08 December 2019

Twenty Poems / November 2019

When We Still

once upon a time, when we still

believed in happy endings, the ice

cracked beneath our boots in the

parking lot, spring still to come, those

flowers garlanded through your hair

and your voice so far, so far away

and fading away as if caught and

carried by the wind, scrambling your

syllables as the tines of the fork thrust

through the stew, vegetable matter chopped

none too fine, yet we shall not

choke, I think

the three wishes given and gone, the

finger pricked, used to pen some

scarlet script, a crimsoned syllabus

brightening her eyes, cheeks rosered

lilywhite by turns


Alpha and Omega

In the beginning, when all was new,

and you and I and the green shoots

looked up at the sun, there

was no need to jockey for position,

snarling at this one, spitting at the

other, smearing and slandering all

the day long, the hecklers from

the penny-seats, delighting in the

murky depths they could sink to, as

if a moray eel with razor-teeth, lurking

in the brackish waters, brother to that one

beneath the feet of a woman, crawling forever

upon his belly, lowest of the low, while

bully-boys clear the room with a cane,

rigging outcomes with a heavy hand,

laying the lies on, thick as buttercream

on teacakes studded with pretty pills.

still, my alpha and omega, as

the green leaves have changed to

scarlet-gold, crimsontipped, blood-orange, burning

up into the blueskies, flametrees flagrant, the

truth of the season shifting.  The sky is

not black because someone says

it is so.  I will believe

the evidence of

my eyes.


Triune Themed

morning, noon, and night these

three muses (Calliope, Erato, and


inspire new ways to utter those

three little words we let slip

after a late dinner and

too much wine, inspiring tercets in

triplicate, the three sandwiched sheets

of paper, carbon, and paper again

dusting fingers with soot, dust you are and

dust you will return to, so says Father,

Son, and Holy Ghost, the triune

God blessed when the trifecta lines

your pockets with green, triple digits this

time and you bless the gods and

the muses three, informing your words, the

beginning, middle, and end of all our histories,

the love, loyalty, and friendship gold-emblazoned

upon your hand and heart


Night Missive

written to memory, in the dark, one letter at

a time, then separating phrases like

sheep from goats, wheat from chaff,

engaging in verbal

gymnastics, the turn of phrase to turn

the eye to the next page, and the next. Is

this chatter made up of the sparks from

stars?  More likely from the thin strip of

gold where the door (nearly)

closes, a glimmer of brilliance, words, like pearls,

strung, one after another, amidst the

slumping shadows of upholstery, curtains,

clothing, the

clobber of an acquisitive nature.

tomorrow: to seek out the blue box

mushroomed at a corner, or mid-block,

brighter than their green, stolid cousins,

squat above a slab of concrete.

see here: the rain, puddled, magnifies the

words, those restrictions on weighty

prattle, tied in brown paper and twine,

destined for pawing by a thick-fingered

clerk in baby blue, hazardous words indeed


At Sixes and Sevens

ah, the rivulets of tea streaming from

upended crockery, the jam

smeared, half upon the toast

and half upon the cloth, the boiled

eggs ill-timed and runny,

all at sixes and sevens, both as

cross as two sticks, so she says

let’s close our eyes, dear,

and start again, afresh,

before we espy the

sun peering through those

bare branches, spindly and austere

in silent disapproval


The Orchestra Tunes Up

discordant tones merge into

one seamless melody, the

pitching strains

woven together tightly, stitches

in a jumper, head pushed through

the neckhole as if being

born again, hair askew, tempest

tossed as if blown by sea

winds, the melodies borne

along by night air, buffeted

and shaped by darkening clouds,

rough to make smooth

Herringbone Dyed and Spun

flecked with the colors of seafoam and

darkening skies, herringbone dyed and spun,

capacious pockets that held

sweets, before they were scattered, like

rain, for grandchildren to find (what wonders that

coat held) redolent of pipe smoke twisting

up on chill afternoons, fragrant-sweet,

blue furled up to cloud-thick skies.

buttons, like eyes, glint, a

winking as he walked the miles to town, hard

to keep up with his long stride, though

they did their best,

fabric tightly woven, stamped with orb

and cross, edges bound fast,

shield against cold and damp,

surely magical, even in frightening the

scavengers of the field, this

scarecrow in his Sunday best



perched on an indigo banquette in a

mirrored corner, a neat figure

is reflected multiply as

she peers into the oval

of a smoothgold compact, sees the

strangeness, the sleek whorls of

a new coiffure, medusa-like, heavily

lacquered, and jewellery

jangles as she paws through

her handbag for match and

cigarette, inhales, exhales,

looks through the looking-glass

into worlds ever receding away,

distant reflections, so many of

her, so many it tires her,

it tires her,

the same face, the self-same words,




may I take your order?

Heel of the Loaf

smeared with clots of

blackcurrant, riven by

silvered flash of butter

knife dragged across

this odd endment, the

heel of the loaf, least

preferred of all, square

of sustenance, staff of

life, give to us our


bread, not the stones

we choke on, or those

beneath thin-soled shoes,

navigating the gravel of a

driveway as the music

dies down, picking steps

carefully in moonlight, belle

of the ball no longer, the

clock gone twelve and

that ancient moon looming down


bundled into a packet,

ribbon-tied, my worn edges

bump up against some neatly folded

patterned squares of silk

I imagine unfurled,

knotted round her neck,

a thin (but surprisingly warm),

barrier against the cold.

I warmed her, once, on the

coldest days she endured, her

eyes alight as they traced

each word, whispering them

aloud so that I, too, could

hear them, the sloping scripts,

the twists and curlicues in

black on white as ink

on snow and my words wait,

for her,


Golden Apples

three golden apples gleaming

on their silver bough

weigh him down, lighter, still,

than his usual, worldly burden

gods or men, the

tasks set to us are

to be completed, even

as we fly straight for the sun,

slaughter some beast, or

navigate some pitching sea, you—

tossed, a cork upon

waters thick with trouble—what

can we do, sometimes, except make

burnt offerings of the dinner and

light candles the next day?


Free As A

bird on a wire

chirping cheerily, oh

so cheerily through

the morning routines

espied through her

beadlike eyes glittering

over the yellow ribs

of the bus-tops gliding past

broken branches, the

sedans streaking past the

STOP signs, grinding against

the first frost—

with a free leg and a

fine day

shanks mare into town

Green, In Spite Of

at the edge of the


green grows up,


unencouraged except

by occasional rains,

dew damping down those

stringy roots, the

shoots reflecting back

dullness of oxidation, redbrown

as bloodstains

vigorous, thickening, seeking

out the rays of the

sun, spreading out in

rude health, thriving amidst

a steady decrepitude,

breaking down, dying

all around, signage worn

away to a tracing, sun-



Turn the Page

turn the page and there

he is, eternal wunderkind,

all mouth and no trousers, in

a four-color spread tipped into

the Sunday magazine,

declaiming over his collection

of antique silver salad forks, Adonis,

he of the chiseled brow and

blue eyes, head yet unbowed


here she’s been since

six, juggling those golden apples

in some sort of circus act

approximating life—shot through,

like a Swiss cheese, Peckinpah-

style.  she uses the streams to

write everything down, an

undercurrent of voice below the

others, narrator

keeping everything aloft in spite of

(because of?) her increasing

invisibility (her next power) as

she sees all

she hears all


writes it all down

Light on Bloodorange

light strains through

a pane onto the

bloodorange, smoothed

wheat colors, sleek grains, sun

magnifying head through

transparency, and we

ants under the curving glass,

enlarged, our mandibles

grasping and reflexing over

crumbs, watching the play of

shadows (while

one wrenches one of their six legs off and

uses it to beat another,

all the while howling “I

am the most virtuous ant

of all!) grimacing at the

most recent stain upon the

sidewalk, hoisting glasses to

our lips, brushing a spray

of sandy sweet grains from

wood bleached pale

and he calls her by the name of another

and she starts and says—yes,

love comforteth like sunshine

after rain and light


in silent confirmation

Plain Oatmeal Porridge

(Not Oatmeal Deluxe)

half-cup measure old-fashioned

cut oats, one tablespoon of

fine white sugar into the steaming

copper-bottomed pot (one cup water)

splash of milk


brisk tines beating through

the thickness of it,

crown with brown

sugar to melt into

puddles of sweet

one once penned

an oatmeal poem—

creating a woman of

the stuff—I have not

his mystical

magic, alas and alack,

with cereal grains

but mine will yet

warm the core, to

be sure a

coarser trick

Mudlarks at Midday

incidental music of cutlery

upon china, we trawl through

our meal, speaking of the

history buried in riverbeds,

thick sediments unearthed by

mudlarks, the particular resonance of

some items, some


reverberating within the

hush of just-afternoon,

white-aproned waiters preparing

for the caterwauling evening

to come, everlastingly arranging glassware

(chink, clink, chink)

each memory an artifact

safely stowed away, a

polished stone, the green jagged

glass, the dagger obscured

by rust, the curved tab from a

fizzy drink, fit to slice a finger

gleam of silverware against

hemstitched squares in the half-light,

condensation beading upon the glass, the

insistent writing upon the world, I,

once was here


A Withering

too soon, too soon, the bloom shrivels

on the bough,

icy breath of winter

sending a chill down

the spine, longing for

the warming green of

long May days entwined, sinuous,

heat of June wreathing

round, the conflagrations

of July compete with

fireflies darting

through the sweet fug of

honeysuckle thick along

the road, fragrance, in memory,

forever, though

the flower withers

What Words, These

what words, these, emblazoned

upon cardstock or upon

muslin, framed and hung

what happy we, what

thankful we, holding

hands beneath garlanded

tables, unseen, surprised

by joy, shocked at that

this world may yet reveal

In Every End

in every end some

beginning, the boots forced

across the threshold,

hayfoot, strawfoot, all

the way into town, the

trees receding behind

one until, in caverns

of brick and cement

an end plonked on

a chair, better to

survey the scene while


words thrust through the

air as arrows, some

missing their target

entirely.  No matter.

in the end what will

remain of us except the

rapid-fire of synapses, one

after the other, an endless

looping of recollection

26 June 2019

Signs and Visions

sometimes angels arrive,
unannounced, unbidden, enunciating
news of signs and visions,
weighty as the gold chain
sewed within the hem of
a skirt of palest lavender knit from
fine wool that, nonetheless, goes
swoooooosh, billowed out
by a wind gust while
traversing some orderly midtown avenue,
swallowed by grey and glass,
goldleaf safely beyond
the reach of sticky
fingerprints, the small, still
voice of the divine heard in spite
of the grinding of tires upon
grates, metal plates, the
occasional manhole explosion,
the interjections, interruptions, interrogations,
and soot falls like snow
upon her cheeks

25 June 2019


the truth, predictably, lay
somewhere in the middle, the
jam in the sandwich, his face
reflected in the knifeblade
she used to smooth the
preserve evenly as the feathered ones
sang out their morning chorus, the
sun cracking just below the
horizon, fighting to be seen
through the serried ranks of trees, flocked
out in green, putting on their summer
clothes, the long, lean look of
winter put away, for a time, in

what do we hide in our closets, in the
jacket pockets, the stub-ends and fond
failings we repeat, and repeat, the jingles
used to lull ourselves to sleep, stasis
cradled in memory-foam, remembrances
wreathed about our brainpans, the twisted wires
that even sleep will not unentangle?

03 June 2019


mothwings folded into a
matchbox, the transparent
fluttering quelled to the
quiet of a heartbeat, the
galloping quieted for at
least a moment, a
brief respite in which the
birds take over, weaving a
song that falls from
the trees

ever never, never ever,
the black pools open up,
inky, and invite one to
test the temperature, brace
oneself for a taste, to
breach the unknown

ever never, never ever,
heart beats, thick, the
muscle sinewed over with
scars, the striations that
reveal past encroachments
upon that sacred space

pulsing and releasing, the
language in hasty meters,
ever never, never ever,
to breathe again as
once before

27 January 2019

Back to School

cooling winds bring a
portent of papers and
bluelined copybooks,
red pencil at the

ready, she hesitates
over his sentences,
diagramming his declarations
until the whole is

broken down into many
parts, each word a pearl
of great price strung
together by semicolons

of gold, commas clarifying
meaning, his intent true
for all time, the starkness
of clouds pressed against blue sky

06 January 2018

Practical Hands

with practical hands
she strips the petals of the artichoke,
braving the thorns to reach the heart
and hope, thinking not of those
evening meals purely disdained, their
very essence a botch-blotch upon florid china,
twice-vitrified, steeled through
fire, furnace hellish, roaring
orange, beating against the bricks, and,
abstracted, she registers the days, dates, she
has had his kiss, a single
column of black digits totted up as she
strips the petals away
to reach the heart, that
green secret of hope and love,
ever springing up, the spear-blade of
grass snaking up between two slates of
pavement, heavy as gravestones, and
she exhales as bleak
November blows coldly into icewhite
December and

forced merriment in a public square
blared over by klaxon horns,
massed crowds braying for a handful
of sweets

so much better, so much tastier, the
secret heart of love at her core,
when all was
finally stripped away,
simmering, as if bathed in the
light of summer, the thick gold she
held in her hands, proffered when
all that was extraneous
had been shorn away,
leaving the heart naked, ready for
the tearing of teeth, the savoring
of scent again, a

marking down of minutes, hours, weeks,
months, years, the curious timetable of
numbers, scripted, catching together, all
a fine mess of figures, and, in
each one a thought, a pang, a
breath lost, a tear shed, those
sins of omission, venial, that dog
her heels, snapping, unwilling yet to hear
ego te absolvo,
graceless, stateless, a mote of dust
caught for a moment in his glance
before the wind bears her
into the back of beyond,
the eternal that is love, and love

too long a sacrifice/
can make a stone of/
the heart/

her heart-stones clink-chink against each other,
making that bright music she rises to
each morning, the cup glancing against the saucer,
the flames reaching up, blue-bright,
under the kettle, warm her face, her
flesh is as many fields, her words a
her touch a promise, unspoken still

15 April 2017


Goddesses of Midnight and Fog--
do not hide me from the God of
Bardship, but let him see me
in my robes of blue and goldenrod,

anxious for words to fete the ever-
turning of the universe, a turning from
dishonesty and indifference, the
time is ripe, indeed, for those syllables

to drop from the boughs of the tree-branches
like fruit into my lap, bruised and
sweet, to feed upon before I journey into
the next world to seek advice from the ancients

protect me from your brothers,
that Trickster and the Vengeful one--
make sure my steps, and fill
my mouth with words for recitation

Above the Fold

"because I could not answer
you before, because I
could not answer you before
I am calling you now.  Are you there?
Are you there?"

"Painkillers?  No. Nothing stronger
than aspirin.  What's happened,
anyway; I was worried."

scanning headlines, in the silence,
behind the glass a sea of pink
wool, unparted, in spite of
the spouting of alternative facts
she persisted, in spite of
the clatter of night-time raids
punctuated by the glare of torches

"Well, will you have it seen to?
Don't take aspirin; it thins the

eyes scan the words as
his fall through the wires, those black upon the page,
ink on pale newsprint, another
county heard from, another
cunning stunt reported on,
another breach in the
fabric of humanity, the
threads tearing away as if
perforated by a thousand
thrusting knives, the numbers of the dead
totted up in neat columns

"Use heat, or cold, is it,
to relieve the pain?  Heat,
I think, is the thing to try."

fingers blackened by the
smear of the banner
headline, all those headless
bodies in topless bars piling up
while Hizzoner watches his
approval ratings
and she wonders whether it
would be different, now, if
Dewey had defeated Truman

30 December 2016

Seasonal Offerings

the exodus of the child into
a foreign land
is not so strange
it happens, every day, though the
faces of the tax collectors and
the soldiers change
the journey, so tiresome and
waiting to see which way
the wind blows, depending
upon dreams and visions,
creased heavily with cares,
last-minute luggage packed hastily, but
the baby gifts placed carefully
at the bottom of the case,
redolent of riches, incongruous,
strange, yet predestined
Seasonal Photograph
the image of you, a year
older, taken in a State park in
the blazing sun is most un-Christmas-like,
though bordered by bells, tinsel, and holly
the green of cactus behind you, the
red of your pocket handkerchief will
have to do, the marking of another
year of lines, told in your visage, of
the ordinary passage of time
balanced by the words of some ancient hymn
of celestial words and promises as
familiar as your intake of breath, the
tapping, impatient, of your fingers, as the
days tick down towards puddings and
roasts, the blank boxes, bereft again of
their silken ribbons, their work done
we come, bearing gifts, across
deserts, green-brown patchworks of fields, guided
by those stars we seek out, blazing
away like the fire stoked in the
furnace, warming hearth, and home, and
and we wait, too, for the
cards carrying the annual weather report, proud
robin preening in his gilt border, puffed
out breast a drop of blood against the
snow, (when seen at a distance), scent
of balsam and pine surrounding one,
the ranks of gingerbread soldiers
amassing in air-tight tins, raisin-studded,
crisply brown and fragrant, promising
that Christmas will, indeed, return, as
surely as the clock tolls twelve and the
candles are extinguished only to be
lit again, light piercing through darkness,
needle through the dark cloth in which
we were shrouded
Natal Star
His natal star rises still,
Eastwards, beacon-bright, burning
through the fog like a hot
knife through butter cut into
the pudding, fruit-thick, we stirred
and wished upon
and herself only half-done
with the Christmas shopping,
moving, so, from dark into
light, she loops great
strands, twinkling round
her wrists, her reflection tinsel-ribboned
for the Christmas:
baking great cakes of currants
and ginger, fragrant as
the first gifts to
an infant child
smiling upon us after
Adam stumbling and
spilling all those apples
upon the earth
and bang—go the
and bang—go our
when we realize
His saving grace
moving from the basement
crawlspace with the boxes,
back into the light,
bearing gifts from their hiding places—
and out of wrapping paper again,
and down to the shops,
and the post office,
and the grocery,
to pile up gifts of grace,
perhaps, for Him
Angel Voices
these celestial hordes, their angel
voices disturb the air pearl-thick with fog
obscuring distant lights, the glowing orbs
strung, necklace-like, along the dip
and rise of the metal spines of a
distant bridge
while we wrestle with rolls of paper,
order hampers of food and the
first snow, potently mixed with rain,
lashes against the pane, window into
the world beyond
corners squared off by telephone lines,
the demarcation of bordering hedges
overhung with lights boldly emblazoning the
way of that jolly old housebreaker,
stolid redsuited fellow, spreading good
cheer and leaving a trail of crumbs
in his wake, the glasses of milk only half-drunk
in his haste, best of all
houseguests with his wink and his
waddle, father of Christmas forgiving even
the naughtiest of children (so
that no one, ever, receives coal
anymore) given the new benchmarks,
progress reports, and
projections for the next quarter,
everyone given the benefit of all our
ripe for self-improvement in six easy steps
so the silks and lace rustle,
perfume rising, warm on this
vigil night, the
long lists gone over twice and
twice again, the unlovely long
weeks of January pushed further
from the mind in favor of
this candlelight and the petals of red flowers
in flaming circles bordered by green,
suffused in pinescent, thickribboned,
again, in red and the
organ resounds with familiar
strains and dark is made light again,
night made day and
the gifts are opened with a
snip of the ribbon the
next morning, the carpet littered
with a thickness of paper waded
through like fall leaves, the
scent of breakfast hanging heavy in
the kitchen, the
pot scalded, again, for tea
Angel Wings
out of the Christmas box she
comes, again wingless, her
angel wings must be glued on,
glued on, glued on, every year for as long
as he can remember, her winsome
red-painted mouth puckered into a
bow, about to bestow a kiss eternally
wings drying, in a safe spot, she
waits for Christmas roses to
bring the bloom to her cheeks again, the
hothouse flowers crowded thick
amongst the lilies and the hyacinth,
not for them the four smooth walls of
a cardboard box—no they are
born to glory only to die and rejoin the
earth, while she stares on, blue-eyed,
golden haired, forever in an attitude
of arrested flight
Lights in Winter
lighting the candles we remind ourselves
that the winter is but a long
night and that the heat of
summer, spent basking, like a
lizard, in the sun, will come again
and the green proliferation obscuring the
blue of sky, that too, will return
the miracle of light that
pierces darkness,
the flash of a jeweled brooch piercing a coat,
glinting beneath an electric light, small
suns to remind us of
that largest sun breaking through
the darkness to light our way
tinted granules of sugar melt
and harden into pools of
green and red, the colors of the spring we
are promised throughout the
darklong weeks of winter, the
berries bloodred against the
white of snow, the shining snow
glared upon by the sun, the
sacrificial dinner of fat-
slaughtered goose upon the
table, while the sparrows peck
outside the door, hungry for a
few crumbs to drop down from
this heaven of munificence, the
rick-rack of apron twitches, striving always
for perfection, the candy stripes echoing
those embroidered upon
the napkins, quick hands arranging
landscapes of cottonwool and mirror flecked
with iridescent specks, catching the beams from
twinned candles, waxy tapers slim, red, burning bright
Bird of Dawning
the bird of dawning singeth all
night long and so
rends her rest to pieces,
shattered as the curved
metallic sherds on the carpet
fallen from her hands
reflecting on the
bells tolling twelve
singing, ringing, then
peace in the absence
of sound
needles fall silently, thick
with pinescent, unlovely side
pushed to the wall, garlanded
gold, crowned with a
single star
So Much……
so much to do that even
an army of elves wouldn’t be
a help, better, so, to do it
on her own—who cares if it
takes all night, or occasions
comment on her listless eyes,
raised, again, at the sight
of the deliverymen, heavy-laden,
striding towards her door and
the hundred undone things unspooling
as the spindle of ribbon loosened and
tumbling down the stairs
tangling, finally, in the cat’s paws,
praying, sometimes, for the
peace of January
A Chara, Mo Chroi
and you said you would be
sorry were the time to come
when my letters would not longer
reach your mailbox
and the annual letter arrives,
white as snow, ivory oblong, heavily stamped,
addressed in chickenscratch,
informing me that the trees,
fallen to some obscure tree-disease, have
been uprooted and, in their place,
new ones, a fast-growing variety, planted
down, black earth tamped thickly around
their roots, a promise of years to come
and now your voice is carried to
me through the howl of wind seeking to
breach the storm door as I wait, endlessly,
and would I could open the door to
receive you in, to jaw over old
landscapes, new-painted, the honeycomb of paths, squared,
we once walked, and this is
my Christmas letter to you, a chara, mo chroi
Grey Pearl
grey pearl of sky draws
down around earth so
quiet-blanketed in white
footsteps are muffled and
all quiet save for the
occasional scrape of
metal against pavement
shuddering up
shrubbery bearded
in a temporary disguise
of white, icicles hanging from
the eaves a toothy grin
of cold
imperfect fields of green and brown now
perfected white, shine
back, glittering now, under the
sun, eye-blinding bright
Blank Copy Books
another blank copy book opens, waiting
to be filled with copperplate
resolutions (before we’ve lost
everything but a stub of a pencil and
the back of an old envelope, only
slightly torn) and the rosy glow of
New Year’s dinner not yet worn off and
perhaps a freshclean blanket of snow
mirroring your newmade soul and
for at least one moment
all seems possible, and, maybe,
even likely
Beneath the Constellations
beneath the constellations
bells are ringing, bells are ringing
beneath the starry skies
we are singing, we are singing
of that night so long ago,
of those words threading through
this tapestry of night, blue-
dark, lit by that singular star of
fire, heralded by
an angel choir
this tangle-thick of corded
lights confound one, yet we
persist, determined to
light the way of others
with garlands of red and
green and white-hot
illumination, pale cousins
of those new suns perpetually
being born
while deliverymen come, bearing
gifts, to the door
and the sphinx still stares,
impassive, across Egyptian sands,
under the thronging stars
New Year
the song resounds: another year
done, another yet to begin
the muddied pages of the
desk diaries changed for new
the scrawls of March and
April as indecipherable as
Sanskrit to your tired eyes, the
days slipped by too fast, tied
up now with ribbons and good
intentions, the slipknots wound
round the needles, fashioning a
new garment for a new year
when all
shall be
in abundance
Burning Daylight
burning daylight with those
ordinary tasks after the season
has expired and all is quiet:
jewel-bright ornaments, small
mirrors, placed back in their
boxes, egg-fragile, shimmering
crimson, gold, eggplant-purple, back to
the attic they go, their
service done for another year,
each burnished with a thick
layer of memory, of that year or
another, touched with tender hands,
supremest care
Our Song, Now Done
and now that our song is
birds throng on the
angels stir the air
all will be merry
though the chill winds
a fire leaps up
licking the coals
banishing sorrows