NEW i.d.

NEW  i.d.

First day on the job alone,

he had to keep calling the sergeant. 

Good-humored, she was,

joking about new machinery 

that made the work harder. 

Typical military we all agreed. 

 

I voted for Bernie.

I’m all about peace, 

and eliminating fossil fuels

and reducing my carbon footprint.

I drive a Prius, for Christ’s sake.

The new fighters they’ve got—

 

we couldn’t believe 

they’d be louder than the F-4s

but they are. We can hear them

all the way from the Adirondacks.

And they’re expensive, useless.

Can’t dogfight, so what’s the point?

 

Three took off. We waited

for the fourth, like clockwork.

Shit, they are noisy suckers. 

But fuck it. I’m a

fighter pilot’s wife.

My man used to fly machines

 

like those. I’ve stood on the flightline,

watched him take off,

seen him loop and hammerhead,

do the Memorial Day flyby.

I gave birth on the eve

of drill weekend, kept house

 

that winter he trained in Witchita

when he was DCM, that ice-storm winter 

our son was in second grade

and we had a funky woodstove.

I watched my pregnant friend

watching the Missing Man

 

formation over her husband’s

grave. What can I say?

What can I say?

I make no apologies

for my life. Love is a funny thing.

So now this new improved i.d.

 

is good another three years. 

We stopped on the way out the gate

to look at the old F-4 

on static display.

Not Miss Piggy, my husband said.

It’s got Rich’s name on the door. 

Some dialogue from a play-in-progress

Some Dialogue from a play-in-progress

BARRIE

Well, I have no idea how my way of being will help because you and I are as different as a pea in a pod and a rhinoceros, but okay. Here goes— I don’t work. I’ve never worked, and I never will work. The day I start to work will be the day they put me in a home. There is absolutely no separation between, among, within, whatever the word is, the art I make and everything else I do. Getting up in the morning is art. Taking a shit is art. Reading while I eat breakfast. Arguing with Jim about whose turn it is to buy groceries. Making dinner with the kids. Walking the dog. Teaching. All of it. It’s all art. It’s all making something out of something, or out of nothing, but usually it’s something. Remaking, unmaking, starting over, turning around. Everything is raw material and everything is already finished before I begin.

MARGARET

Well, okay. I guess that works for sculpture and conceptual stuff, but not for poetry.

BARRIE

Why not? 

MARGARET

It’s words. They have to be right. 

BARRIE

Oh, well. I get that. Finished stuff, sure, like if you want it in a magazine or something. That’s gotta take a little tweaking. But the first burst of a poem, and the second and maybe the third? The energy of it? The way it flits around and settles? Is that work?

Perspective

PERSPECTIVE

Oak and Ash and Birch breathe their gold.

It sifts through their twigs and branches 

over our cars and lawn furniture.

Oaks and ashes and birches think

life is worth continuing. They want

to make acorns and winged seeds

and tiny cones. They want to make

food for turkeys and squirrels and jays.

If they told you the Council of Trees

had decided to fill this year with abundance,

if they told you they had decided

this was a good year to cover the wounded

Earth with their love, to spread their gold;

if they told you that you, too, could participate,

wouldn’t you say Yes? And here you are!

Every sneeze, every dribble, every gasp,

they tell you, is a price you can pay.

WHAT WE’VE LOST

Before I begin my celebration of Poetry Month, which this year will involve going on strike for better working conditions, here’s a poem.

WHAT WE’VE LOST

I was shopping this morning, double-masked

because my second shot is days away.

Young women working the check-out counters

were waiting for customers and laughing,

laughing loud at some private check-out joke.

And I found my anger surge up at them:

young women, masked, trapped behind plastic shields.

Being human, sharing humor. And anger

at myself for fearing the sound of delight.

What have we lost? What have I lost?

I hope someday no one will understand 

double masks, plastic shields, second shots.

BEGINNING

BEGINNING

 

The book cover shines gold 

in the lamplight.

 

Small birds irrupted from the north

cluster around the feeders.

 

I’m an old woman now

and none the wiser, but

 

at least I can define

emotion with precision. 

 

The landscape of exploration

looms underground. 

 

Forty years but surely not wasted.

Are we between wars

 

or is there simply one war.

Was there ever only one?

OPEN STUDIO POEM #18

OPEN STUDIO POEM #18

 

 

aplomb

solid

chrysanthemum

collage

secluded

 

Under snow, under solid ground,

earth knits a fabric of mycelium,

bulb, the roots of chrysanthemum

and rose.  The February landscape

shapes a shifting collage

of branch and cloud,

a splash of of jay-blue.

We stay secluded, painting

our lives with aplomb.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #17

 

Open Studio Poem #17

disco

lickety-split

splendid

magenta

 

Fairies shelter behind the disco ball

hung in the portal to the kingdom of odd. 

After sunset, they emerge lickety-split,

and all night they dance through the city, 

their magenta wings flashing splendid

in the lights of streets, and traffic, and stars.

 

 

The other occupants of the Open Studio are out to get me, as you can see. But I know where that disco ball hangs, and I know the fairies, too.

Open Studio Poem #16

 

OPEN STUDIO POEM #16

makeup

cattywumpus

kerfuffle

erase

 

I’m going back to makeup.

Not the kerfuffle of my youth,

with eyeliner cattywumpus

to each brow,

not a sad attempt to erase

my decades on the road.

Just a streak of red on the lip,

a little taupe along the lid.

 

Since July, I’ve been attending an online Open Studio with four artists, who are now my friends. Most weeks, they give me words to use as prompts so I can practice my art while they do theirs. This week, I think they were out to get me.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #15

OPEN STUDIO POEM #15

leaves

haven

susurration

possibility

 

When the days lengthen,

the cold strengthens

but the light too grows strong—

apricity on a frozen day.

 

Last fall the young oak kept

its leaves. It stood, susurrating

in the shadow of its mother,

collected light feeding the roots.

 

We live these days

in a haven of possibility.

THE HAWK

THE HAWK

Every day I walk with the yellow dog who understands human language but can not yet speak. Every day, or nearly every day, we saw the hawk in the dead elm trees between the hay fields or on the power line. In early spring, two hawks circled the fields. In late summer, one young hawk called hunger from the elms while one adult watched from the wire. The dog was disturbed by the hawk’s wheeling or calling, and she raised the orange ridge on her back and growled and barked. And in November, when the hay in the fields was cut short and the living oaks and the dead elms stood as outlines against the sky, on a November morning when the yellow dog and I walked down the road with the mountains on the east and the hills on the west, I found the hawk on the ground, beneath the wire, not far from the elms. The hawk’s red tail was spread, the dark and speckled wings were folded, claws curled, the sharp eyes flat, the neck broken. What shall we do? I cried, and the yellow dog answered. —Carry the hawk to the row of elms and lay it down there. And weep awhile, and I will weep with you. But only for awhile, for you shall see.— So I lifted the hawk and carried it close to my heart and I walked with the dog to where the grasses and goldenrod stalks grew tall under the trees. And there I placed the hawk. And the dog said —Good—. And for awhile we wept. And that night, the hawk came to me while I slept. Her red tail was spread acorss the Earth and her wings opened east and west as far as I could see. Her great head touched the sun. And she spoke. —You see, she said, who I am. Now you see. Your eyes open to my flight, your ears open to my cry, your heart open to my life.— And with a shout the hawk rose up, then up, beyond the sun. And when I woke, the yellow dog was curled beside me and looked at me through her brown eyes, and said —Yes. That’s how it is.—

MATTER: A Pantoum

MATTER: A Pantoum

What gods do is make and let the pieces fall.

Billions of clocks on billions of beaches

turning as our hands move however they

move or our four legs or six or eight.

 

Billions of eyes in billions of deserts

move through their times or none and 

we move our two legs or four or six or eight and

our hearts and chloroplasts, mycelium,

 

our many eyes or none.

Our structures crystalize, the plates

and hearts and chloroplasts and mycelium

subduct and bump as we rise and fall.

 

The structure of our crystals, how the plates 

and all we do is an echo of clapping hands as we

subduct and bump and rise and fall.

With voices, silences, wavings of branches

 

we echo with our hands 

and twigs and whatever anemones use

for voices: silences? wavings of branches?

We’re all made of one matter.

 

Twigs and anemones

turn while our hands move however they

move because we’re all the matter

and making matter and falling is what we do.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #13: FOR THE LAST DAY OF 2020

OPEN STUDIO POEM #13

bobble

bauble

clarity

celebration

POEM FOR THE LAST DAY OF 2020

With smiles and nods, thumbs up

and applauses, with bright baubles 

 

of technologies—our new necessities—

we’ve bobbled through this hardest time. 

 

We have more courage than we knew,

our loves are stronger than we thought.

 

Now, let us begin a celebration, now, 

as we tiptoe toward the clarity of light 

 

at the far side of this dark passageway.

We are beginning to know 

 

how tender we are; beginning

to know how gentle we can be.

With thanks to Wanda, Kathy H, David and Kathy C for their words.

MAGI GOING HOME

MAGI, GOING HOME
 

 

 Go home another way, 
 it told us in a dream. 
 Another way?
 

 What would an angel 
 know about ways? 
 We had to sell the camels 
 

 and the slaves. Another way 
 meant bad roads, no roads. 
 We were not accustomed 
 

 to walk, but walk we did 
 till we bought a donkey. 
 It was old and lame.
 

 We rode in turns. We were not 
 accustomed to taking turns, 
 nor to buying food ourselves. 
 

 Now and then we begged,
 and more than once 
 we slept in stables, in the straw—
 

 the only lodgings we could find 
 after we were robbed of everything. 
 But that’s another tale. 
 

OPEN STUDIO POEM #10

OPEN STUDIO POEM #10
 

 riff-raff
 heart
 glue
 synchronicity
 

 

 SYNCHRONICITY
 

 I dream of unmasked riff-raff.
 Anxiety is collaging my heart:
 scraps torn from memory,
 the flattened faces of my friends,
 a quarter of my granddaughter’s life.
 Will I ever have glue enough
 to paste it together?
 

 Emergency.
 Emergence.
 Emerge.
 Resurge.

OPEN STUDIO POEM #9

OPEN STUDIO POEM #9


coats
coax
helm
ochre
 

 

 

 A captain stands at the helm
 in his ochre coat,
 coaxing the wind
 into the sails.
 

 The artist in her rusty coat
 coaxes the ochre
 from the leaves.
 Her easel is the helm
 of a ship sailing
 into the winter sky.
 

 His coat of arms:
 a purple coat 
 on an ochre field,
 crowned with a silver helm.
 

 too many suit coats,
 too much ochre light,
 too many vying for the helm,
 too many trying to coax 
 a resolution from the deep

CAMP FIRE WOMEN

CAMP FIRE WOMEN

My friend Julie is a Fire Keeper.

Sometimes all night she watches,

holds the flame at the center

of the world. It is her sacred way.

 

And mine? To search the forest,

to gather the wood: This for kindling,

this for tinder, this for cleansing,

this for a long and steady burn.


			

Open Studio Poem #7

OPEN STUDIO POEM #7

words:  legs   along   fire

 

We go along and along,

our legs aching, shoulders

sore from the burdens

we bear. So many, so

heavy. But the year will

end, this terrible year

will end. It will. We will

build fires on the beaches,

fires on the hilltops,

fires in the deserts,

fires in our own backyards.

We will throw our burdens 

in the fires, throw them down,

throw them down in the fires,

open our arms,

embrace our friends 

We will remember 

how it feels to laugh.

We will remember.

We will. We will.

TIGHTROPE

TIGHT ROPE

My ancestors did this, so I can.

I’ve practiced for this all my life—

to be suspended between cliff edges

above a chasm filled with rapids and rocks.

Without a net.

I’ve done the high wire a zillion times. 

It makes no difference

whether there’s a chasm or a sawdust floor. 

The far edge is in sight.

Breathe. 

My thin-slippered feet

move along the cable.

Cloud shadows, a bird shadow.

One foot in front of the other.

Eyes ahead, toward the edge—

where someone is bending

picking at the cable with a little knife

and no one is there to stop him.

Will it hold? Will it hold?

I can not take time to be afraid.

My ancestors did this, so I can.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

One step, one step, one step

REPORT: OCTOBER 20, 2020

REPORT:  OCTOBER 20, 2020

Dark clouds over Buck Mountain. 

It will rain.

More sugar-maple leaves on the ground than on the trees. 

The oaks and popples are turning.

Soybean fields amber, hay fields cut and green. 

Luke’s old milking shed is falling apart. 

It’s just a storage shed now,

with the old SURGE and AG JOURNAL signs rusting on the wall 

and the little lightning rods standing bravely on the roof. 

Last year, a young man took the bend in the road too fast

and the laws of physics being what they are,

he glanced off a telephone pole and ran into the shed. 

And died. One of the dead

elms has fallen. Now it’s raining, 

and taking pity on the dog, I turn. 

Sumac is mostly red along the east side of the road.

If it were colder, I’d swear it was snowing in the mountains. 

Jim’s VETERANS AGAINST TRUMP flag is up on his porch.

At the far end of her pasture, his old horse Molly crops the grass. 

ON MY WAY





ON MY WAY


It was all so familiar—the icy road, the falling snow.
The tricycle was bigger than it used to be, less
embarrassing for an adult to ride. It took awhile
to get across the city street, awhile to see
a safe crossing under the glaze of snow.
The other side was fine, and I was on my way.


Home at last, but boxes all over the table.
I opened them one by one, each filled
with plastic things: flutophones,
cheap bath toys, disposable cups and spoons. 
Or tin automatons: monkeys playing drums, 
jumping mice, walking quacking ducks.


Box after box until the house was full.
When I awakened, I laughed at it all.
Not a nightmare, a description.
How full I am, these days, of things
I do not want or need. And how far
must I ride my little trike, in this storm.


DONA QUIXOTE

DONA QUIXOTE

Listen to Sancho, Mistress.

These are only windmills.

This is an inn, that is a basin,

what you have is a computer

glitch, a mis-behaving phone,

a broken coffee grinder,

an inconvenience. 

Look at the world as it is,

not as it never was.

Knights were brutal and mean.

Subsistance farming was hungry and hard.

The Enlightenment was a flash in the pan.

Father never knew best. 

No country has ever been great.

If you want a romantic occupation

dangerous enough even for you,

stay home and write poems.

Maybe someone will read them

and write more.

As our creator says, turning poet

is a catching and an uncurable disease.

words: Open Studio Poem #3

Open Studio Poem #3:  USE THE WHOLE PAGE

The point is growth toward beginning.

Start againnothing flat or square

this time learn to move in three

dimensionscubic, spherical. Can you

write like a dancer? Paint

like an actor? Draw like

a potter? Remember knitting

how to turn a heel, shape

a sleeve from a strand.

DO THAT WITH WORDS.

USE THE WHOLE PAGE.

FILL IT WITH SHAPE AND

COLOR AND SOUND AND FLAVOR

BITTER GREENS AND HOT PEPPERS

AND LEMON ZEST.  WRITE 

BIG AND ROUND.

USE THE WHOLE PAGE

words: Open Studio Poem #4

OPEN STUDIO POEM #4

final   granite  light  synchronize

Rilke said, “No feeling is final.”

Not even granite is permanent—

it crumbles and weathers into parts.

And isn’t it a fine thing

that nothing stays the same?

Time is after all unsynchronized space,

shifting into shapes that cannot last.

Therefore, do not fret.

Keep your touch light,

or maybe don’t touch at all. 

Simply breathe.

words: Three Bold Attempts

WORDS:  THREE BOLD ATTEMPTS


cricket   illustrate  tone   pearl    snap    quilt

THE GAME

Last summer, I studied cricket.
Not the insects in August, 
their crispy vibrations
adding tone to the fading garden,
but the sport. I like the langauge. 


Let me illustrate:
Overs (six balls per), Stumps
and Maidens and Leg Before Wicket.
Innings, not as in baseball,
is both singular and plural.
That’s tea. That’s drinks. 
Declaring before All Out.
Sixes and fours and centuries. 
Ducks and Golden Ducks. 
Silly mid-on. Test (the best)
and ODI. Howzzat? 


I followed the World Cup 
in the Guardian online.
They did OBO coverage. 
England won, to their surprise.


I want to see a game someday, 
a whole five-day test. 
I want to hear the snap of leather on willow. 
I’ll bring a quilted vest and a thermos.
I’ll wear a ridiculous hat, and pearls.
I’ll wait for an umpire to Offer the Light,






Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen


The summer palace in Oslo.
The Queen in residence,
a conversation on the terrace. 
No birds, no crickets singing.
The dining room in the palace:
candles in the windows, 
late sun through the windows,
green leaves outside the windows. 
Paintings on the walls—illustrations of green.
No furniture but the black piano.
The pianist wore striped socks. 
The soprano wore a green gown, 
no diamonds, no pearls.
A silent audience on screens.
No applause.
The studio in New York. Monitors and clocks.
Christine Goerke’s sad and gracious tone: 
A difficult time for singers and thank you.
The program a carefully stitched quilt:
Wagner and Norway’s Grieg, and Strauss,
the snap of Kalman’s “Heia, Heia!” 
The peace of Ronald’s “O Lovely night.”




Zuihitsu for the end of a terrible summer


1.
Crickets drone away in the dark. I used to love them. This year, I find their rasping cricks most annoying.


2.
Last night I watched a moon like a yellow pearl  poke through a torn quilt of cloud and leaf.


3.
My voice has taken on a querulous tone. I can’t help it. I am possessed by a tired and hot and hungry and frustrated three-year-old child. 


4.
The purple snap beans I grew do not snap. They are blotchy and stringy and not particularly flavorful. The purple blossoms, however, are lovely, and hummingbirds feed from them, so growing them was not a total waste of water and space.


5.
The tone of this zuihitsu illustrates the way I have felt about this summer. A few times only, I have glimpsed something lovely, far away, and still.

			

words: Not a Mast Year

pit   sew   break   fan   milky   frail


NOT A MAST YEAR--theme and variations


This is not a mast year.
I toss peach pits to the one frail squirrel
who comes to our yard. 


Am I the only one
who is not making masks?
I’ve never liked to sew—


a break with family tradition.
Degenerate daughter
of a great house.


At least the Milky Way
is a constant, fanning out
from the great starry swan.




pantoum

This is not a mast year.
I toss peach pits to the one frail squirrel
who comes to our yard.
Am I the only one


tossing peach pits, the only one 
who is not making masks?
Am I the only one
who doesn’t like to sew,


who is not making masks?
A break with the family tradition—
I’ve never liked to sew.
Degenerate daughter—


(a break in the family tradition)
of a great house.
I am the inconstant daughter.
At least the Milky Way,


great path through the heavens,
is a constant, fanning out
like spilled milk
from the great starry swan.


We need a constant: that hungry squirrel
who comes to our yard
under the sign of Cygnus.
This is not a mast year.


sestina

The one squirrel in the yard is frail.
She’ll eat anything—peach and plum pits.
It’s not a mast year, it’s a broken
one. I’ll feed the squirrel, but I will not sew.
At night, Cygnus brightens in the Milky
Way, his stars spread out in a simple fan.


I once had a sandalwood fan—
sweet scented frame, frail
silk the color of milky
tea. It didn’t last—a child pitted
against something so fine, sewn
together with invisible thread, easy to break.  


The squirrel keeps breaking
the suet feeder, opening it like a fan.
I don’t begrudge her. She is so
hungry for acorns, frail-
winged maple seeds, cherry pits,
even the tiny seeds of the milk-


weed. She breaks the stems, milky
sap sticking bitter to her paws. I break
stale bread for her, save pits
from fruit, scatter them in a fan
across the lawn. The grass too is frail,
each blade a fine strand of thread sewn


over the cracked soil. A summer so
dry the heavens complain. The Milky
Way trembles with heat. A frail
moon shines through the broken
trees. Not a breath of wind fans
the simmering ground, pitted


with dust. This is the pits.
It sucks, like having to sew
aprons in junior high. Fans
of rebellion, unite! Milk
your courage untl it breaks!
I’m so tired of feeling frail.


or the alternate last verse, which I kinda like!
with dust. This is the pits.
It sucks, like having to sew
aprons in junior high. Fans
of rebellion, unite! Milk
the bastards till they break!
Let’s stop being so fucking frail.

words: WHAT WE CARRY

tough   sleeve   bag    wave    half    fire

l.

WHAT WE CARRY

 

Each of us carries a bag, a tough bag, 

filled with the weight of our times and years.

 

Each of us is half-dead these days. We wave

to one another across the firewall.

 

We wave, and blink our eyes. For each is still 

alive, one sleeve rolled up, scrubbing along

 

however we can, lugging our bags, 

bearing our bit of the impossible load.

words: SIX TREASURED THINGS: A ZUIHITSU

rigid   draw    meadow   peer     lemon       cap

(another one with those words)

 

 

SIX TREASURED THINGS:  A ZUIHITSU

1. A rigid plastic lawn chair, one of four that my parents kept on the deck of their condominium. I keep it on the front step from spring till snow.  I sit there at sunrise and sunset, watching the yellow light flicker like sparks between the leaves.

2.  The white linen cap I bought in Traverse City in a shop that sold hats and, unexpectedly, wine-making supplies. A young friend told me that when I wear it, I remind him of Yoko Ono. I wear it often.

3. Our backyard. It was forest, then meadow, then lawn, and it is now growing up again into forest. We’ve reserved a patch of grass around the house, and bits for vegetables and flowers, but what was barren lawn is filling up with grasses and goldenrod, bramble and sumac, gray dogwood and pine and oak. Five years ago, I planted one solemn young chestnut tree as an act of defiance.

4.The drawing of a cat we had for a few months. Her name was Nanette, and she was tri-colored, and very small. The old woman who gave her to us could not keep her. “There’s something wrong with her,” she told us, and there was. In the drawing, Nanette is curled, sleeping, in a chair that once was in the living room and is now in the kitchen. The drawing was made by an artist friend who stayed with us for a summer—along with her husband and three children—in the room that once was our guest room, and is now the study where I write.

5. The lemons I always have by me. Here is a new maxim I try to live by: When in doubt, add lemon. To vegetables, to pastas, to soda water, to soup. The scent of lemon revives me and a lick of lemon opens my senses to all the good in the world that remains. 

6. Ursula Le Guin wrote “There was nothing she could do, but there was always the next thing to be done.” I treasure a company of peers—poets, artists, women who keep doing the next thing, and the next thing, and the next.

words: SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

 

cap   rigid   lemon   peer   draw   meadow

 

SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

Like a drawing  by Van Gogh,

I stand rigid in the meadow. I wear my white cap. 

I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.

I wear my white cap

though the brim is too rigid

for me to bend against the lemon-

brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer

into the middle distance like a drawing

by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.

 

It is August, and the earth is dry. The meadow   

crackles with brown grasses capped  

with seeds. The summer draws 

to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid 

sense of what is real? My peers 

cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.

 

When I was young, I wore lemon

cologne. I lay in this meadow 

beside a man—my peerless

lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.

But our bones have gone rigid

with the years. We have drawn

 

living water so long. Now we draw

water grown bitter, like lemon

rind, and brackish, from a rigid

bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow

searching for one plant to cap 

with one pale egg. I peer

 

at her with shaded eyes, my only peer

now in this tight-drawn

season, this heated season, capped

with grasses the color of dried lemon  

peel. Under my feet, the meadow 

soil is hard, cracked, rigid

 

with the hard rigidity

of this rainless summer, a peerless

summer of an anxiety that a meadow

cannot know. The trees live on, drawing

their life from deeper water. The lemon

sun beats and beats on my white cap. 

words: SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

joy    exhaust    chorus    toll    appear     trunk

 

SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

 

The steamer trunk might have been my grandfather’s, 

but I don’t remember seeing it in

his dark little room that smelled like old clocks.

 

If I sit for a long time in this chair

the right words will appear. Like magic.

Despite the evidence, I still believe

 

that. Believing in anything now takes

a toll. There doesn’t seem to be a god,

for instance, who gives a shit about us.

 

It’s August. The dawn chorus is over

for the year. Sometimes, one dusty robin

lands on the lawn and hops around. The worms

 

have burrowed down under. Everyone is

exhausted by the heat, the drought, the plague,

waiting and waiting for some kind of relief.

 

My grandfather had a small life, and yet

he made himself a bit of joy. Magic tricks.

Walks. Old friends. Keeping all those clocks ticking.

words: Open Studio Poem #2

with thanks to Kathy, David, Kathy, and Wanda

 

lazy

looking glass

friend

pluck

OPEN STUDIO POEM 2

Too lazy today to pay attention

to the face in the looking glass—

mirror, mirror on the wall

Does it matter what we look like?

I’m learning lately to be

my own friend. The kind

of friend I need. A friend

with pluck. Spunk. The kind

of nerve it takes to ignore

the face and see

what’s on the other side.

words: Is it too late to invent America?

sand

braid

task

invent

rife

mauve

 

 

Is it too late to invent America?

1.

While the sky outside turned mauve, 

Kushner’s Belize said, “I hate America. . . .

You come to room 1013 over at the hospital. . 

I’ll show you America. 

Terminal, crazy and mean.” 

In a city rife with AIDS, 

every day he did his tasks.

Compassion isn’t what you think.

 

2.

Nobody knows what Jesus wrote

in the sand, but the men dropped their stones

and crept away, one by one. 

No one is without sin

and it’s a commonplace to hate in others

our own grimmest angels.

I hate people who aren’t compassionate.

 

3.

America has never been great

and we’ve never had a decent metaphor.

From the beginning, the pot didn’t hold us all—

why should we stew and amalgamate? 

How about a braid—not of hair, but of water—

slow river moving over a delta, 

living streams carrying their histories,

interlacing,  winding toward one sea.

words: Open Studio Poem #1

For the past few weeks, I have been the only poet in an online open studio. Instead of knitting last time, I decided to ask each of the other artists for a word, and I wrote this poem while they did their arts.

 

fuchsia

malleable

daffodil

liberty

 

The unpruned fuchsia in its faded pot

is a mess of sticks, spotty leaves, a few stunted buds.

It is not a malleable plant; 

it’s fussy about water and light.

Not like the daffodils. Every spring—

flood or freeze or April snow—

they push up through thickets of grasses

and edge the lawn with yellow and white.

I expect there is some liberty

in taking what is given, staying deep,

blooming from the settled bulb.

THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND

THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND

Not Loki or Enki,

not Coyote who stole fire

or Wakjunkaga who made

himself some women’s parts 

and gave birth to three sons. 

 

This one carries his tiny penis

in a jumbo jet. His wives

and daughters are plastic dolls,

his sons the undead.

He eats honor, shits coal.

His houses are built of bones.

 

Make no mistake:

somewhere under our nice

we want to be like him—

possess without limit,

rule without shame.

 

He shows us, uncovers us.

Unless we change our lives,

he will never go away.

words: OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

raven

flimsy

brush

live

set 

crane

worry

 

 

OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

I recognize my friends by the worry behind their masks.

In town, the biggest crane we’ve ever seen

looms like something in a surreal movie set. 

 

Early this morning, I walked past a meadow

overgrown with weeds, the hopeless sticks of elm.

Raven flew close, brushed me with the shadow of her wing.

 

What does it mean to live these complicated days?

Have all days been this way, and ourselves

too caught up in flimsy occupation to notice?

words VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

bear

grace

raven

point(ed)

VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

1.

The raven has been flying to and fro 

over the earth. She has returned.

I think it will rain again. 

 

Do you know the meaning of grace?

The word you say before you eat;

the way a dancer walks in her pointed shoes.

 

The bear has been seen again.

We say “the bear” as if there were only one

running through the woods between our houses.

 

2.

It’s enough to make me believe

in Satan’s test of Job.

How much more can they bear?

 

The talking raven will not be silent.

Over and over she says 

“What’s the point? What’s the point?’

 

Like Hecate preceding and following Persephone,

grace precedes and follows us.

The question remains, “When?”

 

3.

Once I found a raven grazed by a car.

I set her in the grass, covered her with leaves.

The next day, in the same place, 

 

a raven circled me three times. 

The acknowledgement was almost more 

than I could bear. And I’ve wondered

 

since if the point was not gratitude but

taunt. “You cached me in the grass,

foul human, but see! I live.” 

 

4.

A raven pair tumbles over the yard

and the dog will not stop barking.

A bear climbs the fence and the dog is silent.

 

Raven is a trickster.

Bear is a god.

Is there a difference.

 

Walk the shore to the farthest point,

the place where sand turns to stone.

There is no limit to grace.

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

~with thanks to Ray for showing me the form

1.

Our son sent a photo of our grandson at his pre-school graduation ceremony.  He’s sitting in the backseat of the car wearing a cardboard hat with “2020” painted on in glitter. He looks so happy and proud. I’ve heard there are juniors at the High School here who want to do a drive-in graduation next year, because it is so much more “personal.”

2

I have seen—has the world seen?—the photo of a black grandfather carrying a wounded white racist to safety. ‘I’m protecting our kids,” he said. Take up your cross and follow me.

3.

I don’t have Big Girl Underpants—mine are all the same—so this morning I put on my Big Girl Lipstick and brushed my hair behind my ears and took the dog for a walk again.

4.

In the late 1880s, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. This is how it ends: 

. . . . . .while there went/ Those years and years by of world without event/ That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door. 

5.

The prayer beads I carry in the pocket of my jeans are mostly wooden relics of my old Camp Fire Girl days. Four onyx beads. Two pewter suns salvaged from broken earrings. A tiny diary key. And an onyx cross, maybe half an inch long.

6.

Ever since that first Gulf War I’ve had doubts about intercessory prayer. What about all those people who don’t get prayed for except in a generic way (Dear God, bless all the people in the world.)?  I pray in a generic way these days. May all beings be free from suffering. At least that reminds me that I’m not alone, which may be the whole point. 

7.

As I walked this morning, I noticed a tiger swallow-tail fluttering along the roadside, parallel to my path. She seemed to be looking for flowers, which are fairly scarce along that shady stretch. She ignored a patch of spindly buttercups, landed finally on a plant I didn’t recognize, and began feeding on what I would hardly call flowers, just nubs of pale greenish white, hanging in clusters at the ends of the leaves.

Because I have to write something

ANOTHER ZUIHITSU because I have to write something

1.

It’s as if someone is deliberately making things so bad that nobody can stand it. Almost enough to make me believe in the Beast, the AntiChrist, or something like that.

2.

We hoard dark roasted coffee beans in little brown bags in the freezer. I think I have enough now.

3.

I’ve been trying not to look at the news every hour, but I can’t help it. It’s the only way I can participate, living here, in this little green bowl. 

4.

Chipmunks live under the front steps. They scurry out to get food, scurry back in for fear of hawks and weasels and our dog. But they’re never safe from weasels.

5.

A very satisfying conputer game: drag random clusters of jewels into rows and columns on a board laid out in squares. When I place a cluster, I hear a lovely “click.” When I complete a row or column, I hear a very satisfying “ping.” I can’t stop playing this game even though it makes my neck sore.

6.

I had to get coffee beans out of the freezer last night. They were so hard that I couldn’t grind them till this morning. I know that some people don’t like to freeze beans, and some people say one should grind the beans right before brewing, but I don’t care.

7.

I have painted a piece of cardboard with a color called “Tea Room”—one of those small samples of paint available for a dollar at the paint store. When the paint was dry, I drew square tiles with a black marker and installed it in the cardboard box castle we made to illustrate fairy tales for the grandchildren.

8.

The Great Crested Flycatcher sits on a high perch to hunt for insects. If she misses an insect on her first pass, she pursues it in the air. Unless her nestlings object, she offers the whole insect, wings and all. If they do object, she pummels the insect until the offending wings break off.

9.

Many twigs, new-leafed, blew off the trees last night in the wind. When I walked the dog down the driveway early this morniung, I picked them up—at least, most of them—and tossed them back among the trees so they wouldn’t have to dry and turn to dust on the driveway stones.

BIBLE STUDY

BIBLE STUDY

The people were tired 

of being held down,

tired of the collusion 

between the occupying power

and the religious power 

too prudent—or too timid—

to stand with them and declare

enough is enough.

 

They’d heard him bless 

the poor, the hungry,

the mourners, the persecuted.

They’d heard him curse 

the rich, the sated,

the scoffers, the praised.

So when he rode into town 

on a borrowed donkey,

the common people–

the ordinary people–called out

Blessing and Peace and Glory! and

Save us, please. Save us!

 

The powers were alarmed

and tried to silence the people.

And what did he reply?

Turn then, if you would,

to Luke 19: 40-41

and read what he said.

And read what happened next.

 

 

LETTERS NOT SENT: Two

To His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

I’m re-re-re-re-reading Little Women, of all things, and find it a great deal more moralizing than I did when I was young.   And women’s laughter–the Heretics group I’m in  (all of us over fifty) laugh a great deal when we’re together–not necessarily even about anything.  We were getting to be a bunch of boring old people sitting around telling the same stories all the time.

To St. Francis:

Well, as you said, I’m about to ramble.  I planted Swiss chard this morning, and gladiolas, and cherry tomatoes in pots.  And the Apocalypse didn’t come yesterday–were you surprised?  I hope that you are all better after your “very, very, VERY rare” experience.  The chorus I sing in is preparing the “Laudamus Te” and the “Magnificat” from the Solemn Vespers for our spring concert, and I got to thinking that maybe the whole suffering bleeding mess of the world has been worth it for that music.  It’s political, but we came at it obliquely, through Vikings and El Salvador and the Crusades and the Trojan War, for example.

To Christopher Robin and Pooh

I think it was Martin Smith who said/wrote that women’s soul work is different from men’s.  “Holy detachment.”   I want to come visit you soon.  Maybe I shall.  I miss you.  What would it be like to be in that café and see people Raptured away? And speaking of books, I now have The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary.  I have been wanting one for awhile.