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
with him, their too tiny space
inundated with snow after
heavy wet ice after hailstone
and rain, wind whipping
beneath the floorboards, stilts
rattling a wild tossing tattoo.

There were dried up carrots
and mildewed beets left
to throw in with the brackish
draw from the well. Her put ups
being all but decimated.

And she spies them, 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 then? 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 they
were once she clipped them, like
mermaid’s hair drifting over the bowl.

He gobbled them fast, and she did too,
so craving of green were they both,
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:
leave bulb in the ground. She doesn’t
tell him the story, but maybe next year.
She pictures how hard their empty
bellies will shake when they laugh.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday Poem: From The Water Series


Old Woman’s Story

I shouldn’t live on this country estate.
Too much, too much to take care of!
Better a rose covered cottage 
at the edge of the woods.

No, I shouldn’t live in this fancy rose cottage.
Too much, too much to take care of!
Better a one room shack in the dunes by the sea,

No, I shouldn’t live in this elegant shack.
Too much, too much to take care of!
Better an empty honey crock tucked into
the long brown bones of a hedge.

What a boon, what a boon, what a boon!
to live in a honey crock, lit by a bee 
hieroglyphics of 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 by the rain every day
until you’re honey sweet again,
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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Poem: previously published online by Fox Chase Review in 2009

City Just Before Dusk  

In the turning down of the day
the light folds like clean white sheets,
swagging across whole groups of buildings,

so great sections of the city glow,
bright as a Pre-Raphaelite angel’s face,
as he announces another coming of twilight.

Then stringy clouds pull everything horizontal,
fill the sky, as if the atmosphere’s
stretching itself after a cat nap,

so whole neighborhoods rub their eyes in half
tones of charcoal blue, as Vincent’s views of rain,
through the window of a Saint Rémy asylum, do.

In all of this we see night awakening
like the baby newly baptized,
and called for the first time by name.

Close by, his parents watch him
wriggle in the arms of the priest,
both of their hearts aflame.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday Poem: previously published by Philadelphia Stories in Summer 2008


Vincent understood them: the way they yield
their darkling faces to the sun,
aflame for its arcing shimmer dance
across the day’s mysterious expanse,
how big they are, how weighty, over grown,
the way they lean together in the fields,
conspiring to hold each other up, creak and groan
as their heads reach critical mass, aswarm with too much seed.

He gathered them in vases, painted
their petaled fall from grace,
bunched together, shy, askew
and awkward, out of place,
caught their surprise at being indoors,
the droop and shrug of leaves,
the way they suddenly dropped,
losing all of their color.
Too painful to paint them
riotous at the roadside in full bloom:
signs of what we were before
the crows moved in to feed.