Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Previously published by Calyx in 1987

Painting by Francien Krieg



As I passed the door of her room,
I had to rub my eyes.

Her pink nipples and pale 
rise of china breasts
looked new as a young girl's
beneath the wrinkles of her face.

Old age rustled like wind on sand
in the Swancott Home for Ladies,
and she reclined oblivious,
an odalisque on a narrow bed
in coral and porcelain autumn light.

A gift of late blooming roses,
ashimmer over shifting dunes.
A mirage? No, an oasis in this 
barren, stoop-shouldered place.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem: an earlier version published in Footwork 1987

My Mother Always Seemed Bigger Than Me

her face as round as a Russian Doll’s.
She even wore a babushka when it rained.
And her mother bigger still, enveloping her
in the do’s and don’ts of the world,
all the frowning dimpled faces and stocky bodies,
with wagging stubby fingers: No, no, no.

And my grandmother’s mother before her,
wearing cabbage and bacon grease perfume.
All the way back to Holland they go,
All of them closing over me, each 
generation more massive than the last.
All of them cast from a similar mold,
their arms painted on, akimbo over aprons,
faces barely holding in the rage they feel,
about working, working, always working
for children who don't appreciate.

O lineage of matriarchs, who tucked
your sheets too tight, I see you floating 
above me as my shadow comes down,
round as a bell jar,  grim as the final 
hour of night over my daughters, 
passing on that darkness, 
whether I want to or not.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Poem: From The Grove In The Eye Of Light


The one and only time
we went to the park with Daddy,
I swung so high and long
it made me sick, and I had to
lie down on a bench to
make the world stop tilting
this way and that.

When I looked at them
sideways, the swings
heaved in and out,
like too many shallow breaths,
and Tommy became a blur,
a dream on the merry go round,
its silver handles pushed and pushed
by the big kids, until dark forces
snatched backwards so hard he had to let go,
flying, his legs and arms splayed,
landing hard, with a splat, in a
mud puddle big as a watering hole,
where he sat in shock all soaked
and mucky from head to toe.

When Daddy saw him,  he sauntered over,
told him to get up, we were leaving,
made us wade across the grass,
ankle deep through bruised pink
blossoms, all the way to the parking lot,
where Tommy had to stand still
while Daddy stripped him down
to his underwear, throwing
his wet clothes in the trunk,
to keep him from ruining
the Pontiac’s upholstry.

How hard he cried then,
leaning into my arms,
until he fell asleep,
on the long ride home,
the two of us lost
in the back seat’s
velvet gloom, 
and Daddy’s

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Poem: from The Grove In The Eye Of Light

Scrub Pine

He seemed to need so little,
his spare frame bent
on learning to play guitar,
my middle brother,
weathered and
sturdy as a pilot boat
lost in the salt mist of music.

Years I watched him,
cheered for him, trying to green
and grow while a hurricane
raged between our parents,
until he shut himself away
from all of us, taking the knob
off the door to his room,
replying to our entreaties
with bouts of silence.

Now his solos take me back
to when he was eight months old,
sitting in the high chair I carried out
to the back of the garden,
and kicking his little square feet,
as I fed him peaches,
cool and sweet,
the sky as blue
and cloudless as his eyes.