Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tuesday Poem: From The Water Series (Post-deluvian)

The Comb And The Mirror

The comb for our failure to honor chaos,
the way we try to untangle the world,
the furrows we cut, and other ills.
The mirror for our over love of ourselves,
the way we think dominion over other creatures,
for shackles and blades and all demonic devices.

Too many times, Luna spies
one or the other at Barter, though
nowadays, no one will touch them.

That’s when her whole body
fills with dread of the tempest,
for comb and mirror stir up
the old woman’s anger. She tosses
in her sleep, and soon come a whirl
and a hideous pelting, the spinning
edges of wind heavy with water,
soon the rise of white mares
in the waves, the sky’s dark keening,
the punishing hand of Marina smashing
everything we make into matchsticks.

When it’s over, survivors try to
make amends by letting go,
into the wreckage, pairs of sparrows.
And Luna has learned much from
watching these little survivors
as they glean what they can
from nature’s fury

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tuesday Poem: From The Water Series


Luna and Sol take turns
diving into the engulfments.

Buildings listing this way and that,
barnacled shipwrecks, most of their
window glass broken, or already salvaged.
Big wooden houses like temples adrift on the tides.

She sees others like them,
brightening near the surface,
darkening as they go under, trolling for
the souls of the drowned, caged as they
came to be, in boughten goods, in pretties,
usefuls, things you can hold in your hands.

Luna finds a plastic bucket, a sand etched
green glass bottle, a box of sodden
paper she can pulp and dry anew,
a camera filled with water
and tiny jellyboys.
Best is a jug unblemished,
she can plug with one
from the box of stoppers.
Sol saves his vigor for tools.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tuesday Poem: From The Water Series

Snowdrop Soup

is what Luna serves him.
She forages and all she can
find is these, with their little
white heads and greeny secrets.

Months of being cooped up
in their too tiny space,
inundated with snow, after
heavy wet ice, after hailstone
and rain, wind whipping
beneath the floorboards, stilts
rattling a rough tattoo.

There were shriveled carrots
and mildewed beets left,
to throw in with a brackish
draw from the well, her
put-ups all but decimated.

She spies them at her feet,
clusters of early March milk maids,
a first flowering, stoop-shouldered
and shy above the sooty patches of melt.

A gift, she thinks, from the angels,
for ain’t she like Eve almost? Needing
a little swig of the hope, after
losing so much that was good?

Too late she remembers their other name:
death’s flower, so beautiful were they,
once she clipped them, like mermaid’s
hair drifting across the bowl.

He gobbled them fast, and she did too,
so craving of green were they, and then
the cramps and the stomach flips set in,
the two of them dizzy as love sick fools.
Giddy, he says, with spring just round the bend.
Their guts will mend, since at least she
remembered to leave bulb in the ground.
She doesn’t tell him the story. Maybe
next year. Pictures how hard their
empty bellies will shake when they laugh.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday Poem: From The Water Series


Old Woman’s Aria

What a boon, what a boon, what a boon!
to live in an empty honey crock tucked into
the long brown bones of a hedge.

O bee hieroglyphics!
O nectar and reverie!
O to row out in half a walnut,

to meet this drowned world,
with its blessings of barter and trade,
its mud that spits out stones for ballast
and jars, those glass beatitudes,
that rise up singing out of the muck,
jars, clear and intact, no matter to me
how small they be, or what they held once,
jars I catch the rain in, the best ones
begging to be filled with potables,
to be sealed with caps I make
out of crayons and candle scraps.

O to be washed sweet again by the rain,
to savor the taste of a memory, though
the poor bees, themselves, are gone!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tuesday Poem: On A Random Afternoon

                                                                              Andrew Wyeth
Like The Empty Bucket

We dream of water.
Like the cup set down to dry,
we yearn to be filled.

Long to listen as 
the spigot plays
its musical notes on
the cistern’s surface,
a song that gurgles
and tickles, sure as
the coursing of blood
in our arteries, soon as
we stop listening
to everything else. 

Water linking everything
together: springs and 
creeks, streams and 
rivers, all current-driven 
bodies pushing out 
to the ocean, that briny 
embracing magnitude 
we ache to sit beside, 
wade into, float 
upon, fathom.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tuesday Poem: From The Notebook

Cinderella's Daughter

Nights, when the servants were
deeply asleep, my mother
traded her lace for homespun,
her crown safely
back in its lock box,
my father abed  and dreaming,
adrift on the ship of state.

I watched her in secret
as she danced with the broom,
bent and crooned to the dustpan,
fondled the stiff little bristles
on the idle head of the scrub brush.

Work called to her, it was
her secret, her benediction,
kneeling in the ashes,
sweeping the hearth
cleaner than it sometimes
already was, scrubbing
the stones in the hallways
till they sang a hushed
song of gratitude
beneath our feet.

All of life's ugly voices
gradually silenced by her hands,
rosy from running water,
dancing over every surface,
making me a tapestry
that told the complicated
story of her entry into Paradise.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Up From A Long Sleep

While an older woman lectures us on Habermas and epideictic writing, based in citizen voice events, notions of complication, and public consequence, 
her ideas hang like twigs in the tightly constructed, multicolored rhetorical nest she is weaving, though we are somewhat distracted by her younger co-presenter, who is trying to hush her feisty three year old, who sings as he draws on the back of her yet-to-be-presented paper, by tearing a page away from the three hundred twenty-eight others 
in the conference program, and folding it into an airplane, which takes off from the table, rising and falling at the end of the little 
boy’s arm, until it comes crashing 
down, like a baby bird at the older woman’s feet, and she slowly stoops to pick it up, never missing a single beat.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Previously published by Philadelphia Stories in Fall of 2008



At The Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities

It’s a miracle we survive at all,
I say, as we walk the cases,
wincing at a colon as big as a stove pipe,
scowling at ribs deformed
by corsets, and spines collapsed
into little broken heaps, the horns
and warts and tumors
jutting out of waxen faces,
carbuncles and gouty toes,
a lady whose fat has turned her into soap.

But my brother, being a man, jokes on.
He sees a petrified penis and gasps,
I’ll never look at beef jerky the same way again,
as I giggle and cringe.

Until a whole wall of bloodless
babies in jars breaks over us like a wave,
all stages of fetal development,
followed by the terrible web of maladies;
so many damaged dolls,
each one a lesson in fragility.

He points to the anencephalic ones,
saying they look like trolls,
but then a lonely floater
in its little sea of tears
sends him into silence,
for we could be at the grave
of the little ghost he’s been
tethered to for seventeen years:
his first girl, all tangled in her cord,
born still and cold as snow.
I can’t bring myself
to tell him about the tiny
pearl of a zygote my heart tows.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tuesday Poem: an earlier version was published by The Paterson Literary Review in 2011














Milk Time

It was the sacred time: the little cartons
delivered in their plastic crate
by an eighth grade boy
who looked like Gulliver
for a moment, striding through
a cloud of Lilliputian first graders.
A quiet knock, then he’d come in
all hunch-shouldered, quick, and shy,
to set them down next to my desk.
And there they sat, piled in little hills,
like shanties after a cyclone.

How my head spun with the changes
from day to day: This school. No that school.
This classroom that ticks along like a clock,
that one that has no lesson plans, no paper.
This was Paterson, New Jersey.
I was twenty-one: a substitute
who knew nothing about the world
and how it worked.

In one school I nodded
in agreement as the Principal
told me, a red finger nail wagging,
that we must never, never, never
use corporal punishment, no matter
how rude the children might become.
In another I trembled at the Principal’s
booming voice as he hit one of the boys
in front of the class, a trouble maker,
he insisted I identify, and I suddenly
felt so exhausted I let them do whatever
it was they wanted for the rest of the afternoon.

But milk time. Milk time was sacred.
Each one of them carefully opening 
his or her own little house of goodness, 
stepping into a clean white space,
a silence punctuated by an occasional 
bubbling noise, as someone’s straw reached 
into a corner to grab the last few drops.

I didn’t know then that, for many of these
children, this was breakfast. For many of them
ten o’clock rang like an angelus putting an end 
to stomach growls and shaky hands 
that could barely hold a pencil.
All I knew was that at ten o’clock
they sat still. They were quiet, and
they were comforted. I was too.

Sitting at the big desk, in the front of the room, 
I felt like a little girl again, the one 
who stood against the wall in the playground,
watching her classmates ease into smiles 
and whispers, as they filed inside, sat 
at their desks, opened the cartons and savored.
A little girl on the margins, hungry for love.

And here it was: milk time again,
all of us in communion for the time it took,
to swallow that daily ration of decency,
that blessed little half pint that got us through.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Poem: an earlier version published by Umbrella in 2010

Frida Holds A White Rabbit

like a baby. She doesn't 
smile for the camera, 
as she cradles 
el conejo blanco,
como un bebe, in her arms,

the white rabbit of her longing
like the infant she never carried to term,

the fat white conejo of infidelity,
little effigy of Diego, its flat contented face
so much like his: the barren 
moonscape of his apology.

She looks tired.
She rests her head on her hand,
her mouth a small horizon in the shadows

She is thinking about the engorged 
conejo of his politics,
the fuzzy impersonality of his vision,
the little female comrades in his murals.

Where is her anger? 
Does it leap through the agave now
swift as the jackrabbit of Tehuantepec? 
Does it burn in the desert?

No because el fuego de Frida’s
resentment is gone for good.
No more galloping around here,
keeping up with the horses.
No more bites on the cheek
for you, you selfish rider!

Frida’s just plain worn out.
She’s taken el conejo back,
and she’s holding him like the baby he is.

Frida squeezes him so close
he’s short of breath. Come on,
smile for the camera, Frida. Smile,
as two crows fly above your eyes.

After the photograph: “Frida Kahlo With A White Rabbit,
Blue House, Coyoacan, Mexico City”
1949 by Hector Garcia