I have survived one day without you.
I am strong.
Today the sun is real.
The wind is not rising.
The cries of the crow are sharp
and my ears are deep.
I do not hunger for you and this
Whatever name you were
I do not speak.
I make one tally
on the calendar.
(This poem has won prizes in the Cal. Fed. of Chaparral Poets, Inc. contest of 1987 and the Friends of the Library contest of 1992.)
EASTER SUNDAY AT THE FLEA MARKET
Walking Death came by
with her blue remark,
gripped tight to the arm
of her ancient guy
who limped ahead of her
to crank the way,
while she glanced here and there
with her thrifty eye.
The sunshine was full of Easter.
it was a
The candy children
were loud and louder,
taking up all the space they could measure.
But Walking Death was thin among them,
gripping the sleeve of her thinner man
who picked out their gray
with a meager penny,
who measured the sunshine
that shivered through them,
and threaded the way,
while Walking Death
looked here and there
at the much and many
with a needful eye.
(first pub. in Contemporary Quarterly, 1975)
Yes, it is true. I am in the loss—spaced far between it; my hands cannot find the edge. I housekeep, but the dust wins. Balances surround me. I accept my gravity, fall through the television where the silence is. I reward myself with candy, stuffed in my starving mouth. I ignore the bottle—my last strength, drown among cups of coffee and diet Pepsi. I cannot mend the holes in my love, though I praise it with birds that can sing. Ah, season, full of the right weather, fill me with maps.
Each night they share the chocolate—after dinner, when they claim their separate chairs and prepare for the boredom of comfort, when their differences bring them together in the ritual truce of sharing something rich and sweet.
THE TOTAL GIFT
from a far place
with blue wind in its eyes
and black roses
growing from its hands
limping along a bruise of
to show how far
Love comes to me
with all the tempest I allow
and all the quiet
I avow. And my eyes fill
with blue wind. And my hands
take the dark flowers.
I clutch the thorny things
and press my face
among the blooms
and draw the fragrance in
and learn addiction . . .
the scratches will not heal.
I curse my wounds.
and calls me beautiful.
(first pub. in Mustang Review, 1972)
Popcorn. Peanut butter. Toast. (Still learning
how to live, talking to the ghost.) Fried egg
sandwich. Bananas. Ice cream. (The easy food.) Conscience-vegetables that spoil in the fridge.
Baked potato, microwaved. Tuna, drained.
Crackers. Cheese. Or – binge-cook, to reheat.
Talk to the clock in off-guard moments, forgetting, turning to share the strange lining-up of numbers:
3:33…4:44…5:55…10:10…11:22…12:34…etc., saying, “Look at the clock, Honey,” to the room.
(“6:66”, we used to joke.) Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. No one to cook for, so why eat? But, eat, eat, eat.
All the wrong food. Finger food. Plate of cookies with late T.V. Ignore the crumbs. Long, heavy naps
in the swallowing chair. Chocolate when all else
fails, and only you and the ghost are there.
(first pub. in Convolvulus, 1997)
She is in a crowded dress—she would dance—but prim is this room—he would disapprove.
She brings him a candy on a tray. She has one, too. They both settle in—book to book.
Her dress breaks free of her—she sits there in a thrilling light—made of itself. He does not look at her.
(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 2007)
GUESTS FROM WINTER
Old as children, they
come touching at all my candy,
leaving uneaten bruises upon
my fruit and spilling the
cheap fermenting wine of Sunday.
They sit close together in one
chair, his long beard greying
into her long blue hair.
She wears a flea market coat of
real fur. He wears a ruined hat.
They are dressed for winter.
He tells her
what to do with her mind.
and gives him the purest sighs
while he looks at her
in his brooding manner.
And they cry when I laugh
and they laugh when I cry.
They are restless and lonely,
afraid to go
and unwilling to stay
where the rooms are long and
the hours are many.
(first pub. in Chaminade Literary Review, 1991)
GHAZAL FOR FEBRUARY
Grief is too much to know.
Time is how long it takes to know it.
Time and its addictions
is also time and its starvations.
All the hungers
know how to wait.
Time is not in waiting,
though waiting is in time.
“And yet,” I say to some malingering
afterthought, “and yet . . . .”
Time, you old ghost,
when have you touched my shoulders?
Time is the last thing to want when
there is no more to want.
Let us hold the moment and slide under
eternity’s pale shadow.
Time when it is precious is time that is
gone. Only the farewell has no echo.
THE LIGHT-FILLED FLOWERS
Sweet cups of brimming light—and should we drink
from all the goblet-flowers of this place,
would we, like Alice, grow in size—or shrink—
lose our senses—feel ourselves erase . . . ?
Oh, careful one, how pale you turn to think
I’d poison you by urging you to taste
such heady light—intoxicate your soul—
risk some addiction you could not control.
(first pub. in Hidden Oak, 2003)
—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix about Chocolate and Other Addictions, last week's Seed of the Week. Say—ever been to the No Tell Mo-tel, that seedy repository of sleeze and lowbrow adventure where things that go bump in the night are unmentionable and (hopefully) reprehensible—the kind of places I used to stay when my appetite for adventure was far bigger than my budget? Weave all those fantasies, real or otherwise, into poems and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org for our Seed of the Week: The No Tell Mo-tel.