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.
Meredian Anthology, 2013
Here is a much of a
this of a scrap – whenless
shredding a way into minds --
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.
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,
to the traffic
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.
Corium Magazine, Winter 2013
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
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.”
wives’ tale answered
through my lips:
“No, if you take the flowers,
the plant will die.”
You plucked it nonetheless.
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,
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.
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
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?”
“What can be deeper than love?”
“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.”
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.
All that’s left to me of you.
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.
the comfort of the spring is you.
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,
send out deep roots,
and become as ineradicable
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,
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,
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?
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
Wide-open, perfect, and alone,
she dances to an early breeze.
No, not alone.
Beside her, nearly hidden, thrusts
pale green and conical, twining
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.
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.
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.
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
and alone I rearranged the furniture
in my own
Dusting came next:
my mother’s piano
where my only granddaughter,
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,
“Is that us?”
Her eyes grew big.
“Who wrote it?”
“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.
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 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
He smells the terror of the bludgeons’
pointless, crushing blow to his dainty little rockers.
He fears they’ll knock him
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.
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
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