Monthly Archives: April 2016

Our Lady, Robin

Abundant and widespread.
So familiar. Cities,
towns, lawns, farmland, forests.

Running and hopping with
upright stance. Robin’s
rich caroling is the

earliest song in Spring.
Heard at dawn, beginning
just before fall. Gather,

roaming, running, pausing.
Hear the move. “Robin’s-egg
blue.” Young leave the nest, tend,

defend territories
by singing. Most buildings:
horizontal ledges,

houses, barns, bridges, cup
of grass, twigs, debris, worked
into mud, lined with fine

grasses. Migrate in flocks
by day. With the breakup,
it may be a bird that

wintered only a few
miles away. All seasons
common. All seasons un-

common. Song is rich notes,
rising, falling: cheer-up,
cheerily, cheer-up, cheer.

An erasure poem from “The Audubon Field Guide, American Robin, Turdus migratorius

Our Lady of Counting

Eight thousand eight hundred and eighty one
steps today. Yesterday, seven thousand,
three hundred and thirty four. Together,
two hundred twenty-nine thousand, nine

hundred and thirty steps since then. There were
twenty-five bus rides; nine car rides from four
dear friends. Next week will have at least sixteen
contact hours teaching. I’m already tired,

slumped in my chair, staring out the window.
Four poster presentations were loaded
to the conference website twenty-three times
in one day. There have been five rehearsals

for the church choir, one guest conductor, one
termination, and two performances.
Because of whispering, there’s no data
on the amount of speculation or

incidents of church politics. Just guess.
Three batches of dog food were cooked. The dog
still has to eat. I wore blue, thinking of
you: eight times all blue; four times blue and brown;

one time blue and orange. Three times I wore green,
two times purple. I have two scarves that now
are security-blankets. I wear one
or both each day. One medium blue knit

by Holly. One woven dark blue on blue
with purple flowers from Cathy. It has
tassels. One bluebird of happiness came
to sit on my desk. Thanks, Kate. It’s lovely.

There were two hundred and fifty-two pics
of the play posted to Facebook. There were
forty-seven and a half grueling hours
of all-cast full show rehearsals in less

than two weeks. There were six performances.
There was one cast party with too much beer
from which escape became necessary.
There was one lost book, and thirty-seven

emails with nine people about the book.
There was one book found exactly where it
belonged. There was one lost heart. It wanders
during the day; cries in shadows at night,

waiting for old trash to be thrown at it.
Four neighbors mowed their lawns today; the hot
smell of gasoline exhaust, the sharp-sweet
cut grass saying summer loudly even

when it is barely Spring. Two crows cawed, croaked,
and raised a ruckus, bobbing overhead,
then politely fell silent as I walked
beneath the tree. One smiling bicyclist

nodded hello. No dandelions were picked.
It has been thirty days since we last spoke.
It has been eighteen days since, well, you know.
Three friends entered hospice. All are so kind.

One, I learned, is the wife of a cousin
of a high school classmate. Such a small world.
There were two donations to help cover
hospital expenses. Both were too small

to really help. There was one dream in which
you talked to me again. I wish I could.
There was one new death. Yours. I heard of no
funeral, but surely there must have been.

Our Lady of Change

Before the fracture, before the melting,
before mundane shifts to miraculous
and back, there is the wry pointillism

of skin gone goosebumps. Freeze still as a tree,
and listen. Whispered echoes of a voice
that hasn’t yet spoken shiver through air

as full of holes as torn fishnet stockings.
What is it that is about to happen?
All the buses change their schedules and routes

at once. No, not that. Well, that, but something
else. A mouse squirms between shingles, breaking
into a house that may or may not have

a cat. A soul stretches like it’s waking
from sleep, like a rubberband at the point
of breaking. And then it is, yes, broken.

Something fierce, something tremulous, something.
Claim the risk, the responsibility.
Is it a microscope or telescope?

It is forever. It is a moment
sung with drumming fingers. It expands, and
shrinks. It is a magnificat made small.

It is weeping made large. The days counted
like beads on a string are broken and roll
into cracks in the floors and walls. Trumpets

sound beyond time or hearing, but we aren’t
going there yet. Tree buds born pink and soft
will never be pink again, but here they,

right now, arc toward a wordless sky that is
new to them, in a moment like petals.
Brush your dreams like watercolors. Fold them

into birds that fly, into frogs that jump.
Tune yourself like a piano string. Don’t speak.
Be patient. Be ready. Something will change.

Our Lady of Endurance

Somewhere a whip-thin girl slumps on the edge of the bed she couldn’t afford to replace after she was raped in it; then straightens, stands, and goes to work, where she smiles and laughs and brightens the day for everyone around her. I am her.

I am the mother and the father,
The brother and the sister.

Somewhere a wife apologizes to the neighbors for keeping them awake last night. She doesn’t mention that her screaming was because her husband was beating her again. They know. I remember. I am her. Somewhere a mother takes her youngest child wailing into her bed, so they can both sleep and feel safe. I am her.

The cat that bats your mouse,
The dog that tugs the leash.

Somewhere a woman stands silent and still until he turns one last time and she waves back, nerves jangling invisibly within. Somewhere another woman locks the door behind her, turns away from the house, and walks away as if this is any other day, but knows this is the end and beginning of her life, if she makes it through the first day of freedom.

The coon that snarls under the porch,
The cow that doesn’t avert her gaze.

Somewhere a woman takes off her apron and puts on the rest of her uniform, hands out lunches they wish were something else to the kids and drives them to school before going to her own duties. Somewhere a woman waits for a bus while a nearby man shudders with fear of the scars on her face. I am her, I am her.

The bush of berries tart and sweet,
The tree on which you lean and weep.

Gray-haired, a woman in a suit pulls out a folder to study papers for today’s decision. Silver-haired, weights in each hand, she briskly walks the track, knowing she can’t put it off forever, but trying to minimize the time she’ll be a burden.

I am there, facet, flicker, stone, stump,
Wind or window, the flame and the extinguisher.

I am her. I am here. I am all around you.

Our Lady of Possibilities

Silver, silk, shimmering, subtle.
Lady Hatsuhana under

the waterfall. The faithful wife
of Sir Geraint. Disobedience

as a true sign of loyalty.
Her penance and pity and pain.

How arguments may reconcile
a wink and a nod and a glare.

The provenance of tradition
is of no great interest to fools.

The lottery, stoning, the dice.
Rocks rattle hand to hand like sand,

like a knotted Slinky, or like
a broken snake, lurching in grass.

I don’t know which I regret more —
kisses I never gave or got,

or when I dashed headlong into
miseries of my own making.

Hands hungry for hair twitch for touch,
soothe a worry-stone, talismans.

Uhura’s in my coat pocket.
Seshat sashays, tosses her hair,

drags her shoulders back, and stands tall.
Consider the many options.

Could this be a love poem? Maybe.
One of the possibilities.

Our Lady of Monday Morning

They’re training a new bus driver. He’s crisp
and eager. Sunrise looks like a sunset,
hot with color and storms we haven’t yet
spun out into. We look off toward the West
as if that’s what is ahead of us, but
really it’s behind us, as the whole globe
spins light and dark. We drag our days with us
into the night (mundane, muddled, maudlin).

That new girl mentioned my name; I wonder
if she likes me.
My foot hurts; especially
when I move my toes. See? Ow! Don’t do that!
Remember to do your chores and homework,
OK? Come on, honey, you can do it.

Damn it, I dropped the package of cookies.
New plan. I guess I’m having crumbs for lunch.
Sorry, ma’am, I guess I’m not awake yet.

Vane and cup, the anemometer spins
in all directions, scooping hungry chunks
out of the air, then spiraling downward.
In this way, wind pierces both air and earth,
is made electric. Correction: is made
more intensely electric than it was.
Lightning is coming, the storm. By the time
the bus arrives at depot, I’m alone.

I step out, as did the others, into
the bright slanted morning light, slanted news,
the clouds spinning toward us, stories twisting
in the wind, omnipresent cameras
scooping up our every move, mics whisper
our names all the way to work, computers
distilling and distorting the same way
our memories do – fragment by fragment

assigned greater weight even as context
is broken into sand and washed away.

Our Lady of 6/8 Time

Shall we? Shall we gather
for whiskey and cigars tonight?
Shall we dance? Shall we weep?
I try to let go of the shame,
but it sticks to my hands.
You apologized to me. Why?
Why on earth? It’s past time
for forgiveness, now forgetting
is the “in-thing,” “the fad,”
“all the craze.” Come on, now, let’s dance
just one more time. Forget
that you never answered my note.
How many times was it
me that forgot to phone, to write,
to mail the damn package
I promised to send months ago.
It’s too late now. Listen,
I changed the song’s time signature
from four-four to six-eight.
The angel’s feet? The crystal tide?
I added a descant
that dances, swings, floats in mid-air.
I wish you could hear it.
Just forget about it, you’d say,
can you hum a few bars?
It’s time for tea, a glass of wine,
a shot of port. No more.
Stand erect, shoulders back, arms curved.
Dancing the Viennese,
a dance made for love, for mischief,
for spinning like the stars,
for weeping like marble statues,
a dance for forgetting
everything but where you are
right this minute. Wind blows.
Petals drift, pink and white, and float.
Sky blue and yellow yolk,
the robin’s egg lies in fragments.
There are no trees near by,
and no one knows from where it fell.

Our Lady of Stillness

That gown of rose petals, that cloak of stars.
The streaks of light crossing a dusty sky.
She does not flinch away from spears of light.
Even surrounded with beauty, she stands
like a statue, neutral and stiff. Stillness
of the body obscures the dense vivid
energy inside. Heaviness of grief
layered over grief, loss over loss carves
a new landscape in her eyes, where tears dry
into watercolors of a later
delight predicted by none, yet to come.

Our Lady of Raw Milk

White strands feather across the surface,
pale blue spirals highlight angel wings.

Long ago, women of means would bathe
in raw milk for the most lovely skin.

Luminous, they said, white, and tender.
People forget the milk was a raw

muddle, whether fresh or sour, a dense
broth of angels dancing on the head

of each pin, and walking on water
across the ice-pond surface tension

of every glass. Frothy night-blooming
flowers with roots clinging to the earth.

The very cream of kind compassion
lauded as much for luxury as

endurance, or brevity. There is
the milk, and there is also rawness.

A sweetness that can twist in the gut,
wrenchingly. A fierce water to wash

away the brittleness of the heart.
Butter comforts cracks, heals the heartsore.

This angel has no breasts, the sweetness
of her smile aches, she clings to the earth,

and to the sky, and lets loose of why.
It is the rawness that fills the space.

Our Lady of Cold Nights

How can I pull a poem
out of this thick day?
Mist hangs in the air so thick
it blurs eyes inches away.
We sit slumped and sad.
Silence settles on petals.
The day drizzles, drips.
The night crackles, storms, and cries.
Almost solid, the air tips
and teeters on the edge of
too much and much too little,
with discomfort a fulcrum
by which to lever
the restless, a rope
to splinter the hopeless hands,
a thread tugging at those nerves
most sensitive and subtle.
Remember the dance
with that old man who believed
a woman’s hand should be held
behind her back and between
her shoulders? Dancing
slow at the edge of alarm;
smiling, giggling, and hoping
he lets go. Reality
flails wildly out of balance
as dreams drop and fall.