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.







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.

words: ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words






ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words


After the scanty rainfall yesterday (or was it the day before?), I planted beans. Six rows of black beans. I crawled along on my hands and knees to set them in the furrows and cover them with soil. As I patted the soil in place, I left my handprints to show that I’d been there.


On our morning walk, the dog and I noticed a red-tailed hawk watching us from a power line. As we approached, she took flight and landed in a dead elm tree beside the newly cut hayfield on the other side of the road.


Most days, I walk a bit farther than four miles. Today I was cold and wanted to get home to start the laundry. When the washing is all in the machine, perhaps I’ll vacuum the rug. That seems about all I can manage these days:  walks and housework.


Tomorrow—no—the next day—tomorrow is Tuesday—my husband and I will sit in my study and wait for the computer tingle that signals our son’s weekly call. It will be good to see the children. The three-year old tries to touch us through the screen. She has skin like a bisque doll, and enormous blue eyes. There are so many things she will never have to know.



It’s what happens when you see it,

when you know it’s all free as God.


One day it’s all duty,

but the rope breaks,

or a bell rings far away.

You see someone else

doing the thing you could not do

and all the stars come out  

and your closet door 

blows open wide.


And now what do you expect?

Nothing.  Nothing, at last.

Perhaps sunrise.

When you drop a cup, it will fall.

You will not glance off Earth,

go careening into the dark.

But the rest, not a thing:

consistency least of all.


Even what you will do tomorrow.

Sunrise, yes, yes,

but the color of the clouds,

the way the wind moves which new leaf,

where the sparrow sings,

the pattern of the towhee’s scratch.

What treasure will disclose.

How many orange tulips,

and  asparagus from each deep root.




published in Ruah, 2005



If the door has blown closed, open it.

You do not need a key.

Feed the birds.

There is seed in the blue jar.


Pick the apples, eat the cherries.

Make wine from the grapes.

Do not eat the yellow pears

for they are bitter.


The garden is full

of deep green weeds.

Cook them in oil.

They will make you strong.


When dew shines on the leaves

go out and wet your feet.

The copper basin holds rainwater

to wash your hair.


Milk the goats

at sunrise and sunset.

Drink what you like

and make the cheese.


The dogs will kiss

you awake.

The cats will sing

you to sleep.


They will tell you

what they wish to eat.

They will tell you

what to dream.


At midnight,

the owls will come.

The great gray owl

will speak. Listen.

April prompt #15: A REWRITE

April prompt #15

Write a poem that doesn’t make any sense (non-sequitors, nonsense, stream of consciousness)

then, rewrite the poem to make sense of it.

Kari’s #2


Thanks a bunch, Kari.  Just what I need —to focus

on the mess in my head. Grandson with croup,

no birthday party tomorrow, postponed.

Find somebody who can use the wait do

I want to spread manure today and why

is he crabby already I know it’s

not anything and I’m almost out of

birdseed but the bears and the sun is shinging

just keep the fingers moving on the keyboard

looking out the window at the light a

good day out there but i should edge the flower

beds and have to write this poem before I

do aything but it’s okay cause it’s

cold outside and I’d reather work in the

sunlight why does it make me so mad to

read other people’s arguments on face-

book and why do I even bother I

wanted to see that opera but it wans’t

meant to be and now I can rescheudle

that coffee so that’s a good thing I ought

to go up to rt.7 and check out the

restaurant but I don’t want to do that

today because i need to get my hadns

int the dirk why is my keyboard doing t

his weire thing with ys and spaces probably

because I rest my hands too low and they hti

the and anyway I need to get a

drink of water or maybe acoffee

but it’s too early I’ve run out of stream.

is my brain settling in? who knows.

Does it ever?





Sunshine, no wind. Goldfinches

coming to finish the last of the seed.


Time to put my fingers down into the dirt,

time to clear out the debris of winter,


sticks and dead leaves, all the scattered

hulls of things. I will have earth


under my nails again, for my peace.

Last year, this day, I had no peace. My heart


ached with the grandchild aching

to be born, his mother laboring.


Waiting with my son at the lip

of change. It happened.


It was well. And through

the space of loving, I am free.



~for my sister, since these are mostly her words


This week I am watching the goldfinches closely

to see if they notice that the lettuces have gone to seed.

Remember that article on “lettuce birds”?


No bears for a week–and we all know,

not seeing bears is best for the bears.

The whole yard is play-acting


as if Summer is all gone.

The flower heads are hanging low and scruffy.

We are really dry here, so


some of the ground is like hardpan–

too much heat and not enough rain.

The flowers that have thrived are portulaca,


cleome and surprisingly,

sweet peas.

I have decided that some misspellings


are new words emerging from latent

and perhaps, askew genius.

I have a keen interest in politics,


but our country is so polarized that it is insane.

Somedays I am so scared…

God help us  (and he will, by and by).


I wrote this five years ago, just before my mother died.





My mother keeps falling down;

I can’t find my littlest flashlight.


The gray cat is suddenly dead;

I have poison parsnip burns.


My mother doesn’t always know where she is;

the moon in its first quarter is tangled in the oak.


We’re a month from the Equinox and

the low battery light on my mouse blinks red.


My mother doesn’t want to see the doctor.

When I was making supper, I burned the rice.


Weeds have spread through the garden bed;

do I still believe in god?


My mother didn’t recognize me this morning;

I took another photo of the setting sun.


Mice are picking at the ripening tomatoes and

Jupiter burns through the sky before dawn.

The Last Prompt of April: ALCHEMIST’S GARDEN

April Prompt the Last

Ray’s #5: a tour of the alchemist’s garden




Immortality, they call it,

silver against green in spring,

again when the maples turn.


All gold is contained

here:  Mary’s gold.

So easy.


Do you understand

the bitter of parsley?

The twinge of sage?


These nettles

draw their power

from the bottom of the sea.


In the dark soil

beneath this tomato vine

the cave of a tiny dragon.


Feed stones to the roses.

Blood to the greens.

Shells and bones to everyone.


Each bean pod,

each pea pod–

a nest of homunculi.


Every spoonful of soil

a constellation

of worlds.


Carrots gather

underground. That’s where

the light congeals.