Panic Attack

when your child is taken to the school nurse
with runaway heart and the shakes,
you who love her, you for whom she is
a chirping bird, light on the wing, you
who thought she was
in training to rule the universe the way
she ruled you — what do you know
of the bats whirling in the cave of her mind
inaudibly squeaking their nasty threats
you turn and face your ignorance
you wonder what you mean by love

Alicia Ostriker is a poet and critic. Her most recent volumes of poetry are “The Book of Seventy” and “The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog.” She was twice a finalist for the National Book Award, and she received the National Jewish Book Award in 2010. As a critic, she has written on American women’s poetry and on the Bible, most recently “For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book” (2007).