my poetry


So much is lost, so much unknown.
You bear the fruit, you pet the dog,
you sit in silence, enthroned.
But unknown.

We parse together messages from air,
from goddesses who have come before,
but your secrets are yours alone.
And unknown.

Perched on the edge of the sea, your temple
reclaimed by water, and frail memory
washed away, into the rising foam.
You are unknown.

Yet your truths persist, in hearts and myth,
attributed elsewhere but living still.
Deep in the psyche and in the bone
You are still known.

—PJ Thompson


Spring, oh spring, you break my heart
with the gaudy riot you splash against my eyes,
with the sweet winds and misting torrents,
you crack my heart wide open, thrusting life
where I have carefully kept it out.

Oh spring, oh spring, how can I deny you
when all around the yellow and red burn,
burn and burst and foment and fly?
Oh spring.


I am a dog barking in the nighttime.
There may have been a reason, once,
but I’ve long-since forgotten.
Now, all that matters is that burning
in my throat commanding, “Bark!”
It lets me know I’m here.
It says that I’m aware.
It shows I feel you out there
moving past the verge of darkness,
potent with the mystery of why I bark
yet free from it.

I would be with you if I could.
I would be you if I could.
But I am on this side of the light,
a dog barking in the nighttime.

Hot off the presses. I fear I am repeating myself, but I only have One Great Subject these days,


Lotus flower

Always so decisive, organized and resolute, never-aging,
confident-acting if not confident, a bubbly, outgoing woman.

Most of that is gone now. Now, I find myself with a little girl,
uncertain in her steps, both physical and of the spirit,
still reaching out to be what she was, who she was,
but finding a maze of walls between her and her self.

A great tenderness crests inside me, longing to protect,
to make her feel good about herself amidst the torment
and the tumbled-down world she tries to stumble through—
even when I’m exhausted, when the frustration is high.

I cannot swear to always being a perfect person. I weaken.
I trip and fall, but the soft lotus blooming in my heart
is a good resting place, holding us both above water.

The child I chose not to have found me anyway.
What can I do except love her and mother her?

Precious Pearl

In the gray expanse of
there sometimes come
of incandescent pearl:
precious enough to be
on filaments of shimmering
if the strand can
if the strand can
they may be enough to
the soul, lending strength and
beacons in the graying days to

What a morning. The first of these was written right after I got out of the shower where I spent my time thinking about the state of things and feeling the full weight of it all. This time of year is wearying and I am weary, sometimes prone to despair and fits of self-pity. There is at least one profane word in this poem, if that sort of thing offends you.

The second poem was written after I’d gotten my mother out of bed, fed her, joked about the cat with her, helped her with a craft project. Being with her took the edges off my despair, made me realize what was important.

But I present them both, as both are slants of the truth.

Not for the Faint of Heart

It’s hard for the brave to be weak.
Like any wounded tiger, my mother
lashes out at those who come closest.

Most days I let it pass.
She’s old and frail and hurting and afraid,
angry and confused,
and willing to admit to none of that.
I know it’s hard.
My mother, once as mighty as the
slow-churning thighs of the earth,
has to rely now on little wheels
to get across the room.

Most days I let it ride.
Except on the days when I myself
am tired and hurting and afraid,
angry and confused.
Then I defend myself—because I’m human
and frail of spirit.

But it’s not a fight I can win.
Guilt shuts me up and down
as surely as love.
I make amends. I take the blame.

I know the real guilty party is
old age,
that cold-hearted motherfucker
determined to diminish even the strongest
and bravest,
dedicated to grinding each last particle
of dignity
from our bones
while it turns us to dust.


Like a young child she has trouble

Like a young child she has trouble
with openings and closings,
clumsy hands bungling at things;
leaves messes behind her wherever
she goes, unaware, moving on;
totters, toddles and tests her feet,
escaping the prison of the walker,
grabbing furniture to steady herself;
lights never turned off, cabinets never closed.

These things evoke my tenderness,
the mothering core of my heart,
wanting to make safe, wanting
her to feel loved and appreciated,
supported and valued.

These things evoke my frustration,
moving along behind, a steadying hand,
cleaning up, making tidy, never done,
weighed down.

I live in perpetual opposition,
love and frustration, guilt and innocence.

In the end, love trumps all.
In the moment, it is sometimes
hard to remember,
but the truest expression of my heart:
love trumps all.

The lovely and talented mnfaure recently posted these trigger words: read, crusade, kiss, beauty, back, us. They were part of a technique she and her husband use to spur on their creativity. I wrote the words down on a piece of paper and left work for the day. When I came in this morning and saw the words, this tumbled out, I know not from where:

I am on perpetual crusade
to return us to those first moments
when your battlements fell,
the beauty of that first kiss,
the way your eyes read my face,
the way my mouth crumbled
your defenses, our breath
intertwined, our skin’s
burning velvet embrace.
Can we fight our way back
to that fire of long ago
after so many years of comfort
and knowing? Or is it instead
a children’s adventure to try?
The contentment of our lives
is its own crusade, a gentle
battle against the world’s
harsh ways, a bulwark
against its fires of destruction.

Fresh off the brain this morning:


Poetry is a dance with fans that scarcely covers your nakedness.
Poetry is an inverted dance, spinning on the top of your head.
Poetry is a one-legged dance, balancing on the end of a peg.
Poetry is a dance of wholeness, never fragments of movement.
Poetry is a tumbling dance, made up as you go.
Poetry is an evasive dance, never long pinned down in one spot.





*The Windhover, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

From the notebooks, March 17, 1998. I don’t know if this is a quote I heard, or something I paraphrased from a news item, or what. This sat in the notebook all by itself with no clues for my later self.

“This is our land.
We own it with our blood,
and we will keep it
no matter what the cost.
We will fight them
to the last child
if they do not recognize
our claim.”

In the trees behind his head
a host of songbirds
amongst the blossoms
numberless as angels
on the head of a pin
burst forth in singing
in tribute to the morning
before scattering to earth
to devour worms.

I’d like to respectfully dedicate this poem to Fred Willard. He isn’t the one who inspired me to write it some years past, but he does prove that there is no new thing under the sun.

Rising Star

We all have demons
prowling the verges
of propriety,
doing things
we’d be embarrassed
to see
on the six o’clock news.

Thank goodness
there are high-minded
to keep us cringing
in the dark
with furtive phantoms.
Otherwise, we might think
it is okay to have secrets.

Thank God
there is a morality squad
to check who’s
twanging what
is some feverish corner,
or who knows
but we might learn
to forgive ourselves?

Thank goodness
demons aren’t allowed
in sunshine,
except as objects
of scorn
and tabloid meat.
Otherwise, we might think
other people had demons, too,
demons some might call
human needs.

Thank God
everyone pretends
they’ve never encountered
one lonely, vulnerable, foolish
when all that matters
is that the demon
has looked you in the eye,
known you
to your lascivious toes,
and taken you
on an irresistible ride
to parts
not unknown.

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