THE PUBLISHED POEMS

 
All That's Left of Elysium
Schuylkill Valley Journal. Fall 2010, p. 157

Ashes—soft, gray ashes,

Do you gently rest

in your little oaken box,

tucked among the tendrils, rootlets

Of a sapling oak?

Do you lie there—all that’s left of

joy and intellect, bereft of energy,

lifeless, lustless bits of dust?

 

To myself, I muse:

these ashes ought to twist

little hurricanes in that box.

These ashes must have,

should have, enough tempest in them for that.

They should swirl about in there.

Tucked warm in the earth,

they should be an ultimate source of earthquakes.

 

Ashes do not, of course, make little hurricanes.

I know they only lie there—waiting—

no, not even waiting. They merely lie

there in the unseen dark

until the little casket

rots away—letting in the water

and the roots. And the gray old ashes will

feed a stately oak. And that oak will

spin acorns, sprout leaves to shade those

who come to mourn, shade a little spot,

just a tiny, grassy plot—

all that’s left to us of Elysium.

Tatting

Meredian Anthology, 2013

Here is a much of a

this of a scrap – whenless

shredding a way into minds --

yoursandmine.

 

There it’s a bit of a what of a

thing -- genreless strings,

mixing of which and that into tat --

 

Lovely lacework here out of that.

 

 

 
Sandhill Cranes

​Our Town: North Canton Nov. 2010 (X:2, 16)

 

 

On a marsh edge close to an interstate

stand a pair of Sandhill Cranes.

Motionless, stopped in time,

they face each other—

straight necks angled,

eyes and bills side by side,

oblivious

to the traffic

flowing by.

 

 

 

Eve's Dedication

St. Ann's Review Spring 2013

 

The earth was created

to cushion his footsteps,

the sun to warm his face;

to delight his eye

loom the stars and moon;

and to be his handmaid

I was shaped

to tend his garden

and see to his smallest desire.

 

 

 

Trillium

Corium Magazine,  Winter 2013

 

 

Early May.

Morning in the forest.

 

“Leave the basket in the car;

put on tennis shoes.

Those sandals are no good

for walking in the woods.”

 

You held my hand;

we kicked through last year’s leaves.

 

Spring peepers chorused

from the edges of the lake.

 

Mist in the ravines still hung

in layers

between new-leaved dogwood branches.

 

Very late snowdrops nodded as we passed.

 

You stopped to ask about the trillium

with its repeating lanceolate shapes:

three leaves and triple sepals,

topped by triune petals—showy, white,

streaked in the lightest shade

of watercolor purple.

 

“Let me pick one for you.”

 

My mother’s

wives’ tale answered

through my lips:

 

“No, if you take the flowers,

the plant will die.”

 

You plucked it nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

Unbodied Visitor

The Chaffin Journal 2010, p. 151

 

 

How, while I breathe and wake and write and speak?

How, while you forever touch my wrist,

caress my throat, curve around me, over me, in me?

How, while the warm juice of living is the presence of you,

shall I reconcile myself to this unbodied visitor,

your shadow waiting on the doorstep,

in the kitchen, on my pillow,

but the body of you nowhere—

coming to me no more—

 

Staying beyond my voice and hearing and sight,

even in dreaming, not found,

out of reach,

unanswering, unseeable,

but there, nonetheless,

in the empty air

of every breath.

 

In the soft breeze turning

each blade of grass,

in the stillness

following a thrush’s song,

the cavern of me opens to you,

and, empty, shuts itself on night.

 

 

Thanatos

Corium Magazine, Winter 2013

 

In his poems, if not in ordinary life,

Dante sought out Beatrice,

followed her to paradise,

and made her name eternal.

 

By the strength of his song

—at least for a while—

Orpheus revived Eurydice.

 

The painful green of every spring

cries out that annually

Ceres still brings Persephone

home.

 

I am powerless.

You do not return.

 

My poems and dreams

do not conjure you.

 

I cannot sing you back.

 

 

 

Dialogue: Venus and Ceres

Chaffin Journal. 2010, p. 152

 

 

“What is more lasting than love?”

“Absence.”

 

“What can be deeper than love?”

“Emptiness.”

 

“Where is the meaning of love?”

“Look to the winter fields.”

 

“What can be greater than love?”

“Seek out the eye of the storm.”

 

“Where is the cure for love?”

“Look in the depths of the grave.”

 

 

 

RESIDUE

Breakwater Review. Winter 2014

 

The pewter tray on my buffet;

three dainty, crystal white wines

(my younger daughter broke the fourth

playing cocktail party);

in my golf bag, a putter

nearly a foot too long for me;

on the shelf above the tub,

a rubber duck I bought

to keep you company

during your inordinately

long times in the bathroom.

In the attic, a candy box

full of drink stirrers, wine corks,

theater tickets, a few letters,

a ramshackle, old, resort hotel on a postcard—

funny cards that say,“I love you.”

A handsome couple in a photograph:

She laughs at him.

He drinks champagne

from her shoe.

Irrelevant residue.

Dusty treasures.

All that’s left to me of you.

 

 

Conversation

Grey Sparrow Journal, Spring 2012

 

Last night I reminded you of a time nearly forty years ago

when I first knew you.

Four days into May the tree between the street and my apartment

had no leaves – as if it were still mid-winter.

Seated in a webbed lounge chair, you cradled me,

held me as if I were one of your children.

 

The soft, warm night and star-filled sky belied

the wounded and four who died that day. 

And those of us unhurt –

many had learned the terror our fathers’ land could be.

(How could my father,

a surgeon, the Great War’s veteran

snarl, “They should have shot them all”

to a daughter who called home to say that she was safe?)

 

Throughout that night you stroked my hair

and held me curled into your shoulder.

As I absorbed your comfort’s consolation,

the maple unfurled its leaves,

and when you left at morning,

the tree was in full leaf.

 

In later years, long after you had gone,

I gauged the early coming

or tardiness of spring

by whether that tree had leaves or not

on the morning of the fifth of May.

Seeing it leafed out in spring would say to me,

“Somewhere is comfort, for once it found me here;

somewhere solace comes to someone;

somewhere it will find me once again.”

 

When the city felled the tree for interference

with its power lines,

I grieved for my harbinger, the living thing

that linked me to the shelter of your shoulder.

 

It is much too early now for trees to bring forth leaves,

but last night a short way from that apartment,

a white haired man and a little woman

with age lines in her face sat talking.

Late into the night,

they looked those truths they could not say,

taking comfort in mere conversation.

 

And now, this morning, you have gone,

but snow drops bloom by the dogwood tree, and

tiny blue squill peek around the back porch step.

Once more there has been consolation.

 

Once again,

the comfort of the spring is you.

 

 

 

Bindweed

Existere. Fall Winter 2012/2013

 

In late summer, bindweed’s flowers

resemble morning glories.

The delicate-looking white blossoms

blanket almost every farmer’s fences.

 

When they appear among the foliage,

many a novice gardener is foolish enough

to let them flourish, spread, and bloom.

 

Winding over and around

carefully cultivated beds,

twining up clematis vines,

and spreading into low tree branches,

they flower beautifully,

spread prolifically,

send out deep roots,

settle in,

and become as ineradicable

as sin.

 

 

 

Bindweed II

Viral Cat, Spring 2013, p. 1

 

I pull out every tendril I can find.

Next morning they reappear

sprouting unmistakably heart-shaped leaves

and winding about the stems

of nearby clematis and hydrangea.

If I neglect them,

they will flower delicate white blossoms

blanketing fences, arbors,

and carefully tended gardens.

 

After dinner, you and I

walk along a quiet street

peering into windows full of

dusty, shabby antiques

which were new

long ago when we were young.

 

Your hand is hidden,

resolutely jammed into your pocket

and safely out of reach.

I touch your arm,

reach out—

our fingers wind around each other’s.

 

A half-moon’s changeable smile

shines silvery down upon us.

 

Our fingers put forth invisible, twisting vines,

heart-shaped leaves,

and pure-white trumpet blossoms.

Delicate white roots twist deep.

We break them off—

snap them at the surface.

 

Multifold, they spring back.

Fibrous roots wind deep.

 

Engulfed by vines, leaves, and blossoms,

gleaming white, what is it that shines forth

amid the foliage?

 

 

Bindweed Triumphant

Viral Cat, Spring 2013, p. 1

 

Just where the clematis vines

tumble over my garden fence

and climb up the hydrangea tree,

just at the very top,

crowning a jumble of carefully planned

heavy blossoms and greenery,

lifting her dainty, snowy face

to the mist-laden morning sky,

the trumpet of a solitary bindweed flower

triumphs over an entire summer’s

careful weeding.

 

Wide-open, perfect, and alone,

she dances to an early breeze.

 

No, not alone.

Beside her, nearly hidden, thrusts

a something,

pale green and conical, twining

toward her—

a still-furled bud gives promise

of continuing blooms tomorrow.

 

Left to flourish they will smother

all of next year’s garden.

 

I should uproot them now.

 

But weeding does not appear

on my morning list of tasks,

so I leave them to their momentary triumph.

In truth, I hate to pull them:

the delicate flower, the promising bud,

and the writhing, twisting, ever-climbing vine.

 

They tease me into rueful smiles,

delight the eye,

and taunt the stolid soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Moon in Winter

Portland Review 2012

Sinking on the far horizon,

a small, cold sliver of moon

turns its face away from me.

 

Ever changing in appearance

(first huge, now small—

a lurid red or, most often, wintry white),

it never alters

in its unshared, solitary orbit.

 

An object of ancient, cultist worship,

it casts no warmth on those

who gaze upon its face.

 

No human suppliant’s pleas

are heeded in its stony core.

 

Mechanically, it moves the daily tides,

neither tending those who crave its favor

nor nourishing those who seek illumination

by its cold and distant rays of icy light.

 

 

 

 

WINTER COLORS

Breakwater Review  Winter 2014

 

“Allie, allie in free”

Distant voices, strangers’ children.

 

In the shrubbery winter birds

crack seed from a neighbor’s feeder.

 

Tangled, leafless,dogwood twigs

slice across an icy early April sky

the blue of Siberian Squill,

the azure of a Nordic eye,

the hue of a nursery blanket.

 

Dividing the trees,late winter’s slanting lightleads on toward home.

It will be silent there.

The feeder hangs unfilled.

 

Our lightning-shattered willow’s roots

have rotted into food

for next month’s bright new grass—

the glaring color of last year’s

Easter basket cellophane.

 

 

Breakage

Portland Review 2012

 

On my aunt’s last visit, she cooed in Mississippi tones,

“I’m so glad you kept Rebecca’s chair

and had the sense to fix the finish.

It did look so terrible before.

If it was like this when Mother died,

I might have taken it myself.”

 

It’s just a simple side chair—

handcrafted, a cane seat,

oak with hand-turned legs and rungs.

 

This morning my younger daughter asked

whether I had any extra chairs.

Thinking that I could spare my three times great grandmother’s,

I ran my hands across the back splat’s hard-to-see repair,

then bent to touch a spot where a bad break had been mended

on the front rung’s left-hand end.

 

I cannot give this to my daughter

(and not because it has been broken,

nor because it is an eighteenth century family heirloom).

 

In the last century, my lover must have thrown it—

angry that I wasn’t home, I guess,

and certainly he’d had too much to drink.

 

I took its pieces to the cellar—

only an ugly, old black chair.

What difference could it make?

 

Later, when I had a husband,

he found the shattered pieces,

carefully repaired them, restored the finish

to a warm and natural oaken hue,

and had the cane redone.

 

No one notices his repairs.

They are very neatly done,

almost impossible to see.

 

Yet, when I run my hands across the back,

I feel the old break

even though my chair is carefully repaired,

returned to serviceable use

in a family that does not see the scar lines

hidden in my husband’s meticulous refurbishing.

 

No, I cannot give this to my daughter;

perhaps I’ll leave it to her

in my will.

 

 

Leftovers

Foliate Oak, May, 2012

 

My first child and her husband awaken

in the four-poster that was my mother’s,

and the family linens again lie neatly folded

in my great grandmother’s dresser,

which dominates the upstairs hall.

 

My daughter arranges snacks

on a tray her grandmother was given

by my great aunt as a wedding gift.

 

In the next room, my granddaughter

pounds tunelessly upon the spinet

where my mother’s fingers

used to coax forth minuets.

 

Perhaps my daughter will make new children

in my parents’ notably fertile bed.

Perhaps her daughter will again bring music

from my mother’s well-worn instrument.

 

I go to the kitchen

to help my mother mix up stuffing

in Grandma’s huge, old yellow bowl.

 

I cannot see her,

but I know her hands are there.

 

 

A Poem upon Leaving

St. Ann's Review. Spring 2013

 

 

This morning I checked my hair in the mirror

over great grandma Regina’s dresser and

ran an affectionate finger

over its softly glowing surface.

It’s always been my favorite piece

of family furniture.

 

My daughter and I made up

my mother’s remarkably fertile

four-poster,

and alone I rearranged the furniture

in my own

girlhood dollhouse.

Dusting came next:

my mother’s piano

where my only granddaughter,

Adela,

runs her tiny fingers

up and down some scales.

 

Later, I trimmed and French-braided

Adela’s wayward, tow-haired tresses

and in a quiet time after lunch

read to her a few

of my own favorite stories—

Perrault’s early versions of Cinderella

and Sleeping Beauty.

Snow White, which she requested,

was missing from the tattered book

which I had brought her.

 

Before dinner, we all sat

on the old farmhouse’s shaded porch.

I read them a new poem

about heat and drought’s effect

on their family farm.

 

Peering over my shoulder,

Adela interrupted,

“Is that us?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Her eyes grew big.

“Who wrote it?”

 

“Grandma did.”

 

“I didn’t know you wrote poems.”

 

“It’s a family affliction.”

 

“I found a dead chick this morning.

You could put that in.”

 

So I did a flying edit,

slipping her into the third stanza

(which had to do with chickens anyway).

Later, she slipped into the kitchen

to lean her head

against my shoulder and peer into

the shifting shapes upon the screen.

 

(Her mother padded back and forth

pouring chicken broth into

my own grandmother’s sterile mason jars.)

 

“What does it say now?”

 

My paternal grandmother

(whose typewriter was always

on her kitchen table)

passed poetry to me

in pretty much this way.

 

 

Hobbyhorse

Folly, May, 2012

 

Tilting is indeed what I’m about,

couching my spearless, mayhap pointless,

softly scrawling penstill

not at the scarecrow—frontman—freudycatty strawman,

but worse yet at the little mount he rocks on,

the hobbyhorse whose paper stuffing he’s wont to softly rock on

and on.

 

And where is the chasm that the kierkegaarded

little steed would keep a bridge from breaching?

 

Where is the spear that pricks such a word wound?

No, not the old, never closing slash gaping in the side

of the little strawman king, but the one that cuts

these two little gashes aimed at the pride side

of the prancing little beast.

 

The little hobbyhorse bleeds his agony,

hobbled to his rockers, his back to the chasm,

hooves dug into his rockers,

his battle cry trumpeting to the lines,

protecting all the bloodied old differences—

he of the noble difference fighting off the hordes,

the wordless, artless hordes

wielding—wielding what?

Swinging bludgeons.

 

He smells the terror of the bludgeons’

pointless, crushing blow to his dainty little rockers.

He fears they’ll knock him

off.

 

And if they do?

Would his legs stand on their own?

Would he, unfastened, find that he had wings?

Pinions unfurling out of old wounds?

Hooves lightened of the old, heavy, rocking load?

 

Watch him soaring over trudging hordes

who fumble in the holy chasm he had guarded

and feared to fall in.

 

It will close over them.

It always does.

 

And the little hobbyhorse will fold his wings and come to light,

skimming gracefully over rocks where once the chasm sank.

He always does.

 

 

Charms

Folly, May, 2012

 

Who is enchanted when the sorcerer

brews a potion

or the magus casts a spell?

 

Who is summoned when a seer

invokes the souls of the lost?

 

Who is charmed when the asp rises

out of the dark basket’s depths?

 

Who plunges over the precipice

when the piper sounds his call?

 

When you trace a face on the canvas,

your own eyes peer back from the frame.

 

When you pluck the guitar’s sweet strings,

your own heart sings its tune.

 

When you offer poetry’s magic,

the one who’s entranced

is you.

 

 

 

Away

Folly, May, 2012

 

Whatever the muse’s name is,

she isn’t answering. 

The message on her machine says

Persephone’s back in town

and they’ve gone to pick forget-me-nots

which wither as soon as they’re plucked.

 

At the end of winter she chafed

that the poems had all been written,

all the songs had been sung,

and no one hears them anyway.

 

What does a goddess do

when her votaries are gone?

 

She and the queen of the dead

disappear to pick

evanescent forget-me-nots.

 

 

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