To inhabit the world with my heart,
and not my ears.
When the sap loosens and there is a groaning
In the top branches
Does the whole stand reply in silence ?
Her tail flashes and her spotted-one listens.
Their fear is quelled by recollection
of the meadow
and their own salty runestone.
Behind velvet eyes,
Pain and beauty coexist; without my words.
They feast on wild plum trees.
I wish to be
free of my desire to give them a name.
Last night as I floated above the treetops
Clouds were forming to the north
Grace gazed at the river’s edge
Shaking out her skirt, small birds flew
And with their beaks wrote new chapters
From the ink the river spilled under the stars.
On pristine ice I made figure eights
While Grace gathered from those clouds
From her plaits she released blue ribbons
And tied sashes and curving hair bows for each
Then into one ear, and the next she whispered,
Take heart, my dear one
You’ll find your own story I’ve kept
Page after page, book after book
Ink barely dry.
You are related and dear.
Melancholy dawn and slumber’s end
It was time for me to sweep up fallen stars
Release the lambs and ewes
And close the elephant’s gate.
On the lintel
My key to the day hung from a new blue ribbon.
If events are a feast, then memories are just a snack
To nourish my soul.
I vow then to take solace in them. I promise
I’ll nibble carefully and leave some for tomorrow.
The feel of your smooth, small arms around my neck and the
Kiss stuck to my check from the peach you just swallowed.
My head sprouting curly wires where a mane once flowed
And in the mirror it is Aunt Carmela, patron saint of garlic,
Whose face–and hair—I see.
The wet spot on my shoulder I felt when you hugged me the last time
Unrestrained tears and saliva a maternal dead end sign.
Why did he wait so long to correct my earnest belief
that he had wanted to be a ‘magician’ when it was music he craved?
I would have been his assistant when I grew up.
Your stoic note to the tooth fairy explaining how your tooth went missing
Due to my absentmindedness.
My unproven theory of genetic affinity
Giving you the same warm maple syrup color to your eyes as mine.
Routinely I maneuver my boat
Around and between the archipelago of memories.
A movable feast,
They always welcome me back and offer renewal.
~*~*~Granny didn’t mind if she visited the schoolyard
And watched the little girl swing
Unaware that she also roamed the halls
After school was over for the day.
And the story spun like cotton candy.
Up the stairs one at a time
Paste wax on the railings, door ajar
The little girl tiptoed in, sat on the floor
While ribbons of melody floated off the bow
A smile bestowed by the cellist.
One day when the little girl slipped away
She found someone else in the room
Who invited her in, all the same.
The room lit like a holy card
With an angel sitting where the cellist had been.
The swing started slowly as Granny pushed
Stepping back she watched the little legs pump
Higher and swifter the trees came closer
Reaching her bare feet to touch the leaves
Bunny paws, sun on the ditch bank, she felt
Strong arms carry her home
Her head tied with a clean dishtowel,
The little girl cried to see her own blood
And cried because of Granny’s fear, Why?
I wanted wings like the angel I met
I thought I could fly.
But I changed my mind.
A discerning scar now
Marks the place in her unfolding symphony.
~*~*~He answered with a question mark,
As if surprised by the sound
Coming from the kitchen.
He had only borrowed phones
Refused to own one
Instead, stopped at a relative’s house
To make a call to someone else.
No rambling during this visit.
He seemed like a new person
I’d recently met.
Tidbits about a new doctor
And a banana a day
Had made him feel better than ever.
I took keen notes.
I think about your often, Daddy.
Well, the phone never rings.
A fact I couldn’t deny.
How can you marry fear to love?
Or envision this old man ever doing those things?
I didn’t want that time to return
Or this new encounter to end.
Love was mumbled
Across the wires.
I said I’d talk to him soon
And because he knew I liked the sound of it,
His perfect ‘arrivederci’
Was the last sound I heard.
She took to the road early, turning her face East
Away from the small railroad town where her immigrant grandfather
Sold groceries to cowboys and laborers
But no one recognized her name.
Arriving in her youth, she tentatively placed her feet down as divining rods
On the narrow cobblestones Paul Revere rode.
No one there had shared steerage with her family.
Dinner tables piled high with Sunday's best were long since covered with asphalt
in the city with broad shoulders.
Only drowsy, wine-soaked eyes met hers along the Chesapeake.
Bowing her head, she passed the old flagship church in South Philly.
True north she found his store at the edge of the market,
Falling out from the rest of the buildings like a torn piece of lace.
Shiny cannoli tubes, stock pots, strainers and randomly hung
Yellowing photos of boxers past their prime, Mussolini and the Pope
Her hand closed around his cigar stained, sausage fingers, his sweater's
Comparing origins, he had, in fact, heard her name before.
Turning to her Irish immigrant husband, the shopkeeper asked,
Did you get permission to marry one of our girls?
A familial smile parted her lips as
The small Calabrian dove in her breast
eased it's fluttering--
folded back its wings,
and calmly closed its eyes to rest.
~*~*~Happiness is a slippery fellow
Empty pockets, pulled up collar
Shouldering around the corner
Shade moves when it sees me coming
Guilt sticks its foot out when I pass
Up go my dukes, down go I
Hit in the head with a beanbag
Shoved down the stairs,
Fighting a full catastrophe
Body contorted, pretzeled, Gumbied
Fall anyway, down go I
Dragging my taffeta skirt in the mop water
I know I’m right
I have the black eye to prove it
You can’t keep a secret from me
It’s not my fault because
Happiness is too slippery for me.
~*~*~Spring wobbled in brand new heels
And took the stairs gleefully,
Dropping petals that
Floated softly away.
Summer sat at the end of the table
Picking flowers from a vase.
Pulling petal from stem, entwined,
Moon blushed smile.
Fragrant ribbons unrolled across the floor
As Autumn’s velvet skirts swayed, she
Poured wine in upturned glasses
Intoxicating their dreams
Sated eyes watched the doors
Lips silently repeated the clock’s ring
The slow waltz of regret and wondering played,
Waiting for Winter to accept the invitation.
Next hurdle on the track
Its slender legs planted in the gravel
That ever-looming peripheral cloud says,
‘You can’t make it, you’re too big.’
Maybe next season.
¿Habla español? Si, mucho gusto!
‘But, you didn't pass chemistry twice?’
The periodic table peers out from empty-eyed windows
Sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic
Rock my world.
‘Success is for them, but
Let me show you what belongs to you, my pretty:’
Failure, remorse, crumbs of desire
Powdery residue of shame.
Piano fingers stroke the paintbrush bristles
Gilded thoughts recline on the highest clouds
Many colored ribbons of fairness circle and rise
Rain buckets full of tears sparkle in the sunlight
Preparing to nourish the next season.
Swirling leaves follow me down the street, turning cartwheels
In their wake I see a shadow lay down in front of me
I recognize myself in the chalk line
The one who has set the highest standards.
‘It was you all the time.’
PastoralYour music cracks open my heart
Taking my spine two stairs at a time
Leaving every door ajar
Colors alight with hollow bones
Aching melodies spin
Crinoline clouds weep
Granted and received
Truth and wonders
Are the fragrant petals
You gently toss through the gap-toothed
Windows of my soul.
What I CarriedTree trunk legs
Endurance tested for
High hurdles and escape
Tears collected in a flask
Ragged suitcase handles
Fear of the wolf
Dealt a hand
A life arrayed on the table
Gypsy woman, child
Searches the heart of loneliness
~*~*~I heard you call this morning
And I remember how your red epaulets
Quiver with each chorus.
You’ve found your way back.
Intrepid and weightless,
Eyes on the night
You’re like adult children returning from school.
Is this home or are you coming from home?
Overhead, your wings push out a formation
Then land on dollops of ice and water
The yin and yan of many lakes’
Remembering, I laugh out loud
And welcome the healing
In your clever industry
And your lusty song.
SaffronTwo figures approach an impatient car
that breathed hot exhaust,
motioning for egress.
He stood gray--
Her sari, layers of spice.
Wavy black locks captive
While he bent to kiss her face,
Steely grief slammed the door, airtight.
She remained, watching him leave,
hand over her heart.
The car foreshortened as
She wiped her face of tears.
Her saffron pallu waved, lifted,
And because I had no place to hide,
I saw her no more.
~*~*~Shoeless, the little girl crawled up into her lap letting the comfort
Unleash many questions pouring out
in a steady stream like a bag of sugar with a hole in the bottom.
She asked why she is usually the sole witness,
The one to shed the only tear
For the dead rabbit curled up on the grass?
Because you will be ready to stand at a grave someday.
She shyly asked why
Her smile is unwanted by two women of equal race.
They only smile at each other and turn away from her.
Because you will understand racism and might want to
help change the world someday.
The lonely call of the circling goose
Whose mate could not fly away from the pavement--
Recalling the memory choked the word ‘why’ back down her throat
Because now you know the sweetness of love and will always
remember the value of relationships.
Will I finally get picked on Roxy’s team and visit Italy and play the bassoon?
And live in a lighthouse and travel with gypsies?
Why do I have to wear shoes?
Why do I have to leave again?
Will I know when its my turn?
You will see yourself in all these places—and more,
but your home will always be in your beautiful heart.
Silhouetted flight feathers
Black fingers spread and tilt.
Bowing, burnished satin sweeps the parquet
Glowing embers light her face
Cream smooth raven’s updraft
Icy air whistles
Threatening the sky.
Resined palms applaud
Powder flies off bows
Her voice is still.