Tag Archives: stories

Our Lady of Anything Will Help

The surface of the abandoned
parking lot is in chunks where weeds
broke through. Dead center, a robin
stands, stretches up, calling loudly,
It looks a little lost. It turns
from side to side, looks around, hops
forward, and calls again, louder.
It keeps calling, hopping, calling.
The sidewalk rattles with a loud
skateboard under some guy who’s gone
almost before you know he’s there.
A woman is sitting crosslegged
right at the edge of the sidewalk,
slumped slightly and smoking the end
of a cigarette. She looks up
before he gets there, and slowly,
warily pulls a lean puppy
towards her, out of the skateboard’s path.
The sleek pooch shifts and settles down
on her worn jeans. She strokes the dog’s
glossy fur, over and over.
A cardboard sign behind her says,
“Anything will help.” A young gal
stops, and bends, passing a packet
of what look like tickets. As hands
reach toward her, she reaches upward
to meet them, then pauses, looking
confused. “Coupons,” the answer comes
unasked. “See, the restaurant’s name
here?,” then draws a line under words
with her finger. “Take them there, and
they’ll feed you.” The older woman
thanks her, and does not say a word
about dogs not being allowed
in there, or that she can’t make out
the name in odd script on the strips.
It will help. She’ll get someone else
to read it to her. She’ll trade them,
get someone else to watch the pup,
or get someone else to go get
the food. It will work out, somehow.
After all, anything will help.



“When I come back in another life can it be
as child, not as mother?”
From “Arguments with destiny: 15” by Luisa Igloria

The space between life and death
and life again is so bright,
shivering with eloquent vowels,
songs that hover out of range
of our hearing, the braided
textures of bounding bounded

Conversations there don’t fit
into our words, minds, bodies,
or so my tiny daughter
assures me. She remembers.
She says not to worry; smiles.
What’s most important never

Her eyes streak with color like
a slow small explosion, leafed
and layered, interlaced
fibers twining together
as inverted galaxies,
first hinted at in Doptone

Around her small shape gather
half-forgotten words from stars
and planets, floating featherlike.
The cosmic conversations
she describes form a kind of
invisible aura of

dissolving memories not
permitted, treasured echoes.
In her, the words of God melt down
into an ingot of flesh
and vision. I believe her.
I can almost see the shimmer,

radiating from her birth.
I can hardly wait. But, “No!”
she says sharply. “Wait! Next time
it’s my turn to be the mommy.
You have to promise to wait
for me!” We stare. I recall

veins chained and knotted and twined
together across my chest,
as my heart stretched and grew great
to hold her, this alien
angel, this eternal ache.
I can’t argue about this. I

This was written in response to a poem by Luisa Igloria, the day after Luisa’s poem was posted, and was originally posted on the same site. You can find the original post at Via Negativa.

This is a true story in our family, and my (now adult) daughter is heartily sick of my telling this tale. I hope that this more poetic version of it will be more appealing to her.


for Morris C. and Ruth M. G. Cooper

The cubs are all grown, gone their own ways now.
They only saw their father really dance

once, but maybe they learned something, maybe
they believed when he said he never fell,
swearing we mustn’t fall, no matter why.

When we were courting, he’d tell me, “We fell,
we bears, we fell from the sky. Men don’t know.

We fell from the north before they came there.
We lost the knowledge of how to be stars
before ever they found us. We fell once,

long and dreadful, wrenching fire from our limbs.
Dark now, fur is our only remembrance

of the pattern of light and flame streaming
away in the cold wind of our passage.
Dark and dreaded, we dare not fall again,

we dare not forget more.” These words I loved
when he spoke them, as I loved all the dance

of our courtship — spinning beneath the sky,
he’d hold me in his arms and in my eyes
he saw stars, my white flesh reminding him

of the starmother they had left. He kissed
my whiteness for love remembered, not lost;

he gave me stars to wear; he tangled them,
when we were loving, in my hair. I loved
him as well later when I bore his cubs

with all the pain and marvel which attends
the birthbed of such a union. We told

our cubs tales, sang them songs, taught them dances.
Of these, the greatest gift was dance. I loved
them all even when the dance lumbered, slowed;

I loved him as well when he danced alone.
He knew his last dance when it came. His flesh

had burned itself out, his voice was all ash
and grit. No gristle, no growl, he whispered
wildness into the forest, needles, leaves.

A skeleton wearing a rug, he danced
over it, around it and passed it on,

danced alone whispering the tall trees’ names.
If I meant to cry, I’d not have wed him.
He never fell, I swear, he tried to climb

and died with his arms in the branches
of a twisted wind-bowed pine. He was gone

long before the husk tumbled like a cone
battered and frayed to the ground. He had said
years before that he wanted to take trees

with him to the sky, to the stars, when he
left to go home. He would wonder how stars

could dance without trees around them, and then
we would lay together watching the stars
and waving branches late into the night.

He was so painwearied before he danced
that last. I’ll not forget to tell the cubs

what words he left. He grunted that the stars
were vast, the stars were leaning over him.
I looked, and when I looked back he had grasped

the treetrunk. He could hardly stand. I could
hardly hear him. He said something about

his mother, then a great glistening tongue
licking and licking at his weary mind.
I looked away again, into the dark,

the formless dark between the stars, then heard
and felt the sigh before the breaking branch.

BEARBRIDE (Bear Poems, 2)

When I first saw you,
in the starless dark at summer’s beginning
(shadow, stubble, and eyes),
this was not what I then dreamt.

I dreamt Beauty’s Beast,
transformed through the fingertip power of love.
Seeing your kindness, I
forgot the story went on.

When you turned you back,
padding furred and black into the night, I knew
some other time would come
without my following you.

So I waited well,
without understanding what was left to fear,
turning myself back to dance,
hair swirling in other’s eyes.

Now, you have returned.
Now, I am a foolish virgin, unprepared
for the grimace and grunt,
for the wild light in your eyes,

for your clawtipped reach.
I had not thought of what all that weight would mean.
I had not thought, not dreamt
of a dark beast untransformed.

As grass bends beneath
your broad belly, a fluted frightened mewling
escapes my tongue, my throat
liquid sound twined in itself.

I had not known I
was such a child to still be afraid of dark.
Perhaps we always are.
It seems more than I can do,

to reach to touch you
willingly, love you in whom I believed not.
I back into branches,
forest holding me under

the leafed canopy
where I await the kiss of your ungroomed mouth.
The transformation is
unexpected, unforeseen.

My flesh veiled with fur,
my touch newly weighty, my gown torn. I grow
dark, darker, exhaling
a breath thicker than red wine,
the glass of my hand shattered.

BEARGLANCE (Bear Poems, 1)

No one would have believed her. That was fine
because she wasn’t telling anyone.
There was no one to tell.

Where would she have looked for someone to tell?
Nearest town was about a two hour drive;
nearest neighbor an hour.

Youngest daughter of a farm family
backed up against the edge of God-knows-where,
she had long ago learned

to keep anything to herself that was
unexpected and not a disaster.
She, for a while, thought

they knew, and silently tolerated
her nightly climb down the fast growing pines
of the tall dark windbreak.

Later she decided they didn’t know,
and wouldn’t guess because none of them would
or could have thought of it.

The first time he came by,
she hung back under the trees, in shadow.
It was no use. She still knew he saw her.

They just looked at each other for a while,
then he turned his back and left, across fields
and into the forest.

The Erosion of Confidence

“Does this bus go to Kroger?” I look up from my book. “No.”
Roughly my age, the slender man has a thick accent,
sturdy clothes the color of mustard, a grey cloche,
and a deeply lined face. He nods, tired, but intent.
“Does this bus go to Kroger?” “No,” I repeat, “it doesn’t.”
“Oh.” He glances down. “Does this bus go to Meijer’s?”
“No.” “Oh.” He cups his hands in his lap, patient.
A block later, he repeats, “Does this bus go to Kroger?”,
pauses, then adds, “You see?” and shows me a paper,
his prescription. He tries to pass it to me, but,
embarrassed, I don’t take it. “If you need a drug store,
there is one on the corner here. See?” I point.
He looks, obedient. “Get off at this next stop,” I add,
as I do so. He nods. The bus drives on. I watch, sad.