Category Archives: Forms

Noticing

There it is, burst of green pepper

crisp, bright, gone. Or there, the faint whisp
of fresh lilac barely scented

even when I walk through clusters,
panicles bobbing against skin.

A smear of dates — brown sugar with
apples pressed with the weight of night.

Enough hot sauce to burn my tongue
so it can remember texture

and taste. Today we cleared cupboards,
and I rested. Walked. Rested. Scrubbed,

and rested more, fogged, unaware
of what was fading around me.

Glimpses between the yawning gaps.
I don’t know what I’ve been doing,

but it isn’t living. Not quite.

Breaking

“My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness.” Psalm 63:6.
“They shall not break a bone of it.” Numbers 9:12.

My mother got a far away look in her eyes,
remembering breaking the bones of chicken legs

and sucking out the marrow. So good it was,
so good. Blood isn’t kosher, but is marrow?

The rabbi didn’t know, but the kitchen lady
does. My mother’s face looked satisfied and hungry,

both. I eat marrow to remember her hunger
and her satisfaction. All those children she had!

Making their bodies took something out of her own,
slowly sucked the bone itself out of her body

leaving the marrow surrounded by cobwebs.
The doctors said her bones looked like feathers. One fall,

that’s all it would take, and she’d snap into pieces,
but she didn’t. She fell over and over and

never broke a thing, going out of this life with
with all the bits and parts that survived her childhood.

Tearing

Torn strips of paper, rough-edged, imperfect
as a requirement for beauty. Weave them

into each other, layer them like love.
Listen to them rustle, edge against edge,

or crumple, twisting around fingertips,
trapping them with trust. Whatever they say,

the words are as mumbled as memories.
The jagged margin where they were once one

began to erode at the instant of
separation. Raw, distressed, folded down,

they no longer fit together just so,
with the precision of a dovetailed joint.

They whisper secrets they can’t remember,
fragments of a jigsaw puzzle the mind

remaps into something new, the way nerves
reach around damage to build a new path.

It’s different. “It could be better,” one says,
then, “It could be worse,” the other replies.


Written to the NaPoWriMo prompt for April 27, 2021, inspired by the word “gnossienne” from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Riddling

As cold as frostbite
even in summer;
hot as a sauna
on a winter night;
breathless as lovers
while sleeping alone;
trembling as if chilled
while cuddling the kids;
heart beating as fast
as nightmares at rest,
or as slow as sleep
when lifting weights;
dizzy as a dog
chasing its own tail;
bland as Tabasco
to a tongue gone numb.

Asking

Why is blue the color of this commandment?

Why is milk the flavor that comforts my tongue?
I taste milk even when I’m drinking water,

tepid and smooth, from a bottle jeweled with bubbles.
The bottle is blue. The bubbles pop like stars,
as if I was up close, an eternity

of concern cradling them in the dark skies.
I missed the changing of the new moon this month.
I missed the flowers that squirm from underneath
last years’ leaves along the creekbank in the park

only a few blocks away. Violets, squill,
trillium. It’s too early for columbine,
and it’s been years since I’ve seen dutchman’s breeches
or bloodroot, startlingly white, as if bleached

in sun and salt, while really they hide in shade.
Deep purple dye from ancient sea snails turns blue
only when left in sunlight. It turns dark blue,

dark as midnight, the time of prayers before sleep,
the time of listening, of shrinking to one —

one sky, one sigh, one breath, one blue, one thread. One.

Spilling

“Even if it didn’t,
we had to forgive it for confusing
salt for sugar, for what dissolves easily
in foam.”

Luisa A. Igloria, Epiphora.

I keep saying dying gets easier
with practice, but people don’t understand.
They give me such horrified looks; back off,
cringing and confused how those words could come

out of anyone’s mouth. I could recite
a litany of almosts and maybes.
The earliest, I don’t even recall,
but I do remember the aftermath,

months and years of, “Go to the extra fridge
and get your seizure medicine,” the cold
of the pink plastic shelf spilling out light
in the dark room. My mom had her own bridge

of a memory half forgotten, half
vivid. During the Depression, stealing
sugar from the bag, and hiding the theft
by pouring in what looked like more sugar

yet which was salt. The act was vague in mind,
but the beating that followed? Remembered
until the day she died. I don’t know if
that was the time that grandma broke mom’s nose,

but it was the beating she got lost in
when she told the tale, eyes focused
somewhere far away and so long ago,
and then she’d snap back to the ‘now’ and stop

talking. It’s very zen, the learning how
to grab and then let go of pain, as if
it’s a kind of game, as if letting go
is the first step in forgiving, the first

in dissolving the roots of memory.
It’s worth practicing. It makes things so much
easier, opens a space where something
unexpected can walk in, or walk out.

Mangoes

These mangoes have been in the freezer
so long they almost taste like something
else, like canned peaches, and they are just
as slippery between my fingers.
Even as they thawed, the plastic bag
filled with the water in them as it
leaked out of the fruit, beginning to
bubble. These are not summer mangoes
smooth as silk on the tongue and bright with
a taste between tooth and tender, edged
with pine leaves. These are not green mangoes
tough and tart, or even mangoes left
too long to ripen and now headed
past sweetness to a brown rot oozing
crystals of pitch sticky as amber.
These are mangoes of desperation,
mangoes that were given promises
of eternal youth, but promises
were misleading at best, if not lies.
These are mangoes left to marinate
in the faint wishes of another
kind of life, wishes that sucked the life
right out of everything around them.
Still, this will have to be good enough
because these are the mangoes I have
here and now, and they are my dessert.

Snowing

Snow creeps across the country,
my friends texting and tweeting
from Colorado, Kansas,
Missouri and Michigan,
Ohio and Arkansas.
Kerrie observes, “It’s snowing
everywhere except Texas!”
Yesterday Cathy texted,
“I think we’re done with winter.”
Today snow settles like guilt
on the throats of daffodils,
the weight of whiteness pressing
them down to dirt, the dark earth
itself already covered
with white. Their colored petals
shrink from the cold, deepening
from yellow to gold, from gold
to rust. Their broken brilliance
blisters, shrouded in silence.
Thicker skinned, the magnolias
hold the snow as if spooning
it, cupped and cradled gently
in pink and white of open
blooms, before they set themselves
free, to fall downward, landing
like invisible bruises.

Writing

Words (better, between,
buried) — when I first
heard them dropped and burst
with meaning unseen,

crying out to be
captured, colored, turned
into visions learned
thru listening (see

their definitions
with eyes closed). The brush
of one word so plush
past the next, fission

and fizzing, splitting
intent into threads
that unravel, shred.
Each word transmitting

webs of sensation
that trails false to true,
then translates into
alliteration.

The next time it’s heard
like ashes, unsure,
purpose fades and blurs,
nothing but a word.

Morning

A gray-green and glittering haze
appears to hover under dawn
and over ground, mesmerizing.
I could stare at it for hours, if

it would just stop moving. Is it?
Or is it me, trembling? Zoom in.
Grass as yet uncut, unblunted,
shimmers with a single droplet

of water at the pointed tip
of each new leaf. In the background
a fury of fireflies appears
to explode, shivering delight.

Zoom in. The space between each blade
is dark and growing darker, pearled
globes balancing, each so distant
from another, but connected

by thick and thin lines as if some
kabbalistic diagram warped
interdimensionally, knots,
twisting, continuing to twist.

COMMENT: I was doing so well with keeping up with NaPoWriMo, and then Friday I had a doctor’s appointment, and came back flattened. Evidently, while my body recovered, my brain just couldn’t quite pull any poems together, because I missed the whole weekend. I will try to do a couple extra to catch up, but historically, this hasn’t worked out.