Wednesday, January 31, 2018


I spent that whole night dreaming of a painting --
so certain I could capture that particular shade of blue,
the dust of white revealing
the sharp dark curls beneath,
the bar of red, the thin black lines,
the wash of lime to brighten up that corner --
but woke to find the paint was uncooperative:
too thick, too thin, too blue, too green,
too fraught with brushmarks --
I could not smooth them out.

And so, again, I turned away.
Three more unfinished canvases,
their silent accusations leaning
against my heartless easel.
You've been away so long, they chide --
what made you think you could achieve
a union without foreplay?

Art can never be a one-night stand, I'm learning:
it requires concentration, and commitment;
a willingness to make time when there's none,
to cultivate relationship, not just with canvas and with paint,
but with the spirit that guides the brush
and colors all your thoughts until
you glide as one with confidence and grace
onto the canvas or the page
to dance in that sweet rhythmic blend
that only lovers know.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


I haven't been out walking,
though I've meant to;
haven't lugged the wheelbarrow down the street
and filled it from the gravel pile we share,
then dragged it back and shoveled the stones
into the potholes in our drive;
still haven't ventured out and around the corner,
down the road I've never walked
in the three years we've lived here,
the road that borders our yard,
to see if maybe we could create another entrance.

And I feel it in my bones --
this not-walking --
as a stiffness, as a twinge, both a harbinger of age
and an uncomfortable reminder
that poems don't come from sitting in a chair,
but from exploring;
that walking isn't just for exercise,
but for seeing,
for taking in the contradictions
of a world outside myself;
letting them churn through the blender of my mind
til they pour out onto the page,
the hard stones and the nettles,
the rhodies and the rusted trike,
the frog and the crushed cigarette
jumping from the page in a swirl of smoke
into your eyes;
amethysts, adding color to your day.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Prussian Blue

I am pondering my attraction to Prussian Blue:
the way it blends with other colors
to add depth;
how strong, yet understated,
it is on its own;
how, no matter how many other blues
I find myself applying,
this one is the blue to which
I always return...
 I think it may be the color
of my soul.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

On a day without heat

One day without heat,
only mildly cold,
and a convenient place to go to get warm
without ever going outside --
not exactly Armageddon.
And yet -- the discomfort still reminds us
of how weak we are,
of how much worse it could be.

But oddly enough, what made it hardest
was our expectation of its imminent end,
the broken promise of a restoration time;
the assumption that we could wait it out
without taking the precautions we'd take
if we knew the deprivation was going to last...

and what does that tell us about the long term effect
of a systematic lowering of expectations?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I am the clay

I am the clay in the potter's hands
spinning on the wheel in search of center;
pressed in and lifted up,
pressed out, or slumping down to rise again,
now thick, now thin and being shaped
into a vessel, hoping to be strong
enough that I'll contain whatever it is
that I was born to carry;
that I won't break in the firing,
or be dropped once hardened,
my destiny unfulfilled.

Perhaps at least the glazing
on my fragments will be bright enough
that I'll be set into a path
to guide the way for others...

Breathe in, breathe out, create, consume, destroy

I am the shore
who breathes beneath the waves:
breathe in, the water back into itself,
inhale the morning air, its temperature,
its harbingers of storm, or calm, to come;
breathe out, the water tumbles to the shore,
exhale to lift the seagull's wings
and set the dune grass waving.

I am the couple watching
on a blanket by the shore;
she inhales, breathing in his scent,
his moods, the story of the week that's passed;
he exhales, breathing out decisions,
actions; driving ideas home.

I am the book,
face up, and open on the blanket.
Read me: inhale,  breathe in the words
that elevate the seagull's wings
and flutter in the salt sea spray,
and write: breathe out what you have learned;
set the words, the echoes of events, upon the page.
Bind them into truth, and set them on
the altar of understanding,
a sacrifice of love to be shared
with all who yearn to
and be the sea,
now still,
no breath to mar its surface,
calmly mirroring the gulls, the grass,
the blanket, and the one who sleeps,
his arm above his eyes to shield the light;
the one who weeps on a nearby log,
adding her own salt spray to the shore below,
the book, now closed, its cover damp
and blistering in the sun.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Who is this child?

Asked to share "just one fun fact" about myself, I balk:
so many facts, so different from each other,
and each seems to put me in a box.
Why does that matter so much?
What is it about assumptions
that I don't want folks to make,
and what is it that I fear?
Am I afraid they'll write me off,
or that they won't take me seriously?
And why would I want to find something in common
with every person in the room?
Who is this child, so desperate to please?
And who is this child so desperate to please?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Log cabin quilt, unraveled

I passed those evenings, while you were off with her,
making a log cabin quilt,
the most complicated I had ever attempted;
cutting hundreds of inch-wide strips of brown and cream fabric
with my brand-new orange rotary blade
on the rickety trestle table I inherited from Nanny K.

The central square of each block -- one inch by one inch --
was cut from a shirt I'd found at a rummage sale,
and contained the image of a duck, intended to be a symbol
of a friendship and a collection that we shared
(of wooden duck heads, given us each time I came to listen
to your band; a collection we divided up at the time of our divorce --
the ones I got still grace my fireplace mantle).

It took an hour, as I recall, to build each intricate block,
and since I needed 36, I count a minimum of 12 evenings,
seated at the sewing machine, guiding the thin strips through,
occasionally dampening them with tears,
and wondering how much longer it would take
to finish the quilt; for you to tire of her and return to me --
or if you ever would...

I remember, when they were completed,
laying the quilt blocks out on the dark brown rug
and trying all the possible combinations
of those dark and light diagonals,
hoping to find a pattern that might bind us back together,
until one night I fell asleep and dreamed up the arrangement
I'd finally use.

But it was the curtains I made to match
once the quilt had been completed --
cream flowered, with a thin brown stripe
of leftover cloth that I sewed on, three inches from the bottom --
that proved the unraveling of the fabric of our marriage.
As I sat at my sewing machine one Saturday afternoon,
stitching on that stripe,
the phone rang, and you answered it downstairs.
I heard your voice take on that tone,
that loving tone you only used with her,
and my foot slipped off the pedal as I listened, thinking,
"How long, O Lord, how long must I go on?"
when I heard another voice, not yours, or hers, or mine,
fill the room -- or was it just filling my head?
I'm not quite certain, but it was real, and very clear, and said,
"You can go now."
It was all I needed to hear.

I switched off my ancient Singer, slid the material to one side,
and walked downstairs to confront you in the kitchen.
You took one look, and said, "I have to go," into the phone,
hung up, and snarled, "I suppose you want a divorce."
It's odd -- we'd never spoken that word; had never even
discussed a separation. I'm assuming
that the power of those words I'd heard was shining in my eyes,
but what I know for sure is that I finally said yes --
not just to your question, but to myself, to my right
to joy, to respect, and to love.

Last year I gave the orange rotary blade
to the daughter who was conceived under that quilt,
with the man who is my husband now, some thirty years ago.
She who, without my teaching her, became a quilter, too.
The quilt itself, now badly frayed,
lies in a box in the closet of the room where she grew up,
in the log cabin where her father and I now live.
The ducks at the centers of all those squares
have faded, almost beyond recognition,
just as the features in your face now seem to have grown dim
( I noticed that the other night, when we went to hear you play --
first time I've heard your sax in 35 years --)
a gradual erosion, a loss of plasticity
driven by age, and by the disease
that I suspect I'm not supposed to know you have.

But that voice I heard still resonates,
like the overtones in your saxophone,
an ever present memory of the first time I was given the courage
to say the yes to myself that would subsequently mean
I'd always have the courage to say no.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

When my work is not my own

It's not a thinking up, she wrote --
It's more a getting down,
a taking of dictation.

Ah, yes, that's it, I think,
and wonder if you'll ever understand;
if instead of seeing the holiness
of this approach,
you will assume that I'm some idiot savant,
a Mozart to your Salieri:
awkward, too loud, never quite the thing --
and yet the music somehow tumbles through me,
an insult to the wise and stylish world in which we live.

And yet -- I, too, within myself,
must daily reconcile the intellectual and the child,
as every artist asks herself -- how much of this is me, and mine,
and how much is simply grace,
flowing through onto the canvas or the page?
I have to assume the parts that work
could never be my own, but just
some happy accident, in which I briefly served as vehicle
for someone else's vision.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


In assuming I may never be a grandmother,
I cannot help but think of my own --
the Swedish one, with her black flowered dresses,
hats pinned on, and her sturdy black shoes,
the long gray hair with its silky braids,
atop her head, until she took them down to sleep,
the pale pink of her woolen underwear,
so essential in her chill Hoboken apartment,
four floors up, the smell of the stairs,
and the fractal curve of the banisters
as I looked down from the top.

The bright blue of her Maalox bottle,
and the distant sounds from the harbor we could see
when we stepped through her kitchen window
onto the roof where she hung their washed clothes out to dry.
The hourglass pot in which she brewed her coffee,
the roar of the stove when she opened the door
to throw in more slabs of wood,
the gleam in my grandfather's turquoise eyes
as he lifted a knife full of peas to his mouth,
knowing she would object.
The shelves of books by the window,
in the living room of the apartment,
and the daybed where I slept until
the rumble of the garbage trucks would wake me...

And the Southern one, with her short squat body,
her short squat face and heart, and her bitter drawl;
her eerie fascination with sex, and with cancer,
stark contrast to her garden with its pansies,
blue hydrangeas, magnolias and gardenias.
Her custard, and her ham, and the peas, always cooked til they were gray.
The hard raspberry candies with their soft centers,
kept in a glass dish on her glass topped coffee table
with its treasures on display beneath the glass.
The green swing on the porch,
my mother's doll with her fabric body,
china head and arms, and her wicker carriage...

My children have no memories like these --
I married late (the second time, when I had them)
and both their grandmothers soon had passed away.
And I'll probably be gone before their own children --
if they have them --are ever born.
I wonder if they'll miss me...

Monday, January 22, 2018

The scent of not-belonging

The scent of not-belonging fills my nostrils yet again
as I contemplate a visit to that place I don't fit in.
It's been a while; I've grown and changed,
developed competencies that fuel
a sense of completion,
and still this invitation comes
and the child within me quails at the thought.

One thing for sure: I will not dress
as other than myself this time;
and comfort won't be sacrificed for style.
I am the one whose gifts shine through,
and will honor that uniqueness with a smile.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Holy communion

I remember a time,
riding a subway in New York
after visiting a home for unwed mothers
when all the narrow ads they post in that space above the windows of the train
seemed to be selling sex,
or at least using it to sell --
cars, jewelry, clothes, insurance,
everything stank of sex, and I thought --
what choice did those young women have?

And as I stared, there came into my brain
the ancient words of my old red prayerbook --
not Rite II, but Rite I --
"We are not worthy so much
as to gather up the crumbs under thy table,"
and then,
"Christ have mercy upon us,"
and somehow all of it -- the memory,
the ads, the old black woman
with her heavy sack and swollen ankles,
the angry thin young men in their hoodies,
pacing up and down,
the salesman in his shiny suit
with the pants a bit too short,
the young girls cracking gum and giggling --
everything, and everyone I saw
glowed with a kind of connecting light,
as if they all wore evanescent robes,
and sang in some celestial choir,
but then, of course, the iron wheels squealed,
the lights inside the car blinked on and off,
and we shuddered to a stop inside
some grimy white-tiled cave,
and half my choristers left the train,
still shimmering in the aftermath
of that brief Holy Communion.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A gradual subsiding

I am watching now, my brain, as it ages,
and noticing how some days
it seems to want to kick back
and take in the wholeness of things; to revel in the play of light,
the scent of green,
the texture of the paint;
while on other days it seems to grow crisp,
arranging, organizing, rejoicing
in the thrill of accomplishment,
attuned to every detail as a function of the task.

But always, in a corner,
hangs a blanket with a mind of its own.
And certain topics -- computational,
political, mathematical --
always seem to want to hide behind it.
And I'm seeing now,
as I examine the blanket more closely --
its dull pink woolen scrape against my skin --
that I've always assumed (or excused) it
as an aspect of my gender.

So now that we seem to have
so much more flexibility in that area,
I wonder if the blanket was imposed or innate.
I've just assumed it was intelligence
that carried me away from the patterns
of behavior assigned to my gender,
past the proscribed femininity of my sex;
that the part of me that questions
and is curious was male,
and the placid imprecise was the female.
But now, as I stare at the face in the mirror,
that grows more placid and imprecise --
and yet less feminine -- with age,
I have to ask: must losing our edge always imply
some descent into dullness? Is it really a loss?
Or might it be considered
a gradual and grace-filled subsiding
of the boundaries, impediments to wholeness and connection?

Friday, January 19, 2018

What losses we endure and anticipate...

Looking at your poem,
enumerating lives you'd known and lost,
I thought I'd write one, too.
I didn't think I had quite so many goodbyes to recount,
til I began to write them down.

Early on, there was Barbara,
and my grandparents, whom I barely remember,
and much later, Jeannie, from The Witness --
the first of the brains to be consumed from within --
and then that awful year,
with Martha on her birthday,
then Eston, and your mom -- two more brains, consumed --
and then my mom, and so my dad remarried,
and then died... that was hard.
There was Lou, of course, and Jon -- two more brains,
also consumed...

And then there were the children,
so very many children:
the dentist's son, who skied into a tree,
and his best friend, who later shot himself beside that grave.
Dean's son, and Garth, of course,
with all the losses that entailed;
Anne's daughter, from an overdose of drugs,
and Katie, beautiful Katie, her whole body
under attack, then lost at 12,
which set me on this path that I still follow...

And then, of course, your Dad,
who seemed to leave behind
much more than he took with him.

And there are the local ones --
Chloe's father, and then Mac,
Denise's husband, and then Frank --
but somehow those don't have quite the same impact.
Does that mean I'm growing jaded?

I don't think so, because I can feel myself
waiting for another shoe to drop.
Will it be yours? That tumor they removed
from your brain was so enormous,
that I'm awash in the memory
of all those other brains consumed,
but I'm trying to stay optimistic for your sake:
I so want all those new therapies to work.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Back to the roots

We who teach still have so much to learn.
The more confident I grow,
the likelier I am to make mistakes,
because I begin to think that I can just skip over,
overlook the simple things,
the little things that even after all the time I've spent
still function as the root that grounds our being.

It humbles me, this never-ending return to the comma,
and the verb. My gratitude to my persistent 5th grade teacher
for all that time spent writing at the blackboard,
diagramming sentences; for learning yet again
that every action needs its clarity:
its subject, and its object (if it's transitive,
and so many actions are)
and that all antecedents must be clear and not confusing;
that facts have a power all their own...

And all of this translates into clear responsibilities in life
which, when lost or abandoned, could lead, in fact,
to chaos -- even death.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


You, who call yourselves the faithful,
finding a home in the uninhabitable sky,
talk of unity, of wholeness, and relatedness,
seeking an end to dichotomies and disasporas,
keeping your sights turned up and out
so as to miss the brokenness and failure
that surrounds us closer in.

You know the air you breathe
has been inside my lungs, do you not?
You are not immune to me.
You'd see that in my eyes if you didn't look away;
you'd have tripped over my cane if you hadn't looked down
as you passed by.

Listen. My pain is a script
that's been written on your bones as well as mine.
How can you not limp with me,
echoing my scented approach
to this ragged tent that I've strung up
below the overpass?
Can you not see how my blue tarp ripples
in the wind as you drive by?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Physics or psychology?

The physicist is telling me that it's a law:
a substance can only be affected
by what it can produce.
And so of course I'm wondering
if that might somehow be tied
to that psychological phenomenon I see so often,
in myself, and in others -- you know the one --
where the behaviors you find troublesome in others
are so often behaviors that you don't see in yourself
(though others see them, and are equally troubled);
the shadow that is cast beyond the curtain of unknowing.
the things that we assume motivate others
are so often the very things that motivate ourselves...

So then I have to ask:
would we even be affected by choices others make,
or things others say,
if we'd never thought of doing or saying them ourselves?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Not mine

Those moments when you know you've caught the wave;
when the poem, or the painting, or the play
surges through you with a pounding force
to thunder onto the page, or onto the canvas
with a power and a grace that you'd never have
the hubris to call your own.

And always after, you look on it
and stare in stupefaction:
That was mine? How did that happen?
And the rest of life's spent seeking
for the chance to have that happen yet again.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Two Woman Play

I am trying to write a play
in which two women talk;
some conversation which does not involve a man.
It turns out to be harder than it sounds. I mean --
you don't want them just talking about their kids --
that's just a box --
and the mother/daughter theme's been overdone.

I talk to women friends all the time,
and we almost never mention men.
So why is this so challenging, you ask --
and I've no answer yet. I'm pondering
(as women do) the possibilities.

Is it because a play needs some tension?
Some crisis to resolve, a learning to unfold,
an insight to reveal, and the things I contemplate
are just too personal?

Or maybe it's because I ask too much of myself:
to create a situation that has not been explored before,
and yet could be totally relatable?
Something I know and have experienced,
so I don't need to research it
and my characters can truly speak as they feel...

And why is that so hard to find, you ask?
Are women's lives predictable?
And if that's true, then must that mean
there's nothing to be learned in these familiar situations?
Or is it just that men will always intrude?
Or might it be that women (at least in my experience)
get caught up in their roles, and the words that they then utter
are so circumscribed by societal expectations
that they rarely speak their truth?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

This voluntary exile

This voluntary exile from my own soft bed,
your loving arms, my studio, my favorite chair --
I know you wonder why each year I choose it.
I say, of course, that it's a chance to be fed
without having to plan, to shop, or cook.

But really it's a date, a conscious engagement
with that part of me that still longs to believe --
as I once did --
that everything has purpose;
that if I listen I will learn;
that incantations of familiar words --
Pity the afflicted, shield the joyous --
will somehow ease the burdens
of the friends whose hearts I carry with me
in these bags, and in my heart.

It's a gentle admonition to return to the earth,
to wander among the trees
and stare out at the mountains;
to be refreshed by the rain or snow,
and fueled to return to you
reinvigorated; fed; enriched by the quiet, and the dark.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I'm not sad

It's almost back to normal now, this house--
the table and its driftwood lamp
back in the corner where the Christmas tree once stood,
The wooden heron backon the wall,
the creche on the dining room table,
waiting to return to its box,
the thick orange cord which fed the lights on the tree
sits waiting by the door to the garage.

The living room is dark now,
when I wake up in the morning;
no colored lights invite me to the chair where I now sit.
The couches echo with the laughter of invading millennials --
the fan blades overhead still spin a bit
with their giddy anticipation,
powered by the hopes and dreams of the young.

Bing Crosby's been returned to his square plastic shell
and the Cambridge Singers classical falsetto --
music and musicians destined never to grow old --
are tucked back on the shelf
below the aging CD player.

In the silence, the fish tank gurgles
and the nameless fish our kids brought home
so many years ago still swims in his small tank
as I sit in my rocker
and remember.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Let it be

Let the rain sound its delicate timpani
on the skylights in my living room.
Let the rattle of the register remind me
that the heat is on, and I'll be warm
despite the cold outside.
Let the schoolbus drivers, stopping in the dark
for every child who stands dripping by a mailbox,
find their way,
and let the mothers return to quiet houses
and warm a cup of coffee before tackling
the chores of the day.
Let the commuters board the ferry
with their papers and their cups
and their intentions for a more productive day.
In the quiet, and the dark,
let the days begin to lengthen.
Let the rhododendrons waken,
and their buds begin to fatten.
And let the dogwood in my garden
rejoice in her new surroundings;
let her roots spread and deepen
and her branches stretch and yawn
with delight at the ferns
who worship at her feet,
unfurling tiny fingers
in hopes that they might catch her silver petals when they fall.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

All those black dresses

I didn't watch the Golden Globes this year --
I'd already promised I'd go somewhere else
before I realized what it meant I would be missing,
and, much as I'd have preferred
to spend the evening in my comfy chair
watching all those big black dresses
and hearing all their speeches
(and isn't that the best of both our worlds --
Barbie Doll dresses and radical feminism?)
I'd promised,
so I didn't.

But now, in the aftermath,
I'm remembering my own years in the theater:
the acting teacher at the high school
(now deceased but still revered)
who always slept with his prettiest students;
the men who grabbed my ass or copped a feel;
the face of the woman, relentlessly pursued
by the fat rich actor who (unbeknownst to us)
had filed for divorce;
the tumbling man with his bold tattoos
who refused to wear any pants beneath his kilt;
the young girls, staring intently into the mirror,
applying lipstick and rouge to lips and cheeks
that needed neither;
the old woman who refused to let me ever take her picture,
because "no-one can take a good picture
of THIS ugly face."

And the lights are everywhere -- the footlights, and the spots,
the ones around our mirrors,
and the blue light that keeps us from tripping
over furniture backstage --
and each one throws a shadow; that's where the dark things happen.

Everywhere we looked
there were couples being formed
and dissolving; eyes assessing the potential
for a play-long assignation;
the eyebrow raised,
the sly looks, and the tears,
the hope and disappointment and despair
all thrown into relief.

Standing on the sidewalk beneath the solitary bulb
that casts its circular illumination
below the stage door,
the tailor slouches, smoking,
while in the nearby shadows
the ass removes his mask to steal a kiss
from a reluctant fairy queen.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The end, that nourishes the beginning

You brought me flowers just before Christmas:
so thoughtful -- all green and red and white,
though mostly green,
which is why they're still glaring at me
from my kitchen island -- the greens -- salal,
and some other bits I can't identify --
are still so healthy
we barely notice the reds (now black)
or the whites (which droop)
and their desperate cries --
Throw me in the trash!
I can't be seen like this!
No makeup in the world can repair
the ravages to this face!

Looking at them's a bit
like looking in the mirror --
the foliage is still there --
the hair, the brows, the lashes pale as always --
but the bloom of youth is gone,
replaced (I like to think)
by something that speaks less about appearance
and more about endurance, and about resourcefulness:
what's fragile has been peeled away,
sloughed off, and what remains
is some unwitherable essence,
aware of its inevitable end and yet
determined to continue, to nourish what comes next.

It watches as the ornaments and lights
are slowly stripped from the brittle Christmas tree;
as the stockings with their family names
are tucked into their box,
knowing all the while that the wreath will be left hanging
on the front door for the tiny birds
that come back every year to build their nest
in that soft curve above the bow.

Monday, January 8, 2018

A voice of my own

Her voice was lovely --
(of course; I knew it would be,
you would settle for nothing less)
and her energy warmed the stage,
lifting all of us up,
even as the corners of your mouth kept turning down.
So serious you are now,
and so sober, after all the laughs we shared.
I felt guilty for the joy my life is now,
and spoke the truth when I told her
I had always longed to sing but had no voice --
just not for that,
and not for you, it seems --
I do sing, but not for my supper.

Just last month I sang for a dogwood tree.
She came to me all bright with berries and scarlet leaves
and spread her coat upon my lawn,
and now stands naked, arms outstretched,
an invitation to sing again,
to walk her plush red carpet and stand beside her;
to launch a chorus of hallelujahs,
gratitude to all who brought us here, and with a flourish
she'll clap her thin brown hands like some amateur magician,
showering us both with her pale white blossoms.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


We'll be riding the ferry again tonight,
going to hear my ex-husband's third wife sing.
and so, of course, my dreams last night
were haunted by the past.
This aging thing's so curious --
the memories we keep,
and the ones that we let go --
they pass each other on the street,
and raise an eyebrow in acknowledgement:
what's remembered has so little, they know,
to do with what's important, or life-changing --
the really big ones lurk behind the trees
as the lesser ones drive by, holding out their hands in hope
that snow, or fog, or falling leaves, or happiness will bury them forever.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Gypsy Moths

I'm remembering the year
when all our community
was reading Cannery Row,
and our library held a short story contest --
to write a tale in Steinbeck's style --
and my story -- about my aging neighbor, Eleanor --
won the award for  "Most Steinbeckian."

I remember also how disappointed I felt
when the library failed to announce the winners,
on their website, or in the local paper --
I so needed this new community of ours
to know I could be gifted...

So it's good, now,
in this year of ordinariness,
to remember, instead of the award and the disappointment,
the subject of my story: Eleanor,
and how she taught me about the moonsnail eggs;
that the annual infusion of sugar ants
could be halted with Lemon Pledge;
that the gypsy moths devouring our beach roses
would never get their wings
if I blasted them with Formula 409;
and finally,
that even if you were determined
to age gracefully alone,
the time would come when a fall in the night
might leave you shivering on a cold tile floor for hours
until a well-meaning neighbor arrived
with your daily gift of oreos,
and hearing no answer, opened your door
to find you naked, lying in your own puddle of pee,
and called the EMT's, whose clumsy attempts
to re-hydrate you caused a heart attack.

Less than a week later she was gone, my intrepid neighbor,
dying in her hospital bed while her children stood there arguing --
two of them trying to save her soul
by forcing her to accept Jesus;
the other two demanding that they let her rest in peace.

All my life a caterpillar,
struggling to grow her wings.
What Formula is this, its mortal chemistry
crafted in my own imaginings,
could leave me struggling for breath among the roses,
my protective chrysalis dissolving, unfulfilled?

Friday, January 5, 2018

To-Do List

A host of minor duties crowd around,
pulling at my skirts like restless children
crying out for attention.
Sadly, the quiet ones, the simple ones,
often go unnoticed --
even though each has its own importance --
until, days later, I remember --
Oh, yes, that one -- and feel guilty,
as if I'd driven off from school
and left a child behind.

All these shoulds we carry on our shoulders,
giving them bouncy rides
to make up for forgetfulness,
grow heavy. I am sinking under their weight,
like the old woman with her groceries
who struggles up the hill to her apartment
looking ahead without the thrill of anticipation
to another night where her tired knobby fingers
open yet another can of soup
to pour its contents into a rumpled saucepan
which she places on a hotplate,
hoping she'll remember to turn it off
before the contents burn, and ruin another pan,
meanwhile wishing, secretly,
that she could just fall asleep
and let the whole place burn down to the ground,
taking her with it:
taking her sore hands, her tired back,
her unpredictable bladder,
her loneliness,
her memories,
the pictures of the children
she never sees.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Car Blues

I bought a new car yesterday –
First time in 14 years –
(my old car leaks and smells of mold, and dead mice)
and in spite of all that,
the buyer’s remorse is crippling.

Awake and trembling at 3 am,
I reassure myself by saying,
“Look at how much juice there is in this.”

Because, hey – if I listen hard,
I hear my mother’s voice
When I objected to the clothes she chose for me,
Proclaiming, “you always had to have things your way.”

My husband took me out for dinner after,
To celebrate this latest acquisition –
The result of almost a year of shopping,
Countless test drives, and 3 hours of waiting
For the dealer to gather up all the paperwork –
But I am so distraught I can barely eat,
And I can’t drink cuz I have to drive,
So we box up my Chinese chicken salad
(the only meal I could even contemplate)
and head for home.

The heater, which I need
Because it’s 33 degrees outside,
Gives off relentless burning fumes
(I gather this is normal, but it’s choking me,
and I can’t detect, beneath the smoke,
that delicious new car smell)
and all the way home I play with the seat adjustments,
trying to achieve the comfort I thought I felt
when I first tried this model,
trying to ignore the voice that’s trying to be heard –
“I don’t think this seat’s going to work for you.
You knew it was a problem right away,
From the moment you first drove what’s supposed to be
Your exciting brand new car.
I’ve been poking you for hours –
Why didn’t you speak up?”

… But what about the shoulds? I ask –
It took so long to get here,
we've already made two trips,
the seat worked great in the other one,
And I did a year of research – I KNOW this is the right car.
And there’s my mother’s voice again:
“You should have bought the one you sat in that worked.
But NO, you HAD to have this color, didn’t you.
Well, you deserve to be uncomfortable
For the NEXT 14 years.”

I dish out a bowl of chocolate ice cream
to soothe the voices down
And now I’m waiting for the sun to rise
So I can take a picture
And send it to my girls.
It’s such a pretty shade of blue…

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Beginnings: An Ordinary Year

Knowing I was hoping to get a better creative balance in my life, a dear friend gave me a journal and a book of poetry for Christmas -- A Field Guide to the Heavens, by Frank Gaspar. The poems have an ordinariness to them that I find particularly appealing, and since I've begun reading one a day as part of my morning meditation practice, I'm finding I'm writing poems of my own in response.

So I thought I'd publish them here, and attempt to keep going throughout the year.

Herewith, the first poem of an ordinary year:

Hard to sit

I find it hard to sit these days:
My thoughts tumble in like puppies,
lively, curious, plump with desire
and hungry for recognition,
flattening the thin green blades of wisdom
as they clamber over one another,
reveling in their familiar closeness,
their fuzzy warmth,
the proximity of nourishment to feed their wiggly souls...

My breasts ache with the longing to feed them.
Some other darker vision wishes
the flattened blades would rise again and score them,
so they'd run away,
and quiet might return.