllables
of breaths
to give me one lasting string
for me to never
let go of:
I love you, Sara,
a full balloon
across the billowing
sheets of our history,
and our one

The sunrise on Thanksgiving morning 2023. This photo was taken by my husband – the sunrise reminded him of my mom.


One of Teddy’s matchbox cars is a car my husband played with when he was little.

Your binkies beamed brighter than the moon.
Days we forgot it, we rushed to a store.
But when the dentist warned their danger to teeth,
we snipped their tips to strip them of sweet suction,
so they became broken down hot air balloons,
their twirl lost to the sky. You popped them into
your mouth anyway, until we told you
You’re such a big boy now, tossed them
into the rotting vegetables and shit-filled diapers—

except for one I stashed in an uncharted corner
of a cupboard just in case, and for memory,
the way I saved your first-sheared locket of hair.
And the days we frosted like crumbling cut-outs,
our feet steady on the conveyor belt of time
through play dates and meltdowns and learning
to ride your balance bike.

Friday night. Our cupboard is a mountain of mugs
and they never all fit, so we pull some for Goodwill—
and unearth the binky, blue and slumped in a layer
of dust and chip crumbs. Then it’s bath time, but when
we descend the stairs after storytime to fetch a slice
of sleep bread, you see it: better than full moon, curled
on the counter—we say better than before things
we can’t have or hold. You pause

as though remembering a past life.
Then you put it in your mouth.
Show daddy, I say, and we laugh.
It’s funny, your 99th percentile
three-year-old body with binky. The rewind
to baby. We take turns pretending to be tiny,
binky a bloom in our mouths. I lay on my
back and kick. Your face turns red,
and your eyes wear a thin coat of tears.
But we’re all still laughing.
When it is time to go to sleep,
you say you want it. But you’re a big
boy now, we remind you. You disappear
to the other room, and we find you, sobbing.

And it was the first time I think you saw
your life in stages, or pages, as the road
keeps unraveling, and there are stops along the way
we can never go back to. And so maybe
growing up means a constant state of mourning,
so we say Bye-bye to the pages of our past selves
before we’re ready, because we have better
than yesterday, and we send another matchbox car
down the rickety ramp.


Sara Ries Dziekonski’s work is part of the
2023 Creative Pinellas Arts Annual,
a free exhibit on view through December 31.
Her poem “Our Diner’s Red” can be found in
the Writers, Filmmakers & Performers area,
read by Erica Sutherlin.



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