30 April 2010

McCarra/Poetry Broadcast Number 8


disgorging from each car at the
end of this railway line, are the
grey men with hats and cases, news-
papers folded under their arms

some met by wives in sleek sedans--
others walk home in the twilight
quietly approaching, the roar of the
train ebbing away to nothing, as if
it never were

the promise of a moon later, low-hanging
over the station, a
gleaming dinnerplate suspended as if
in a catalogue for new brides,
pale white, brighter than electricity

music rising up, the cricket song,
the scratch of matches, the winding of
the clock--at the tone the time will

No Other Road

*Written for day 27 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: a "hopeful" poem.

because there is no other road
we lace our boots up and look,

resolutely, at the ink drying on the
page, these floods that would

detail, in an exhaustive manner,
all that has gone before, the

case notes, blue on white, neatly
filed, the various and sundry

applications, forms, petitions and
letters to the editor--a fine

thing indeed, to see your name
in print--

all the while that small wild
bird, quivering, flying in your breast,

the ever-living heartbeat that
forgets to die, somehow, and

lives on, the spark amidst
the dust crackling into a bonfire

26 April 2010

Five Times and More

*Written for day 26 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: "more than 5 times".

five times and more I called your name,
five times and more I was denied

the pleasure of your voice---
I hear it now, everywhere, even in

the corn crake, the crow, the
chattering squirrel, the wood pigeon

yawp of the great world spreading
over me

like marmalade over thin

yet it has not your sweetness,
I think, when all is said and done

and done I am with calling your name

Sweet Home

*Written for day 25 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: poem inspired by a song.
(Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd)

searching for that sweet home,
in Alabama (or anywhere
that will have her)

spending long hours on
demographics, plans of
houses, taxes, termites,

the lot--and all she
wishes for is a bed to rest
her head on and a

place for her books, and
some time, and a room, yes,
to write in, endlessly

The Morse Code of Fireflies

*Written for day 24 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: an "evening" poem.

blinking their morse code, these
fireflies in late July spell out
all I would say to you as
I wring out the dishrag and

set it to dry, distracted by the
squeals of neighbor-children and
the voices of their parents, pitching and clink-
clacking over their late-night

drinks, a grill glowing in
the distance as the cricket-noise
swells and fades, swells and fades
yet again, fine concert, that

see-- a S.O.S. -- hear me, see
me-- the blind shall yet see,
the lame yet walk, the halt
have their voice

float-blink, float-blink
as if borne by the breeze blowing past.....contrasting
the tactlessness of 24/7 neon--
these subtle fellows--sending their message
on their way

Airmail Letter

*Written for day 23 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: an "exhausted" poem.

thick with lack of sleep, writing a
missive in the blue-red-blue-red-blue-
red airport terminal, waiting on
the next leg of her flight
and home to New York after
seven long nights in Los Angeles, the
hum in her ears makes it an
effort, the line between her
eyes and the tablet as taut
as a string used to pull teeth

sealed, stamped, and deposited in a
blue mailbox, the lines of
his address wavering as
she posts it

sleeping, before touching earth, Austen
fallen from her lap, the
bump-bump-bump stuttering
against the runway jolting her
awake.....and longing to sleep the
sleep of angels still abed

24 April 2010

White Rock Fairy

* Written for day 2 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: a "water" poem.

water cascading, the Ajax
stronger than dirt
wings folded neatly
she sits at a small table
of avocado green as the
White Knight and Mr. Clean
regale her with tales of
stains vanquished

the lazy susan in harvest
gold revolves, the walnut-studded bundt
cake, neatly sliced, the
coffee perking (fill it to
the rim?)

this Psyche, long looking
for her stupid Cupid,
wondering, if indeed, absinthe makes the
heart grow fonder---
whiling away the hours as
her washday wears on, his shirts,
whiter than white, awaiting the
press of her iron


*Written for Day 1 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: a "lonely" poem.

she looks upon the depression
left deep upon the pillow, his
headprint still evident, the
tangle, too, of his pyjamas tossed
to the floor

in Tulsa, now, he is, she knows,
and the din of her afternoon yet
to begin, the birds descanting
in a restless tone, the
sky burning above her roof

when did he leave? she tries
to remember and sees the
fresh-ironed shirts carefully
folded and packed, socks paired
and rolled, toiletries in a dopp
kit, this careful assemblage meant
to minimize wrinkling

then recalls the kiss too light
to wake her, the grinding of a
key against the barrel of the lock
and gone

22 April 2010

Digging for Earthworms

*Written for day 22 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: an "earth" poem (for earth day).

digging for earthworms I do
not think of the tectonic
plates shifting, the molten
magma center of this earth,
but of the errands to be
run, the telephone calls
dialed, the dinner, now
defrosting on the counter, to
be somehow assembled

I do not think of those
others who have walked here,
leaving the ground undisturbed,
as we tear through the sod
to blackness below, or of
the fossil remains we may
yet find

the afternoon post brings
more demands, the calendar,
like clockwork, presents us
with the first and last
of the month, the curious
pressing scripts so easily
ignored (for a moment) in
favor of these earthworms,
tangling-thick, working the
earth in their own slow way

According to the Weatherman

*Written for day 21 of the PAD challenge. Prompt "According to (blank)".

we're due for rain again, and
with it all the truck of

raincoats and boots and
sopping socks, the wayward

wind blowing the umbrellas
backwards--you see them,

abandoned, in a huff, at the
side of the road, when only a little

patience could set them right.
I don't need a weatherman to

know what way the wind blows---
I watch it in your eyes, those

hurricanes brewing up, thick-
barreled, carrying away the cattle

Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, Prisoner Number 16670

*Written for the PAD challenge. Day 19 a poem about somebody.

14 August 1941

black smoke plumed up to
heaven and he, burnt along
with the rest, said "Ave
Maria" before the injection
of carbolic acid, crowned
with red and white, this one
who laid down his life
for another, in Block
13, starved for a fortnight of the
weak substitute coffee and dry bread

and "God dwells in
our midst" said he,
going to his death with singing
and praise, straight into the arms of
Our Lady

21 April 2010


*Written for day 20 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: "Looking forward."

future-time is a plot of
ground, tree-shaded, some
chickens, too, and quiet

no point in chewing over the
past like an old bone--onwards and upwards,
he says, and pulls out

the packing boxes and the
tape, crumpled newspaper
to blacken the hands as

the Skynyrd CD replays,
again, the cardboard crates
are loaded onto a truck

bound for the green-bladed, yet
unknown future, the bill of
lading filled out, the

signatures affixed, and so
we start our journey to
that green and pleasant land

To a Coffee-Pot

*For day 18 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: "To (blank)"

so thankful, sometimes, for
things that work--you--
(if you can be a "you") distilling
the essence of ground beans
(most mornings) into my cup, except,
of course, when I prefer your
pale cousin, tea

gleaming silver, on the stovetop,
you work and perk and hiss and steam
away until the top chamber
is filled and fragrant--
and thankful, so, I pour
blackness into white, savoring
that first draught of warmth
to break the chill morning


*For day 17 of the PAD challenge. A "science" poem.

this botanist sets aside the
York and Lancaster rose, the
African and French marigolds--
preferring instead the pine apple,
white and yellow chrysanthemums
bound into this bouquet,
crowned with clematis,
wreathed through with rosemary
for remembrance and
white periwinkle too, the sun
dancing on the glass house that
shields his bended head, each
ray a gleaming point of significance
flashing off his signet ring, a
gift from his father, as
he binds these blooms together

16 April 2010


*Written for day 16 of PAD. Prompt: "death."

I do not think the dead cry for us
as we for them

we collected saltwater, in jars,
to prove our feelings for him,
our dead king, the golden
one, his armies massed and at
the ready.....

how many head of cattle?
how many battalions, how
many flags to unfurl in
the underworld?
how large his granaries?

I do not think the dead cry for us
as we for them

Breakfast at Camelot

*Written for day 15 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: a "deadline" poem.

late again with the words
that would matter in black and white,

no matter, she can
wait to hear the presses

roll, the white cylinders
of paper unspooling noisily

on Forty-third Street, the
stop press for her own

personal headline as the
sun rises over Sardi's,

even Ray has gone home to
Brooklyn--and her

next deadline--breakfast
at Camelot with Pat the Priest


*For day 14 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: an "island" poem.

a pyramid of oranges at
Ben Nat, opposite the island
comprised of four benches,

stopping off place for the
weary shoppers watching
passers-by weighing fruit,

purchasing chickens and crubeens,
grappling with bags as the
cigar-man slowly rolls his leaves

oh, for an island of
melodies to sing her
into a drowsing sleep

as the sun set beyond palm
trees, into an ocean of unreal
blue, stolen from the paintbox,

Crayola's best color, the
sapphire-blue sea, so
far from the Bronx River

on a sandy shore while
the chorus sings her
to sleep, her own island,

the black loops of tape
running, automatic, this
Transland travel agency

of images sun-bleached, the
package holidays carefully
posed and composed

Amor Vincit?

*Written for day 13 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: A "love" or "anti-love" poem.

I'm through with love,
said she, tossing her
gloves down on the table

through waiting by the
telephone for the call
that never comes, through

with sighing her sighing, dying
breath and deconstructing
the actions and inactions of

another, endlessly. Through. I've had
a belly full of aches to
last me a century or more


12 April 2010

Mount Vernon: Chief Gramatan Walks

*Written for day 12 of the PAD challege. Today's prompt: write about a city.

Chief Gramatan walks the four
point four square miles,
remembering a time before this
economic engine hummed

along Sandford Boulevard and
the bricks being shifted to
make new houses, each complete
with washer and dryer

the fruit fallen from the tree,
crushed red beneath his feet,
spots the sidewalk the polyglot
strolls upon in a Sunday hat

in this city of churches, raising hands
to Heaven, nearly touching
the clouds

11 April 2010

The Last Letter

*Written for day 11 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: "The Last (blank)."

not zed, but another, better,
carried as a talisman
against harm, those blue
slashes on white paper, folded so,
and placed in her handbag, side-by-
side with compact and lipstick,
the daily warpaint, putting on a
face to face the world, these
words a garment made of chains
no one can break, so finely they
were wrought

10 April 2010

Gothic Romance

*Written for day 10 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: "horror."

"the stealthy hand of midnight
wraps round her neck as she
thinks upon the flower pressed
between the leaves of the
book he gave her, so many
years ago, and on the
promise made to her, that
night: that he would
return, in spirit form, and
have her for his own......"

so the page read, as she
switched off the light and
went to her bed, dreaming of
the visions a dark night
(and an over-active mind)
could conjure up, some
horror of the less than living,
the frankly dead, to
come, sit by our side,
bide awhile with one

her lost love, the pale
youth, spouting the poetry
of lies so attractive to
hear, in a clutched embrace,
falling back to the ragged earth
before he must return to his tomb,
some miles hence, and the
chilly folds of his winding sheet

09 April 2010

Halftone Portrait

*Written for day 9 of the PAD challenge. Prompt: "a self-portrait."

glancing, as she does, at each glass
she passes, the mirror
and the shopwindow, simply
to make sure she is still there,
and not spirited off in a
puff of smoke, the ether rising up,
one day black, the next white, the
halftone passed over in the book of
color plates, the details
of her eyes, the nape of
her neck still invite discovery,
though draped with knots of
silk, black, white, gold, the folds
creasing up against her cheek
as she drops her head down
to ink again the plain page
she was granted

08 April 2010

His Level Now Upon the Shelf

*Written for day 8 of the PAD challenge. Prompt "a tool."

his level now upon the shelf
he held surely in his hands, now age-
gnarled, aching, when he was a
younger man, building up a house for
his young bride and the children,
planned for, who came in time to
sit around his table

the center ring of brass still
shines as it did that day, when,
resting it on the stone wall
facing westward, the pearl in
the sphere of glass steady, so,
as the sun dipped beyond the
hills he counted his blessings on
his fingers, those other tools,

too, that helped make his house
a home, the boards smoothed and joined
for a cradle, a chest for a
daughter, a roof to keep the weather out,
all these things he counts, and recounts, his
level now upon the shelf

07 April 2010

Until the Last Ember of the Sun

*Written for day 7 of the PAD challenge, prompt "Until (blank)."

until the last ember of the sun
falls through the firmament, a
small beacon in all that black,

she will wait, in her shift, counting
the leaves as they grow, finely-veined,
semi-transparent, on the tree

that brushes her windowpane with an
errant branch, a tapping finger, as
if to say, yes, you are still here

in spite of all the contradictions,
served up cold, on a plate, like
last night's dinner

smiling, all the while, at the
passing scene (how can she not?)
untangling the knots the wind wove

in her hair, counting the ants as
they make their hoardings for
winter, her heart's larder already full

of apples, sweets, preserves, all there
for the tasting

06 April 2010

On The Road Home

*Written for day 6 of the PAD challenge...on de Goya's "Flight of the Witches."

how soon before they would shift
back to their familiar shapes, the

carrion crow, the cat, the snake
writhing around the stump of a

tree he had hoped to safely sleep
beside until the dawn broken

like the shell of an egg held
in her hand, cracked

against the rim of a teacup, the
kettle singing atop the fire

now this whirlwind of flesh about
his head, and he only wanting

to be home in his own bed,
unmolested by spirits, his wife

whispering, telling her beads,
ten by ten, ivorywhite, her hands

in his, later, murmuring a
morning prayer, her lips pressed to his

05 April 2010

North Reading Room

*Written for the PAD (poem-a-day) 2010 challenge for National Poetry Month. The prompt is: too much information.

wooden card catalogues, the sliding
drawers have their grooves smoothed
with beeswax, those busy insects simmering

like the synapses of her brain as she
catches his eye across the reading room
dotted by heads bent over books, inclined

towards the green-shaded lamps to catch
the light in this otherwise dim gallery
of recessed shelves and carpet-quieted boards

fingers trembling at "a" she thinks yes, able,
he is and I for him, and happy so, to
catalogue each sigh and slight

she feels, listing her pale attributes
on one side of the scale, her
human measurements--five-seven, brown-

haired, blueish-eyed, 45-34-44, an
eight-and-a-half shoe (to walk
alongside you), ears still unpierced

at forty-two, no tattoos, scratching out
genealogies and grocery lists, wishing for
what was, when she was hungry

and Gawain still not yet killed her dragon--
other bones linger long, around the
encampment, whitened, with an inventory

written upon them, the magical, the
lost and longed for, the pecks of corn and barley and
half-stone weight of sugar candy stored away

04 April 2010

History, Unraveling

that history, unraveling from
the edges of the tapestry
unweaving, each day, a little
more, the scenes of unicorns

recumbent, fading from view as
he turns to her with quizzical
looks and the riddle of his
fingers spanning round her waist, the

Cloisters in dark November, tracing
the face of the woman, stone-

riddle me, riddle me, randy-ro,
my father gave me seed to sow

they bloom now, in Spring, so many
seasons later,
sleeping, have they been sleeping

these many years, a long
hibernation of sorts, bursting forth
only now, their histories
writ upon their petals,
florid and pale by turns

03 April 2010

A Lecture on Tintoretto

throwing off the old cloak of
melancholy, shaking away the

raindrops dripping from the tip
of an umbrella puddling down to our feet

as the lecture on Tintoretto starts,
the room darkens, and the slides

drop in their carousel, the click-
click-click ticking away the next

fifty minutes or so

watching, as starving cattle, seven
in number, totter away, seven glossy-fat
take their place, grazing in the long grass

putting on new clothes,
radiant in your reflection,
sighing, always, at the colors mixed
perfectly, so, the iris a palette
of blue, gold, brown

Partly Because She Loves Him

partly because she loves him
she holds her tongue
as she watches two geese
honking northwards, past Fleetwood Station

and wishes he would clasp her hand again
in his, warming it, this chill
Spring evening as
another train glides south

the rectangles of light punctuated
by the visages of travellers trying
to reach their own ends, folding and
unfolding their newspapers, grappling

with glossy magazines, and she,
she nurses an ache, a knot, so
thickcorded to her middle it never
will be born, her phantom child, a second self,

her love, her lost one, cherished
for so long, so well, it is nearly named,
but yet a chimera, glistering in the
dark, then gone

02 April 2010

The Coach Painter

(1826, Bridgetown, Barbados)

paint pots of red and gilt, in
Barbados, Bridgetown it was, where
the conflagration rose up--and the

carriage for the Governor only
half-complete, the coat-of-arms
a bare tracing when an errant

spark fell upon those rags, long
forgotten, and, as the birds
cried out their evening song the

smouldering grew to flame, the glass
panes, carefully leaded, carried from England,
blackened and cracked, the lion and the

unicorn rampant no more, but
charred to dust, the billowing smoke seen
beyond the green of canefields, an ill

omen, indeed, in this coastal town,
the sails of tall schooners swaying on the
water, moored to this island

of coral limestone, his cat
run into the cotton at the
first sign of smoke. the sun

rises again and he, too, to survey
the damage, the salvage starts,
building up again, from the earth,
this painter of coaches

Manhattan (Evening)

let me float in my lover's arms,
sure, what harm in it, to fox trot
down lovers lane, no harm indeed,

if honestly meant, that kiss (or two)
in the twilight, beneath electric
lights wired and rewired patiently

(I just knew you would kiss like that,
as the sky was riven in two)

from mid-century on

and the city would be a fine place,
if they would ever finish building it....
the sun rising and setting on the

gatekeepers with their coffee and
meetings and profit and loss statements,
the price of paper and ink, the

printer in Pennsylvania, then Vermont,
then India, now China...

how soon before we are all remaindered?

and still she floats in her lover's
arms, the lucky coin in her shoe
thinsilver, under her heel

Spring Is A-Coming In

tu-whit, tu-whoo
tu-whit, tu-whoo
and Spring is a-coming in
with all her attendant charms
and furbelows, the green at
her wrists and in her hair,
loose-belted round her waist, the
tendrils curling into words, the
growing script across the slate-
blue flagstones

her breath, blowing away winter
hoar-frost, her touch thaws
the ground, drawing up
the purple crocus and the drooping heads
of snowbells littering the lawns
newly greened

.....the wettest March in memory, yes,
soaked to the skin we were,
as we walked from school, the
last blast of Winter biting at
our heels, the trees upturned
in the street....

it was a lover and his...
in the Springtime....

and Spring says, come
and lie with me

and watch the pink cloud tree
explode again, like last year, while
you cradled the book and volume of
his brain in your hands

when hearts burst and
the grounds were well watered

her breath was a
welcome respite, wreathing

itself round, a relief after
the hard cold freezing our pipes,
chapping our fingers, the slogging
through snow,

her breath a kiss upon our brow