The tongue of the bell
does not strike the bronze
to make its noise; it strikes
the void within the shape
to evoke the voice
Windows in the house of time
flash black and white,
sun and moon,
day and night,
icy pane, hot screen
fall red, spring green,
rust and dust
Growth requires time
in cold and darkness,
without light or warmth
that runs long and deep
in the bone before
it can truly begin.
This is true in botany
as well as in poetry.
The way the eye
of a needle pulls red
thread thru white cloth,
so the image at the point
of a poem tugs lines
of stitched thoughts
thru your mind.
We don't love ordinary very much.
Everyday things seem unimportant;
we focus on what feels vital
while, under our nose, breath
comes and goes.
My mother loved to sew, her hands
unhappy if not busy with the thread
pulled by the needle thru cloth,
stitch and hem, baste and bind.
She always had a pattern
in her head and from a yard
might make a dress
that brought her happiness.
She called the white ducks with a soft
Clucking of her tongue and they came to
Her busy hands for the hard corn she shelled.
Taking a fat one up in her arms, soothing the
Down with her cheek, she cooed and sang to it,
While the eager beak bit at her palm cup.
She bowed the graceful head down to sleep
Beneath the perfect white wing and keeping
Her place on the long neck, like a finger in a
Book, she brought up the porcelain bowl to
Hold in her knees, in one motion. I can still
See the shining blade layering through the
Orderly feathers, through the sleeping veins.
Headless, featherless duck swam in clear water,
Dark blood, carrots and apples, black prunes,
Parsley, pepper, thyme until the meat fell
Away from the bone and pieces floated among the
White kluski clouds in a dark brown broth. Every
Bit of the down she saved for small pillows.
When she gave them to my children, she said
They won't remember me, so tell them these
Were from the duck feather woman. They took them
Eagerly from her knotted fingers.
Playing With Matches
The match moves to light the cigarette,
where mother still sits beside my crib,
watching my thumbed hands. It stops in
midair. The white tube of leaves does not
swell the bronchial tree. The smoke is
rooted in my mother’s clenching hand.
Her hold around the smoke ring is
caught by the light of match fire.
The glow filling the room with a
burst of yellow light then fading in a
moment. Her fingers make shadows round my
wrist, smear the ribcage negatives.
Her hand points to red-mouthed women
leaving their lipstick on filters in the ashes.
I be the rose thief and bloom pirate.
Heed the prize in me bleeding fist.
I be the wild rose cherisher;
Capturing blood-buds, thorns and
All with just me bare hands.
No blade against the sharp green claws.
Cool molten folds comfort me flesh.
Petals heal the torn cups of me palms.
I brew wine from rose hips and sing of
Red raids. Cuts gush smiling from me
Fingers. I laugh and suck me blood
For sustenance. I be the rose ravager,
Feeding the thorns and swinging from trellises.
Dirt on the doormat. A bushel of roses
Torn out by the roots. Me blood on the
Basket-wood, on rusted wire handles.
I leave it at your door now and knock.
O, terror so becomes a rose.
Grandfather never began working
without instructions as to the proper
handling of each implement. If a tool
was used as intended, work went
smoothly, effort eased by geometries of
movement, time made perfect by grace.
The hand-smoothed handle of the axe, is
never gripped like a club, but slipped
through your palm while the other
guides the blade like a sword to the same
exact scar made deeper each blow.
The long shaft of mattock, silken ash haft
of pick, each glides in the palm hollow, slides
to the spot the eye aims at, again and again.
Swing adds little to fall, it merely guides gravity.
The pitchfork is different, more like a spade;
it too, held lightly, caress hard hickory softly,
without effort, trued by the grip, which, also
must be slight, so work is less tiring.
For work to move smoothly,
tools are always held lightly,
like small birds, that must live,
done right, work takes flight.
Ordinary Love Poem
We do not love ordinary enough.
Everyday things seem unimportant,
as we focus on what we think is,
while under our nose, breath comes
and goes. Nearly silent, soft
inhalations followed by constant
sighs, trusting the next moment
to breathe in life. So it is with love,
slipping past unnoticed in the hum,
the smallest gesture of the hand,
the glowing hairs along the back
of a lover’s neck, or the flecks of
another color in the irises
looking deep into your heart.
Pain of False Spring
a time in the cold
and dark, a period
that goes long
in the bone
before it can
This is the law
It is only natural
then for the brief thaw
that brings on blooms
before there is enough
light and heat to
to remind us
of our youth
when snow melts
among fallen blossoms.
Stranger and stranger
The man who came to replace dad,
did so gradually, so you hardly noticed
the lessening of his energy or
how every step
carried less gravity.
At first, he only came in the evening
just after dark, when it was
confusing as to whether
it was getting light
or getting late.
In time, it became most of him,
a man who wandered in,
wondered who I was,
who asked for his Mom,
or where was his wife,
and then, when
he found out,
Time in the Body
Time feels like growing to a child,
ache of bones, changing clothes,
outgrowing shoes, the awkward
length of leg or foot. It is the ecstasy
of fireflies and the anguish of
acne in the mirrored bathroom light.
Time has no relationship to
stability, it is that cataract
that gushes along, crashing
friends in high school or
losing them to war.
Then the pinnacle
is reached, adulthood
and the beginnings
Growth becomes girth
and each day, gravity
pulls us closer to the earth.
grass into milk
milk into bone
bone into soil
soil into grass
grass into milk
milk into bone
bone into soil
soil into grass…