Flood Insurance

These are the things I thought to save:

……shells from Cape Cod circa 1977

……an orange Sears towel from my grandmother’s house

……and the necklace she gave me from her trip to Arizona

……the dissected photos of my parents’ wedding

……my Dad’s watch, overnight bag

……(also, his hardcover copy of Walden with margin notes)

……Winnie the Pooh……in the red shirt my mother mended

No matter the flood of seas or tears, accidental fire or the kind that comes with brimstone, and with all apologies to Buddha of course, I will suffer these attachments — these glimpses of a past life, the smells of cedar and déjà vu.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. Image: Water Album – The Waving Surface of the Autumn Flood, Ma Yuan. If you like this poem, you’ll love Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Click here to purchase your copy today!

Life Lessons from Dad

Study hard, be smart.

Weigh the pros and cons of your decisions.

Stand on your own two feet.

Hard work is a key to success.

Dream big.

Love what you love with passion.

When you fall off a horse, get right back on.

Laugh a lot and often…

and you’ll come out on the other side just fine.

That’s my dad and me, college graduation 1988. He died 7 years later, 22 years ago today, at the age of 52. Life is fleeting — perhaps that is the biggest lesson of all.

August 31 at 50

And now you are gone again,
this moment on this day……gone
for almost as long as I knew you.


every formative year countered
in near equal measure for each one apart,
every lockstep moment faded
by the passing of tides and time,
until I become you.

Until I become you
in that standstill moment—
this age, this midway —
your celebration then
as familiar as my yesterday

now a present, now mine
to walk without impression.

Poem ©2016, by Jen Payne, daughter of Henry C. Payne.

What Remains

When I was nine
my parents parked
outside the plaza card shop
on a hot June day
so I could buy a present.
My sister stayed in the car.

The shop smelled like paper.
There was a back room,
separated by a beaded curtain,
where you could find gifts:
candles and wooden owls,
macramé and pottery.

The candleholders I bought
were avocado green
and hot pink —a pair,
two, like my parents.
It was their 10th anniversary,
and we were celebrating.

How funny to find them
after all these years,
candleholders in a dust-covered box
with hard wax held fast,
like memories
and how things used to be.

Poem ©2016, Jen Payne, National Poetry Month, 28.

Dad, Guess What!

On the 20th Anniversary of Your Death I can almost hear the sound of the mailbox, feel the gravel driveway beneath my feet as I raced inside to call you. “I got accepted to…” I squealed, so excited to share the little successes as they arrived 30 years ago, before college, graduation, the accident. There […]


F…..A…..M…..I…..L…..Y She spells it slowly, smiling, as if she’s landed on a triple-word score. But the letters spit out like broken teeth after a tough fight. “We are, aren’t we?” she asks in the same tone she uses for “I was a good MOTHER, wasn’t I?” and “You do LOVE me, don’t you?” There is […]