Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tuesday Poem: Another from The Witch Series

               Collage by Romare Bearden
Conjure Woman

She’s got them all teetering on
the tips of her fingers, tiny as mice.
One flip of the wrist and all the men,
who ever tasted her; then turned 
their faces away, and all the men,
who drove them to ruination, 
go flying to who knows 
where, and who cares?

She holds them up in yellow
curtain light, watches them shift
their weight to keep from falling.
Each one of them knows what he’s
done or not done. It’s chilling them
to the bone to see she’s wearing her
haint blue dress. No more feathers,
no Adam and Eve root. That’s how
very much danger they’re in.

Outside, her bottle tree glistens,
as she squeezes them for good measure,
rolls them between her palms, before
laying them out like sardines
in the bottom of her reddest meanest box.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tuesday Poem: From The Witch Series


Dolls for stubbornness, their
heads made of smooth river stone.

Dolls for finding water, with
long dowser legs and splintered feet.

Dolls for snagging memories,
in teasel heads and little burr hands.

Nut eyes, leaf wings, bark body, red leaf fire

Dolls bound head to toe with string,
to make a lover cleave and cling.

Dolls sitting in little boats
spiriting nuisance people away.

Dolls full of pins, their
crisscross faces in pain.

A white shell face, wild grass hair, a toadstool bed

Straw dolls with their hair on fire
turning all worry to ash in the wind.

Wrap a doll safe in a mullein leaf, tuck in
milkweed seeds and a child returns from fever.

Nail a doll to a tree and watch grief twist in pain,
go brittle and crumble; each tiny loss a bit of letting go.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tuesday Poem: A New Year, New Rhythms, New Witch Poem

Mirror Spell

You are a shape-shifter
and a storyteller.

You have spent many nights as crow
or snail or leaf waving in the wind,
for you are changeable and unafraid.

You have been hurt many times, oh, yes,
wrecked and ravaged, and then set free.

Your relatives think you crowd a room,
though you feel yourself tiny and bee-like.

Your heart’s ease sprouts from
the pine needled floor of the forest.

You can conjure love for every being,
whether flesh bound, leaf adorned,
petaled, antennaed or furred.

You carry every kiss, every compliment,
every lightening you ever walked away with,
in a little suitcase behind your eyelids.

Right now, you are long overdue
for a voyage on waves of bliss.

You write your desires across the sky
in the swiftly moving alphabet of birds.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tuesday Poem: From the Witch Series



I was the witch of Religion class,
because my hair curtained
my face, when I read aloud,
and when this nun interrupted me
to ask whattt? I didn’t get it,
and I repeated my version of
what, with its softer ending,
back to her three times,
until she turned red and said,
I was saying that word all wrong.

My T’s, back then, were Paterson T’s.
They fell short of the sound on purpose.
They were about a slow fade
which is better than the sudden
death this city was trying to avoid,
and so was I. What with no money
for college, the future was pretty uncertain.

But she insisted I hit those T’s
so hard, every time I got to a what
or a that in the Old Testament,
that I giggled throughout
my passage, which was
sacrilegious on top of ignorant.
That’s when she called me a witch.

So yeah, this felt like Gunsmoke,
and her bullets bounced right off of me, 
because I was a witch, a strega, in fact,
from a big Sicilian neighborhood.
I pictured her shredding her veil
every time she passed a nail, and
wished it so. Then I made myself
disappear for the rest of the year.
I scried into the future and knew
some day at a high school reunion
I would walk right past her,
and her little cowboy swagger,
as if none of us had ever been
afraid of her, as if she were
just a rerun on TV.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Another from The Witch series

                                             Drawing by Rima Staines
Her voice curdled milk, her words hatcheting
the air around us, as we sat, big contemplative
lumps around the TV. She, the antithesis of ennui,
couldn't see the cloud hanging over us.
Forget sympathy. Too many things needed doing, 
shadows and creepings everywhere.

She put hexes on our father, for making too little,
and spending too much at the gin mill,
gave our mother venomous handouts,
drove her ashen with vexation,
cleaned our filthy house,
breathing incantations, rag in hand,
poking around with the vacuum wand,
spraying us all with Windex, and condemnation.

Only the baby was innocent.
To babies she was a smoocher, a laugher,
all goodness and light. At two it was all over;
they turned rogue, like the rest of us.

No candy houses to tempt us into cooperation.
Only vinegar, spitfire, a daily poison mushroom
to toughen body and spirit, a list of standards
that flew like a flag from the rooftop,
and orders barked out by the hour,
with a minute hand’s patience.

If we didn’t jump, she was a stubby cyclone,
doing whatever it was herself, then calling us
names until we wanted to hurt her too,
to startle her into silence, until she threatened
to put her head in the oven unless we let up.

She pushed, and we pushed back, until she went
blind at the sight of us. Then we haunted her
like the ghosts we’d become, howling with
laughter as she went about her rituals, sewing
God knows what into our clothes, as she 
did the mending, stirring the steaming
cauldron, or wielding her broom.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tuesday Poem: A Bit Off-kilter: From The Witch Series

Ritual Against Separation

Take one of her leopard
print high heels, and one of his
long seldom worn dress shoes.

Hang them out the bedroom window
on the extra clothesline from the shed,
so they dance in the breeze.

Once a week, pull them up, hand over hand,
so you can stuff more hair into each toe box,
hair you’ve been collecting from his hairbrush,
her hairbrush, stuffing his into her shoe,
hers into his, then lint from each of their
sweaters, and any loose threads you can pull
when you hang their wash on the line.

Each time, lower them down
a little closer to the bushes limning
the house, until you see a swirl of
grass beginning, soon mosses
and feathers too, mingling
with parental flotsam, each shoe
transformed into an aerie house
for tiny eggs that will give birth
to baby birds, all beak and need,
their cries a tenderness, a sun burst,
a glitter cascade, almost unbearable
in the fullness of its gladness.

Watch the parents guard them,
feed them, and teach them
how to fly, their larger bodies
dipping below, and bumping up
the smaller, until the currents catch
them and they glide. Call your
father Carolina Wren, House 
Sparrow, Nuthatch, call your mother his
mate. Tie the ropes in a triple
knot, and hope for the best.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesday Poem: from Firefly, Brightly Burning

Was It A Crow You Saw?

Or a priest as you flew down the highway,
his black cassock waving in the cold air?
And you picked him up, didn’t you,
with his pack and his traveler’s hunch
although you never really slowed down?
You picked him up imagining the possibilities
he carried with him: where he was going
with his young face, his anointed hands.
What hand moves him along?
Is it the same hand that moves you,
that moves the deer to leap
across the highway and be killed?
That gives you the blessing of horses
lying at ease in the chill, haloed by the steam
before winter chases them into the barn?
Ah, but then you catch yourself.
Who said it had to be a hand?
It could just as well be tentacles, or a claw.
It could be an oozing polymer, you haven’t a clue.
And maybe what you saw was a crow after all.
This game you’ve been playing
makes you hungry, doesn’t it?
Too bad his pack is empty;
all that he carried now circling
darkly in your head.

The poems in Firefly, Brightly Burning were written and compiled over many years. When I first put the manuscript together, it seemed like a patchwork of unlike things, perhaps because it contains a number of serial pieces. I tended to see those as discrete from the other work I was doing. Many of the poems come from a fictional, narrative impulse, though certainly not all. The Anna God poems, in particular, were instigated by a photo in the newspaper of a college girl asleep on a couch in a triangle of sunlight. Her name was, yes, you guessed it, Anna God. Some of her poems come from my direct experiences as a teacher at a university, one comes from an incredible newspaper story, and one from reading Lorca. Nevertheless, one's own concerns have a way of sneaking in despite our intentions, though, don't they? 

Recently, I read a quote from Melissa Pritchard's book, A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, And Write, that, "art [is] a form of active prayer." That seems true of this book, which moves from frustration with organized religion, and the way it fails women, in particular, to direct glimpses or experiences of the divine that have been there all along.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tuesday Poem: An Announcement

I am so pleased to announce that my first book, Firefly, Brightly Burning is now available at and from

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuesday Poem: from my April Daily Poem Notebook

filigree out, against the dark background,
like thin branches, rivers, roots, arteries
veins, winding country roads, mapping
a woman, the nerves of her brain outlining
a skull, the eyeballs attached gazing out at us,
the nerves of the arms spreading wider
than arms, more like billowing sleeves
leading down to the hands, the nerves of the legs
curving wide as a full skirt, looking gauzy 
and sheer as hand made lace, giving her 
girth and presence, the channels of her 
pleasure and pain, memorializing 
a lifetime of sensation.

A woman donates her body to science,
and doctors make her into an archeological dig,
painstakingly excavating her fragile
nerve network, easing them out of muscle
and flesh, cleaning away all fat and blood,
until she is a white tree reaching down
toward the earth, all twig and root,
eyes seared by light, no longer
protected by sinew and bone,
attached to a delicate net cast wider
than the body that once contained it,
as if she were frayed into tatters
by all she’s seen, heard, felt, tasted, smelled.

This is what a women wears
beneath the skin: a big lacy dress of pain
pulsing along from synapse to synapse,
and global gushes of pleasure that travel
everywhere at once, galactic as the Milky Way,
nerves that reach beyond the body’s tidy
boundaries, rivering out to connect with
a matrix of others, until we come undone.
We moan, and flush, tremble, holler, and weep.
And men are driven to make it into geography.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tuesday Poem: After a Long Hiatus, Luna Returns

Luna’s Trues

Hide your potables, put ups,
self-growns, and happy tools
whenever they’re not in hand.

Whatever home you make must be
up high on a hill, or stilt built, or tree
supported to withstand the waters’ comings.

Always carry a knife and a bag for forage
you stumble upon. Pass it by, it will surely
end up in the bag of who’s behind you.

Barter as much as you can,
for trade is a two handed benefit.

Be wary of poison places. Even a tread-by
can leave you weakened and sickly.

Take to a cave or a dug out place, if there’s to be
spiral winds and or close in lightning.

Never eat what grows near the engulfments.

Learn everything you can from the animal folk.
The ones, that are left, be little survivors.

A body only needs one bit of food a day.
Eat what can’t be salted or dried up first.

Waste nil. Eat what’s there even if
it makes your belly hurt

Most things got a repurpose. Our job to find it.
Trade what you can’t use. Discard nought.

Salvage what you can from every wreck.
It’s a gift from the hand of the dead.

Grow what you can, when you can, where you can.
Greenhouse an old car, or chicken coop it.

Dirt-full planters make good insulation.
Grasses love a roof, and so do edible mosses.

Rainwater is a gift and it must be treasured.
Fouling the water is poisoning yourself.

Bug bread tastes best with salty 
seaweed soup or juicy mushrooms.

Feed a stranger just enough to give them 
the strength to move on.
Do not allow strangers into your nest.

In the conurbations, 
you’re no more than a field mouse.
Beware. Traps been set for you everywhere.

Most of what’s people-made will 
degrade the air if you burn it.

What weather delivers comes straight 
from the heart of the earth.