Things my mother saved: sunflower doilies
with bright red centers, sooty-white pillowcases
embroidered with blue thread.
Clay dolls with broken fingers.
Her old lullaby—words in a gibber.
Her standard recipes for love, fragile with use.
Books in a foreign language.
The moody window she stared out of—
taken down and wrapped in old newspaper.
Letters she never opened. An envelope full of
hair. A plastic box of unpainted fingernails.
A tiny black emery board, worn down.
Maps of where we’d been,
the little towns circled in pencil—then erased.
I don’t remember any of them.
The year she left me when I died three times
before she came to get me—the toys I left
all gathered back, like explanations.
The years between
this one and the year when I was born—
the first and last coincidence.
THE ILLUSIVE MEMORY
It was the looking through time
through the eyes of
the old tree watching me . . .
it was the birds in the tree
with all their sweet ferocity
singing down to me . . .
and the old tree whispered
and flickered its leaves,
and a thin breeze sang through,
carrying thinner memories . . .
and the day let its light go soft
and I felt myself lift
into the sound
and the way things moved,
yet stayed where they were . . .
and I was asleep as a child.
to your presence.
You are a long sorrow
lengthening even as I
You are spreading
over my entirety.
I am helpless under your
You have such a wide
cold and forever.
How come I nuzzle
against you and weep
like a lost child
to a lost mother?
(first pub. in HALJ [Haight Ashbury Literary Journal], 1992)
We talk of shadow-stuff in the quiet where it is blue,
and where you use words I know, and I use words
back to you; and we are shadow-stuff in the use of
words and what they mean, as is love, always in sil-
houette, back to the light, using words, expression
lost in the shadow that love holds for everyone—oh,
I know shadow-stuff is all we have of life and love—
don’t argue this—I know it’s true, some words more
so than others—let us begin our conversation.
MEDITATION ON THE GUITAR
After “Meditation in the Gutter” by Charles Simic
Another lapse of understanding. Guitar from gutter. Such a
leap for the mind to play with. Connect or sever.
Throw in some moonlight, easy to obtain. Add “things” to
emphasize distance—from where to where of this far-fetched
For this, the guitar is but a symbol for its music, irrelevant,
a faint shape and texture—brought to a surface unprepared.
The gutter is a word, thrust in the way. Of what value—out
of context? Now use it here: a quick misspelling to the eye.
And now—this need—overriding the absent flute music.
Simic’s black cat—mysterious—listening—hearing what
TRAPPED IN WINTER
It was winter with its lack of leaves on stark trees. And
the hurrying of cold things at the corner of the heart. And
the length of gray that became monotonous. And no win-
dow was enough for hope with its frail wing made of frost
or the bleak eye of following. It was a postcard with its
angel stamp and its illegible message, and the mailman
who read it and wept to know so much about himself. And
the cold gray music that followed the girl of winter around
so she would know she was not forgotten, but adored. And
every mirror wept to know her. And in each one, her face
was smitten. And she never returned to them—for that is
the rest—yes, that is the rest of this small story.
VANITIES AND DESOLATIONS
1. It was only the slow sleep into the waft of surrender,
the fluttering curtain at the doorway, pulled for quiet,
the way the light remembers here, to lie quietly against
the floor where a prone figure, in one of its spells, faces
the rigidity of anguish.
2. A soft singing emanates from somewhere and thins
into some listener’s reluctance to believe such sounds
can be bestowed—perhaps the guilt of reverie, or the
way some hand is muffled over a mouth.
3. It was always so—this used tableau, soliloquy and
melodrama, written for someone to say into an admir-
ing talent for such things. Note how subtle becomes
the turn of telling, how now the very existence of light
is challenged by the fall of a heavy curtain upon which
a marvelous scene is playing between acts.
4. And elsewhere—oh, elsewhere, the dissolving begins.
The bit of light is swept away and its gold dust rises into
the folds of the curtain. A great hollowing absorbs the
last echo and the sweet voices are no more. The listener
must now remember all it can of this, because it’s over
and the storyteller has fallen asleep in the chair, and some-
times this is the way some stories end.
Things that love the light,
a long dark fall
what is not there:
the silky wish,
the sad path of flowers,
the last golden bee
with no explanation for its falling.
There is a plateau of light
where everything goes—
goes in a quiet surrender
to have its future told.
A lady with a turban
into the sun
in a dusty globe
she fills with truth—
what she says,
you must believe.
Do not believe her.
Silhouettes crowd the wall
at night where windows
flare with light.
There is nothing outside:
only the non-sound,
the possessive feel of eyes,
the dispossession of the shadow.
(first pub in The Ophidian, 11-10-10)
THINGS THAT ARE WHITE
tips of blue flame on the stove burner
your face when I tell you the news
A big thank-you to Joyce Odam for today’s poems and photos, as she writes about old desk drawers (our SOW) and memories and stories to keep us warm on coming winter nights. Our new Seed of the Week is The Last Rose. Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
It’s probably not too late to register for Cal Lawyers for the Arts’ presentation tonight, Best Practices for an ARTREPRENEUR, 6:30-8pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
—Medusa, thinking about the secrets of the rose ~
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.