THE RENTED BICYCLE
It is another childhood year; my mother has fallen off
the rented bicycle—the others have kept on going.
She came back angry—skinned and crying—making
her curses. My mother knew great swearwords, some
in a made-up language.
Emphasis was her way—she ruled by emphasis. I am
her best study. I never learned to ride a bicycle. I
swear like a lady.
(first pub. in Parting Gifts)
There’s a monster in the
No, David. There are no
David all golden
and beautiful and three
stands and looks at me
with patience and truth
after pulling his wagon of toys
from the feared room
and as sure as a man
and as if I did not understand
Monster in the bedroom.
Here in the dusk, by a slow bright stream,
the unmindful child—
ever at the brink of curiosity
with childlike faith and followings—
comes to sit on the bank
and listen to the moving water
And the bushes sigh with disturbance
and the dark trees whisper.
And the musing child—in the dusk—
in the rippling moonlight—
the make-believe rabbit
she would love to keep and love,
And high in the trees now, in the dark,
a Cheshire cat sits purring.
DAVID IN THE SUNBEAM
In the sunlight on the floor
the cat sleeps.
It is almost a stillness.
The child on the tricycle
pedals into the sunlight
and is broken into
endless golden motes
turning him again
into a child.
In the sunlight on the floor,
where the cat and child
were a moment before,
all that is alive in it
is lifting and falling.
(first pub. in South Florida Review, 1970)
THE ALBINO NIGHTINGALE
(after "No Swan so Fine" by Marianne Moore)
Made of pure light—sent from imagination’s land,
straight out of childhood’s fairy tales. A nightin-
gale, of course, in a silver cage, with an open door
to test its loyalty—
my mind’s albino nightingale
that preens and sings and struts its delicate self to
please the Emperor whose love for it proved vulner-
able. With mind-sweet trill— I hear it still—all the
way from then to here.
dark at six o’clock
a mild winter evening
just early enough yet
for hotel boys to be out
on roller blades and bikes
and lone men ambling by
with hands in their pockets
and you and I looking for
a restaurant we heard about
the car six blocks away
too late now I think of
the money in my purse…
stories of murders…
a dangerous world…
(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 1998-99)
AWAY FROM CHILDHOOD
In the red horse dream, there is no fear;
they fly—over the small village
that holds them away from the sky.
In the dream, the red horse
is afire with muscled energy and light,
with the love of flying,
and the man looks backward—
the night is too slow to stop them.
In the dream, the boy is the man,
gripping his knees to the horse
and locking one hand into its mane;
the horse has no wings, but they fly
into another waking and whatever
follows is too slow. They escape.
My grandmother sings the blues to my mother in
heaven. Lullabies. Hymns. Toneless and beautiful.
How did they find each other?
This is how long it is between stories never told.
Who makes the rules for memory? Soft, folding
things that make up patterns.
Once there was a riddle. Its name was love. It
carried a long distance, like faith and loneliness.
A riddle solved is a disappointment.
Sometimes I carry a tune for years, remember it
differently—think I composed it. My grandmother
holds my infant mother and asks about me.
She is almost complete now and I feel a ravel begin,
a slow sensation. I tie another knot and move more
My mother used to teach me embroidery: “This is a
French Knot,” she would tell me, “for the centers of
flowers, and this is a Satin Stitch for their leaves.”
And we would sit in my childhood for hours,
making arm rests, and head-rests, pillow cases
and pretty dresser scarves.
THE DAY WE DRANK
The day we drank sweet Cinnamon-Spice-Tea,
that winter day,
with death to mourn and celebrate—
those little rituals one makes to manage grief.
Oh, we were gathered with our news.
We wept and spoke;
we offered words of disbelief—
all this for you, our floundered one
who broke the slender hold of life—
your foolish choice—your last escape
from all that chase.
No demons now.
The rest is yours.
We will not make you guilty of our worried love.
You were a lost child, after all.
For you we held this ritual.
spiral, is pulled
under; it is the dream,
the one from childhood.
what does it mean?—This
time she does not fear
it—does not resist—
—Medusa, noting that our new Seed of the Week is A Poet's Tools. What do you need to have in order to write? What material objects, what preparations, what frames of mind? Send your poems/artwork/photos on this or any other subject to firstname.lastname@example.org/. No deadline on SOWs, though.