“After the Argument” published in Southern Humanities Review

After the Argument

Ego-bruise, insult,

nettle, shadow. Dearest one,

does your ardor dim?

Whisper that it’s all

all right. Nuzzle my ear. Rest

your hand on my gun.

“Plie” published in Rosebud Magazine

Plie     (after ten dances choreographed by Martha Graham)

I. Chorale

I danced once, my steps

untrained; I was a poppy

in a field, waving

II. Fragilite

A golden curl framed

in a moment’s candlelight –

the flush on my cheek.

III. Vision of the Apocalypse

Grey skies loomed. The void

insisted. And so we knew

this hold would falter.

IV. Praeludium

I’m telling you now.

Take my advice, be forewarned.

Nothing’s as it seems.

V. Salutation

My dear, my darling,

desperation and delight,

my demise, despair…

VI. Immediate Tragedy

Out of the man’s thigh

the bloody, shattered shank juts,

gnarled at the knee.

VII. Every Soul is a Circus

Pay no attention

to the man in the top hat.

He tempts with treats, hoops…

VII. Salem Shore

All night long she stood.

At first light, his sails unfurled,

ropes cast from the pilings.

IX.  Errand Into the Maze

Dissembler, unroll

your twisting, tangled line. Try

to find your way out.

X. The Eyes of the Goddess

A strand of orchids

in the caves of Ellora –

my supplicant kneels.

Four Poems published in Backbone Mountain Review 2015

After He Leaves 

Right about now, eight months later,

I imagine my ex- at his kitchen table,

listening to the radio in his underwear and socks.

 

A song comes on and he’d like to dance,

to take a turn across the living room, down the hall,

only there’s one to put his arms around,

 

no true love with whom he might lift a glass

or digest the news. No one who could cause

his heart to quicken in that massive chest.

 

Right about now, I imagine him doodling

or filling in the spaces of a crossword puzzle,

filling in the gaps with a woman here and there

 

who will delight him for about as long as it takes

to change the sheets, which he will launder

and hang to dry, flapping from a stretched line.

 

Here at home I roll out the dough for lemon tarts,

season roasted potatoes and rosemary chicken,

grind coffee from Arabica beans in the Cuisinart

 

he bought last November. The gears and blades

growl in sharp precision, the grind spilling

into a plastic cup I wash while listening

 

to the radio without static, a clear signal

to dance to on a starlit night and I will

nestle in fresh sheets, mid-bed, alone.

 

Delray Again 

Ants file up the Banyan tree as the pool boy

hands me a soft, white towel. Down on the ocean

 

striped flags flutter from yachts. Women in gold

jewelry, black bathing suits, glint like waves,

 

white-capped, brilliant. Under the cabana, I work

my puzzles, write a few lines, remember when

 

you were here, too, snoring under the umbrella,

your canvas shoes loafing poolside. A waitress

 

in pink flip-flops asks if I’d like anything

to drink. Her ponytail bobs like hope,

 

up and down, up and down. I order

seltzer with lime, apply more sunscreen,

 

lie a while longer on the canvas lounge,

almost reach for the phone to call you.

 

Piazza

Moonlight creeps through linden leaves,

casts long shadows on sidewalk slab.

 

The last train’s passengers hurry by

(newspapers tucked under their arms),

 

chatting of wine and weekend plans.

Once their goodbyes dissipate,

 

a silence settles in, sweet and lonely.

Under a café table, a cat cleans herself,

 

stretching and licking, certain in the dark,

in its intimate protections.

 

I sit on a wrought iron bench to mull over

the day’s events, nursing a drink

 

and the closed buds of tulips,

the bits of paper littering the grass.

 

Soon enough I’ll climb the steps

to my rented room, turn the iron key

 

in the great brass lock. For now, I coax

a pigeon to coo, to sing to me, tonight.

 

Remorse

I turned my face toward the sun.

Meanwhile, fattened bees hummed

and darted, ferrying treasure.

 

Secrets abounded, the wind lay soft

and someone’s mower grated grass.

I knew not where the day’s long glance

 

would take us, could not lodge

its urgent plea. The dog slept

under the chaise as my shin bones

 

bronzed. As I dozed, I thought

I saw you, again a child, running

through the garden, a dangling hose

 

wrapped around your forearm,

but it was only a scarlet milk snake

at the edge of the trees, hissing.

“The Carp” published in Tar River Poetry 2015

The Carp

Finally a day of cooler weather arrived.

A deep sky, the wind a dry balm on skin.

 

In the deep sills of limestone dormers

I worked to clear away clutter, to take

 

down the things I’d brought, installed –

some books, my knitting, a fan, one lamp –

 

to throw open the winows, to send the breeze

scudding across my desk, my bed, my clutch

 

of blue hydrangeas, three lilies, set in a glass

cube vase. Just as I breathed the sweet, light air

 

mowers in bandanas revved up their gas-fueled

trimmers, that irksome, nasal trill, rasping

 

against the tree-lined quad, otherwise pastoral.

This is how it is, the way of things, flip-sided.

 

I hiked down to the lake to seek the breaking

wave, to watch dragonflies mate, to feel serene

 

in weightless stroking. But then, a carp brushed

along my leg. That scaly touch frightened me,

 

as if it were a dead man’s limb floating up

from murky depths, and yet too firm, not bloated.

 

It nipped at me. A turtle? No. It nipped again.

I struck out for shore, fled that which I feared,

 

that piscine kiss, that lurking foe, kicking,

flailing against its soft and innocent lips.

 

I’d like to say I sat and dripped under lush pines,

chafing of my foolishness, but soon mosquitoes

 

chased me back to screened-in comfort,

to the blaring workmen’s shouts and tools. Alas.

“Hotel Window” published in The Ilanot Review 2015

Hotel Window

A train rumbles in the distance, bearing its load toward southern cities.

As its whistle cries, a fog lifts beyond the river. All night long I watch

 

at the window, a sentinel of the parking lot, a guardian over rooftops

and cars nosed against the curb. Warehouse streetlights keep company,

 

their steady rays small comfort in the dark. Someone slides a receipt

under my door, slaps a newspaper down while freight cars roll along,

 

receding past billboards weathered and torn. These rocking rhythms

lull me to bed. Thick white linens embrace my body’s fatigue.

 

When morning breaks, I’ll head out as well, walk into frosted air,

my breath laced with ice. I’ll drive along creek beds and track lines,

 

past hillsides. I’ll cross the river, take any throughway

to the town where David waits, standing in the driveway.

“Flagpole” published in Waypoints 2015

Flagpole

Today I touched my father’s tombstone

with the flat of my hand, as if he were merely

feverish and not dead, not underground

here in the Sequatchie River Valley.

 

I picture him back home at the kitchen table,

trying to hear a Benny Goodman record

through thick headphones, leaning forward,

nursing a Stroh’s and a travel magazine

 

or standing at the stove, stirring a saucepan,

heating up new maple butter to pour out

on the snow in pretzel-shaped candy,

a Lucky Strike dangling from his lips.

 

I picture him stumbling down the stairs

drunk, cursing in sign language, mean,

smashing things at the workbench,

breaking windows with his hammer.

I see him throwing his keys at my mother’s apron,

firing off a rifle, pocking the fridge. I see

his head in the back of a disappearing squad car

as my mother clings to the doorframe…

 

For years there was small news of him:

the clocks he fixed, a new wife, an address

somewhere in California. Then the checks arrived,

federal, the death benefit received.

 

Now I am sixty. Odd, how blood is thicker

than memory. After months of searching, I find him.

I come to this field to hear the summer scrum

of a mower in the distance, to brush the cuttings away.

“Salem” published in Southern Women’s Review 2015

Salem

 

Standing at the great desk, Hawthorne

must have looked out these windows.

 

I stand in his treads, place my elbows

in the wells his created, imagine my pen

 

flowing with indigo ink. Leather boots.

Old kid gloves and a feather in my hat.

 

My poet’s shirt flows in gathered folds

of muslin, open at the neck. Which pages

 

were kept, which thrown to the fire?

My black dog lies at my feet, soaks

 

up the praise I bestow, wants to know

when we’ll descend the lofty steps

 

to play in the snow. I pose a while longer,

then snap the leash and whistle.

“For David” published in South 85 Journal, Fall/Winter 2014/15

For David

Down the street, past the corner guitar man,
we turn left into the long arcade.
Its glass-topped ceiling dribbles with rain

as evening slows the clouds.
Shops line the walkway, small flags
draped at each bell-clapped door.

Here we find perfumes, stationery,
that silk tie you’ve wanted, or cinnamon
rolls at the baker’s, steaming up the window.

A constable sits his horse, clopping down
the cobbled lane. A child flits past, a clump
of ribbons streaming from her hand while

a gaggle of teens, furtive, smirks at us,
at our arm-in-arm gait, our middling
paunches. No matter. We amble on.

A wisp of curry scents the damp air
as you reach for me, your hands
in my hair, your lips on my cheek.

In the near-dark, we sixty-somethings
still grow breathless, still laugh out loud,
our voices startling the birds, who rise.

“Yom Kippur” published in Mishkan HaNefesh, CCAR, Vol. 2

Yom Kippur

 

In the autumn garden,

I chop away dead yucca spires,

their white bell blossoms distant

in memory. My fingers comb ivy

and vinca for fallen leaves that crumble

in my hands. I think of crimes

against my loved ones, count my sins,

pull at spider webs and chickweed,

stubborn at the root.

 

I make my piles, gather the detritus

of trees into bags set against the curb.

I sweep the sidewalk, edge a trowel’s

blade beneath a hardy clutch of clover.

Even in drought, the barely living cling

like runners on a fencepost, adamant.

My roses, staked and tied to the wire mesh,

wilt on the stalk, feebly pink. Still,

honeysuckle persists, fragrant, wild,

and berries will ripen in the winter to come.

“Toward Death” and “Peaches” published in Gargoyle #64 2015

Toward Death

 

Soon my breath will blanch;

my bones shall fly as ash-filled

motes of dust in air.

 

Peaches

 

My son arrives for a one-week stay,

his reddish beard now goldened

by months of desert sun.

 

I bring him baskets of peaches,

their abundant glory nestled

in twenty fragrant globes.

 

He waves them away, his hands

already welting up in hives,

my gift rejected, toxic.

 

What more will I learn of this

cherished stranger, flesh of my

womb, in time of fraught vacation?

 

I didn’t know. Or have since forgotten.

It was only sweetness, juice

I’d meant to give.

 

He bounds upstairs, three

steps at a time, to lie

in closed proximity.

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