While Weeding (Inertia Magazine)

A dandelion’s fluff scatters, its seed bolls lifted in wind,

their destinations unknown and rocky, most like.

 

My neighbor calls again, her words repetitive, aimless

sleepwalker talk, heedless of their rambling ways.

 

Shall I call a doctor or her son? Who knows which way

our failing bodies will plunge: the long trajectory

 

or an imminent demise? I wonder how my frame will

fare, what meanderings my mind will undergo.

 

Will I linger, or will I derail at a sudden stop,

a stalk of grass beneath the mower’s blade?

 

I watch one puff pod float along, its cloud aloft,

its last ascent, drifting before the fall, its pointed

 

aril poised to rake the soil. I wish it safe landing,

that its roots grow deep, its jagged leaves tenacious.

“Union Square” from The 30th Anniversary Issue of The Northern Virginia Review

Union Square

 

Cars in lamplight hug

dark curbs: wet asphalt, strewn leaves.

Couples hurry by.

 

Rays from high windows

cast shadows through mottled trees.

I walk the long stretch

 

of arching branches,

alone in my need to name

the night air, alone.

“Prospectus” from Alliterati

Prospectus

 

If we should touch beneath the table,

flushing up surprised, rare birds

lifting, stealthy, under skin,

in what barbed moment might we meet?

 

If I should take your offered hand,

lined and brown, slow to touch,

to thresh and hone my cheek’s parched heat,

what chance might soar in these bright days?

 

If you should leave before the birds

have plundered all from craggy banks,

before the rushing creeks recede,

what dark, soft rain could wash me clean?

Sanding the Hull (from Duende)

Sanding the Hull

 

When we were sanding the sailboat’s weathered hull,

layer upon layer of life and its subjects up for grab,

we talked of raising the sails on Silver Lake or Half Moon,

of strawberries lifting beneath shade plants in the yard,

and of slant-six engines, push-button controls, the Rambler.

 

Who knew that, in ten years’ time, he’d be dead, the brown spots

on his lungs inching wider, those years of smoking cigarillos

in bodegas, when the need to drink and dance prevailed.

I crocheted a gold blanket to stave off bony chills,

each stitch laced with twists of whispered prayers.

 

When he was gone, they cleared his office; his widow,

his secretary hunched over piles of letters he’d hidden, locked

in the bottom drawer, its key hung on the hook near the door—

letters filled with more conversation: the poems of Neruda,

an article or book review, a recipe, math, or jokes,

 

our wide-ranging minds never settled or calm. His words

stream through to me now, les bon mots, or sage advice,

a caution, hint or path to shun. Directions to the market,

how to build a pergola, praise for my latest poems, more praise.

There’s never a warning, just his voice in my ear, slight bell

 

on a wisp as I breeze along. In my laughter now, I hear him. I see

his wry grin, that nose, that graying beard. I hoist my glass to shadow

reminders, to green-gray waves that lap against the bow of memory.

Those eyes softly pierced as crows’ feet and fret lines creased the planes

of his cheeks. His face reminds me to throw back my head and howl.

Two Poems from IthacaLit

Refugees

I brought in the stray. He’d been mewling
on my front stoop, shivering in the rain.

Then one more and another, until my entire
life was a collection of lost souls, an assortment

of the weary, the lonely, the hungry for food.
You might say I was a female St. Francis,

extending my hands in a Christ-like pose,
the very vines of Buddha climbing my frame.

You might say it is I who was the wandering
Jew, a victim of my own desires. And yet,

there was purpose and gain, such
as we mortals measure them.

I laughed, didn’t I? I danced in the kitchen,
even as the shift change brought in

another drifter. Even as you roll your eyes,
I loved them all, every last one.

Promises

His words hung like fruit
dangling from persimmon trees,
bruised and out of reach.

“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.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries