Winter Prompt #28: Finding Toys on the Street

FINDING TOYS ON THE STREET

Winter Prompt # 28 

He’s on the second shelf between

the first doll I made and the bricks

I use as bookends. I suppose

he once was plush with brown velvet

paws. I never knew him plush.

One amber eye is nearly blinded

with the straggle. His joints

are still good. Maybe his mouth

and nose were embroidered

by Mother, who found him

in a trash can in front of Veterans’ Row

when she was pregnant with me

and had no money for toys.

She was learning how to live

with a husband with PTSD,

the farm boy she married—

and Mother all the way from Cleveland—

waking screaming with flashbacks

of the crashing planes, the burning

friends. Later the bear—I named

him Pooh—taught me

about steadfastness and make-believe.

About comfort and the importance

of a second chance.

Winter Prompt #14: Climb Something

CLIMB SOMETHING

Winter Prompt #14

(for Janice)

Katahdin, behind my husband and our fifteen-year old son,

leapers both. Up from the pleasant green, the sunshine,

up above the treeline, up to the gravel steeps.

The knife edge.

(Just close your eyes and take my hand.)

The boulders.

Thirty miles of boulders, or was it one hundred miles?

John and Henry leaped from man-sized rock

to man-sized rock while I picked my way around

or crept up and over like a semi-torporous lizard.

Two goats and a lizard climb Katahdin.

The summit was in cloud.

There was no “view,” only miles and miles of cairns

marking the trail, or perhaps the hundreds of lizards’ graves.

Winter Prompts #4: Another Cup of Coffee

ANOTHER CUP OF COFFEE

Winter Prompt #4

 

But this is my first—unless you count all

the cups I’ve had, starting when I was sixteen,

at church camp, tired because I’d been up late

making out with another counselor.

Then almost every morning for the rest

of high school—Dad’s strong stuff—A & P’s Bokar

was it?—made in a cheap percolator.

Then bad college dining hall coffee, and

during exams, instant made with tap water.

The last cup I had with Tom, in “The Den.”

The first cup I had with John, in “The Den.”

The coffee I made in the Corningware

percolator we got as a wedding gift.

Later, we got  a Melita, because

some cool friends had one. We drank their coffee

while we plotted the revolution that

never came. And then my dear French press.

How many cups in how many coffee

shops with friends, or alone with a notebook?

How many in diners and restaurants?

How many, early mornings, in camp grounds?

So yes. Another one, this morning. Blue mug,

dark roast. The old white cat, my silver pen,

the glass-topped table desk, the brass lamp. . .

Jan. 23, 2018

CLOSETS

CLOSETS

. . . open every closet in the future and evict

all the mind’s ghosts. . .

~Hafiz, trans. Daniel Ladinsky

Some closets are full

of sentimental things that mattered once:

toys and photographs, letters, old poems.

The ghosts tiptoe around the dusty boxes;

their bony toes rattle on the floor.

The ghosts moon over a ragged doll,

caress a tattered book.

Other closets are stuffed with

things of the mind, things of the heart:

things I might have done,

things I might have made,

people I might have loved.

The ghosts shake their powdery heads.

Ah, they whisper, your precious past.,

so sad, so sweet, so—passing.

 

The ghosts are not so easy to evict.

They cajole, they whine,

touch all my soft spots.

They look like my mother,

my dead sister,

the men who came so close.

They say they remember

all the stories I have to tell,

so how can I send them away?

When I look fierce at them,

they weep.

 

You are future ghosts!  I scream,

You are not the past,

you are not even memory, 

but fear of memory and its distortion.

You are not keepsakes, but anticipation of loss.

You are anxieties of times to come, 

you cover my pasts with corruption,

you haunt my futures with regret.

Be gone!

 

The ghosts whimper, they cringe.

I stamp my feet, wave my broom.

They diminish.

They flutter away like ragged moths.

The future becomes nothing but itself

and all my things, nothing but things.

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, parts I & II

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, parts I & II1.

 

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other,

mightily and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Come, Sophia,

encircle us with your long arms,

convict us with your smile.

Teach us to watch the fox

and the owl; show us the terror

of the rabbit and the vole.

Frosted grass blackens

under our heavy feet.

Show us a gentler way.

 

2. O Adonai

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

 

O Come, Lord of might,

Great Lady of the stern face,

punisher of sinners. Come

and seize us by the scruffs,

knock our heads together,

make us sit in hard chairs

on either side of the battered

kitchen table. Set the timer

for five minutes, and when it rings,

make us say “We will love

one another” as if

we mean it.

WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME

WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME

Went to New Orleans,

walked alone in the early morning.

They were opening windows,

washing down the streets.

Are you ready, M’am?

An old man stood on the cobblestones,

beaming in the steaming light.

He held reins in one crinkled hand,

extended the other to me.

His brown horse shook its head, bells rang.

Ready?  For what?

 

Are you ready for a buggy ride?

I had not planned to act like a tourist,

but how could I do otherwise

in this unexpected land, this place I’ve never seen?

The people sitting above the tall red wheels

were talking and laughing together

like people in a painting, or a play.

The driver cocked his head, waiting for my answer.

I asked the cost.

There was no reason to refuse.

 

I placed my damp white hand in his,

my hand with the split lifeline,

the single crack foretelling a single child.

Twenty years ago a sibyl read my palm:

You’ll live long, but two lives, different.

You’re a musician.  And try not to be so stingy.

Yes of course I’m ready, I told him.

Boost me up.

 

You, I’m afraid, would have been

disdainful, cool.  You would not

have approved of me,

sweating in my purple dress,

gawking, singing along,

leaning out behind the horse’s bobbing feathered head

above the spinning wheels

in that impressionistic light.

 

I felt a city dawn that day,

saw men in stiletto heels and black stockings 

prancing down the shining sidewalks,

artists reaching for long moist shadows,

women like statues, painted gold.

The city smelled like fresh coffee,

sour beer, things frying in lard.

On every bright wet corner

were little children, dancing.

 

 

I wrote this a long time ago, in response to the Empty Nest. It ended up being a performance piece.

 

March 24–November 16, 1999;  Jan. 30–April 20, 2001

Quatrain Chapbook:   Sing in me, Muse, Feb. 2005