April Prompt #9: MY SECRET NAME


David #4:  Your secret name, or real name, or secret identity




It has to do with the birds who come to the feeder

outside my study window every morning and the birds

who meet me in the forest and feed from my hand.

And the water that drips from the eaves

and the water that flows in the channel

under the log bridge between the low banks

on the east side of the garden.  The old oak tree

and her squirrel- planted children.

All the different mosses on tree trunks and stones

with their lancelet or oval or hairlike leaves

and the small insects living between their branches.

Opossum tracks and bobcat tracks and fox tracks

and coyote tracks and crow tracks and turkey tracks

and the tracks of the stray cat around the garage.

The way clouds dissipate or grow. Planets

wandering along the ecliptic. The nebula

in Orion, and the star cluster in Hercules

and the stories about Orion and Hercules

and Persephone and Artemis and One-Eye

Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes and Briar Rose.

The stories about Elijah and Jesus. Stories

about my grandmother, my father, neighbors.

The people I overhear in berry patches

and on the street. My husband and son.

My friends. And you, too. Definitely you.


mend my dancing shoes
feed the bear
a basket to Grandmother
spindle, shuttle, needle
plant the hazel twig
take the goat to graze
fetch water from the well
strawberries in December
the frog on my pillow
so many mattresses
bread to crumble
a skull of fire to carry home

I must cut off my finger to open the mountain.
I must find the key to the dungeon door.
I must roll my stepsister to the front of the bed.
I must mop the kitchen floor.

I must learn the nightingale’s song.
I must learn to spin straw into gold.
I must let my hair grow so long
that my story will always be told.



It was such a little thing,
with its soft spotted hide
and pointed feet.
It lies there now, nearly invisible
in the brown leaves,
its little chest opened,
ribs cracked,
its child-sized heart cut away.


Her hunger was terrible:
few seeds, and drought
had driven the earthworms deep.

Only one nestling still lived.
The others–poor scraps
of down and bone–too pitiful
even for the crows.

But then, along the forest floor,
winding through the tall black trees,
a trailing of coarse brown crumbs.


Today is cold, but there is no wind.
I found a robin redbreast, frozen, by the water.
It made me sadder than usual.

They caught Willow, in the forest.
She had gone early, to pick new blossoms.
People get careless;  people forget so soon.

I dreamed I swept the churchyard,
brushed the pebbles into piles.
There were no candles anymore.

The children were playing at hunting
in the spring meadow this morning–
stalking one another,

smelling, tasting the windy air.
It felt good to laugh again–
the first time since Grandmother–
since she’s been gone.


It came to nothing–
Mother’s ambition,
my sacrifice.

I always knew
that she was the one–
everything they look for–
that hair, those eyes,
the tiny foot.

Mine healed badly.
I shall always hobble.

No one ever told me
what was required
for balance,
what was required
for love.


Can you guess the tales?


Mile high glass mountain,
enthroned on the peak
the jeering Muse in her Unattainable Princess mode.
She is eating a melon, spitting out the seeds.

Basaltic monolith set down by an alien god
in the middle of the narrow way
between the abyss and the infinite seething swamp

Fierce dark angel with a sword thin as a laser
darting to and fro, to and fro,
severing all connections
the strands of the web
synapses in my brain
sinews in my hand

Little wooden cubes
painted with apples, balls, clowns,
letters upper and lower case

An old one, published in The Kept Writer, July, 2002


My touch turned your flesh to gold,
I traded you to the beast for a stolen thing.
I turned my back while your life unwound,
seized you and carried you
to the darkness underground
where at last you learned to sing.

I took all the beauty you could find.
I gave you everything you need.
I made you sleep,  I made you bleed.
You shattered my mirror.
There are no cobwebs in the sky.
A path of crumbs will never lead you home.

I split open the wolf,
found your shoe and broke the wall.
I gazed at you through greening leaves.
For you I cut the heart from the doe.
I went down in the deep brown water,
to bring back your golden ball.

My tree bears silver apples.
My baby patters in piles of golden straw.
I carried the fire-filled skull.
I hung alone above the abyss.
My castle is open and filled with light.
I made a way to the center of the night.


He didn’t succumb
to Sleeping Beauty,
that languisher awaiting awakening.
Or to Cinderella–
self-righteousness waiting to happen–
but of course, since it was his business,
she didn’t tell him that.

She did tell him
that he would likely not
enjoy the kind of mother-in-law
who’d imprison her daughter in a rock
or sell her for a salad.

When he left on his quest,
like all good mothers,
she held her breath.
For years.

She worried
about trees grown from goat guts,
lurking dragons, glass mountains;
she had nightmares
about the secret names of dwarves
and stupid princesses with sensitive skin.

But he returned with a woman
who had slipped in between the pages,
who could read between the lines.
For a dowry she brought big feet and inky fingers,
songs about birds, stories about rabbits,
a laugh that could shatter stone.