Monday, December 31, 2012

Lines from the months of this last year: January


Jesus, take me fresh, as if this were the very first time.

We played Apples to Apples, which Susanna brought, between dinner and the movie. I was Pure, Important, and Horrifying... Emily was Sweet, Trustworthy, Earthy, Brilliant, and Hopeless. Susanna was Wild, Nasty, and Smooth...
Open doors. Hold keys.
Lord, show me what to do. Help me see what is best, wisest, truest. Help me know how I can serve You. You know what I can handle. You know what is too much. And You know, best of all, how to use even the craziest things for something beautiful. I trust You.

"Be thy heart a well of love, my child,
Flowing, and free, and sure;
For a cistern of love, though undefiled,
Keeps not the spirit pure."

-George MacDonald, "Phantastes," 175

Lord, pave the way before me. I am so excited, frightened, full of desire and doubt, pride and misery. Help me simply be myself before You. You love me, Lord. Somehow.

Mom cried when I came to the table.
This morning I dreamed sweetly.
What do I hold onto too tightly?

Hurrah for Karamazov!

Could I be any stupider?

Jesus. Lord.
Forgive me. Help me see. Scrub me good.

Do I yet know myself?
Can I know that secure Always? That brilliant constancy-dynamism? Good is so much better than evil. Good provides its own action, is complete. But Good fighting evil is the clearest we know, and it feeds us...
Can Satan be so banal and clever that he can preoccupy me with an image while there is a battle going on? he has done it. So help me, God. Please help me.

Show me clearly what I should be doing, praying for, caring about.
Your Name is Righteous and Good.

Help me know Your love and and help make others more themselves.

"Highfalutin mumbo-jumbo." I believe that is what Gilbert called Anne's flowery language. I've just been trying to write poetry, and really it seems pretty useless. In a way I'm relieved, hopeful. It's funny, really.
You know, there are far too many words for cowardice, drunkenness, and prostitution.
Far too few words for the really good things.
But maybe that makes them dearer.
Jesus, teach me truth. Truth in love, in faith, in hope, in obedience. I want to come and bind myself to You and find freedom. I'm really scared to give all my cards to You. Can I trust You, really? Do You really have my best interests at heart? Are You going to make me a frumpy awkward narrowminded prude? i.e. am I going to be lonely and disliked?
Jealousy rankles in me already. So I insult.
"A life lived in fear is a life half lived."
That's a quote. It's from "Strictly Ballroom."
Yuck. I'm so fearful, Lord. I just keep thinking about the ocean and choosing to go out into the waves, trusting You (testing You? Torturing myself?) and being battered and tugged by the waves. That was almost four years ago now, and I'm still not over it. And I'm still not through with choosing to trust You, either. Laying here in bed I can easily give in to fears about being unloveable, lazy, a fake, a failure, a disappointment...
Tell me who I am. Name me.
I am so afraid of fear like that. Of crippling fear, of danger. I hate feeling like a coward.
But anger won't bring me out...
Love will.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

For Sarah, because I will miss you.

The finest things are said in confidence,
to the broom, and the rough-hewn
log, and the laundry
and the sleeping one.
Or linked arm in arm.

We leave only
layers of our decay,
the things we shed in molting,
and perfumes
of our last day waiting
when we said,
"I see you"
and we meant
"do you see, too?"

Something leapt up
when we lifted a licked finger
to the wind, let another
hour take up the spare room
we intended to save
for later.
There is always a guest, and that stranger
fixed the shingles we didn't know
were missing,
and you are a friend now.

Speak seldom
under breath; speak loud
enough to be heard across the field,

because we are listening, and the moss
is listening, and so are the books
that taught us words in the first place.

And before you leave:
forgive me
because I prayed the candles would blow out.


Press the small of my back
and out will pour ten dozen shining ants
from my nose onto the carpet, turning everything
red and diamond

tiffon, cold cooked rice and a million
numbers that are words, are memories,
are "anne is for APPLE" A
and are O U an
apology, then.

Because I do, I do,
And so do you,
and our brown looks homely,
comely, spectacularly
just so.

So humbling to be nothing
very much exciting, this is
a story.
And honey
when the sun comes through.

Ache, Panache

I am sick, I can't be trusted.
This is weariness, not bravery.
I am not long or flame
or hollyhock (thank you) vanilla.
I am almost ready to try anything
I am almost
I am green beneath the skin,
green in the neck,

Black sift, milk cloud needle
under Sand Dunes,
too soon to say it is,
it is,
it is not quite
like anything blue,
like anything that sits quiet
and I am awake.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

QU4RTETS, revisted (After Bruce Herman, T.S. Eliot)

I. Spring

We would not be young.
We would like to know,
sap cloying
to our clothes.
Sway in wind, groan
under breath.

our heads,
eight umber
tablets,    angels. 
Angels’ tablets.
I carved into the smooth
side his name as well
as mine.

II. Summer

Turn back,
come in.
Welcome into skin.
Suit us
to yourself,
Move us.

We are
kicking, flecked
with blood,
peeled wet,
clean and yet
not sanitized.
Press us with
your eyes.

III. Autumn

In fires and floods
our past is lost.
we cannot see.
We did not seal
or copy,
now they wrinkle,
flake, recede.

God forbid
we forget
these lost
and costly things,
bright as pain,
striated wine
dripping down
a tree.

IV. Winter

We have come
into ourselves
more beautifully
than bent head
under wing.
Illumined, half erased.
Past the bleached
bones already.

You wrap us in
transparent paper,
ashes. Smoke
of incense lingers.
Composed, rescinded,
stroke the loosened
skin along our fingers.

Monday, December 10, 2012


My fourth dream came this morning
with gentle rain. Green in winter,
without a name. Around a table,
we five. I remembered
every word.

A dozen people stood
below the tree and watched
a hawk tear piece from piece
another, red-breast bird. He does this
every day.

"How long will you be
with this Amateur?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

After Sappho

You kneel at his feet, fingers
lacing his shoe strings, singing
softly. And all the air is gold
around you, you two

Your laughter is like sunlight,
poignant, painfully bright
and unselfconscious. Only I
feel it like a knife
within me.

I sense my soul recoiling
from something too warm
and not my own. My senses fade
from dreams, they are

I melt and run like snow,
dumb and acquiescent.
This is death, and better
to die leaving you
in ignorance.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Do you remember when our arms were all that held you, and you said,
Look at the heavens, look at the light

You weren't alone then, and you have never been since.
You weren't alone then, and you have never been since.
You weren't alone then, and you have never been since.
Never been since.
You have never been since.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Her face melts at the end of a cigarette.
"How are you?" she mumbles, and I try to answer
sweetly, normally, I'm not staring,
like I didn't stare at the man
in the produce aisle without a nose
when I was seven.

Most days its not that terrific being me.
Just enough like everyone else I've no excuse
for either pride or bitterness.
If I am capable,
I would like to turn small and rare
and be remembered by one or several only. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

You Keep Yours

If nothing else, I gave my word.
If you aren't Who I thought
you were,
i am
still committed
to what you Are
because if nothing else
promises are meant to be kept.

Joan, Mary, Jane

If I leave you call me back
I almost pray, I supplicate
your prayers in the lap of a sabbath.


I fear for myself, for the warmth in my face,
I am one that blushes at some things
and would rather.


Choose this small hollow with cold and reliable
rocks for company, safe
in the confines of a narrow purity,
cleared from the twine of complexity.

But lonely. So cold and so stonelike my brain
shuttles and grunts like stiff iron, fearing its own firmness,
washing out the cracks where things might grow.
More afraid
that color washes out with each rinsing.


Dyeing is repeatable.

Quote: Kiran Desai, "The Inheritance of Loss"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Free Members

Are we always compelled into rebellion
by the backside of a magnet? Always
keeping just far enough away

I recoil as from flame,
from cold air,
from anything too much like absolutes, like netting.

Letting myself be still just long enough
to have my edges drawn
in chalk on the pavement then
jolting into contortions to prove it
all wrong.

In some mild way I will be other than. Be bolder
than I was before, but meekly...
barefoot in November.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Purple Loosestrife

This is a poem I've been wanting to write
for a long time.
A poem about purple loosestrife,
because Tanja told me their name,
the name of purple flowers
we passed in the car on the way to a teahouse
three months ago.

I thought at the time I'd write something
deep and rich and varied, maybe
throw in phragmites or algae or something
brown and bubbly but I never
got around to writing               anything

about purple loosestrife, and wrote very little
about anything else either, until now.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Lord, if you're gonna make me
make me into something small.

Something you can hold in the palm of your hand
singing like a seashell when you bend your head.

And if you make me a bird,
make me a brown bird, with wings too short to fly far with.

Name me anything at all: boot, thimble, spoon, oil,
as long as I am yours.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


What kind of flower child did you turn into?
I should have known in middle school
when you told me you wanted to name your kids
after paint colors: Alizarin, Cerulean, Thalo, etc. -
I thought you were nuts but too pretty
to abandon to yourself. And that's the problem.

Everthing has to be beautiful for you. It would be easier
if you judged beauty by perfection or expense
but you loved your grandmother's cheap thing more than my 
eighteen-carat bling, you called it. It has original beauty,
it's lovely because it's ordinary and unexciting," which makes me wonder
about me. What I'd give to know if you loved me for my unexciting nose.

You're lucky I don't have allergies. I'm patient but not -
that - bush on my desktop, too. Not another bird. You hush me:
he's sleeping! I only just got him to eat. For the life of me I can't
see beauty in that naked gangly thing. Or take

the way you leave pastries and notes for everyone in the office. Won't let me
complain about anyone, because everyone's 
special and unique and     beautiful,
and they have hard days too. I started throwing thank-yous out 
before you saw them but nothing daunted you, until this.

How you asked me meekly to open the blinds I can't forget. You never
sighed before, for yourself, but you're wan now and wilted and I can't
remember all the plants but you don't seem to care that Ruby died.
What's the point of life if I can't do something beautiful?

But that's not right. Since the day you were born your face lit up the room
and you weren't even trying.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Seven Scatterings

I. Indian Jew

I will marry a Jew.
An Indian Jew,
with a thick beard,
and dark eyes,
and no history
of women.

II. Heaven

Heaven is my heart
made large enough to love God
the way He deserves.

III. Sweater

There are hairs in this sweater
that look as if someone hugged a dog
a white dog over and over,
up and down.

IV. Leftist

Scintillating leftist flutter
in my belly, shake my leg
and wonder shyly, (angry), wryly
why I cannot bear
to bear another name.

V. Forced 1

Who will toss
and torrent dialed
clefts, the brassy cool dead
after-floor, lofty, whole, no crack.

VI. Forced 2

Pickled belly button magenta
glass, glad eyes, spat laughter,
languor laid in sun on another
stiff pillow.

VII. Padme Amidala In My Dreams

She rolled barrels up the belt 
and stacked them in a pile.
Barrel on barrel, 
barred board 
on barred board,
smiled sweetly, petite
brunette in white, tight flexible

VIII.  Oatmeal

I ate oatmeal for a week,
three times a day,
to make sure 
I wasn't dreaming.

I wasn't. 
But I still can't say.
We can read sentences now.
Isn't it amazing?

Phonics felt impossible back then.

Monday, October 22, 2012


In this lonely holy place
where I have brought but two, I sit
on the stone where a year and a half of layings
have worn away the moss.

A rising heap of rocks. The cedar
with an old nest, anchorite
as ever, leading my eyes upward
as I lean back.

Today, a leaf
long-expected, three years coming, fell
against me, rested.

Yellow birch, pressed in Deuteronomy
now, after one kiss.
Did this just happen?
Word that we are made of, He found me first.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Case Study

It is hard

to take

anyone seriously

who is holding

a lollipop.

Birds and Mammals of New England in the Jenks Library

It is morbid of me
I suppose, to want to pick up
the dead animals under the glass.
The wing-spread belly-up sharp shinned hawk,
the rat-nosed puppy-eared fisher. Blank cotton eyes.
The Northern Garnet, beak bleached wooden
white. Heavy, helpless as a limp chicken.

The terrible moose antler alone
repels me. Separate and pleading
as an open hand.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ekphrasis on Bruce Herman's QU4RTETS

A turned back
invites the viewer in.
into skin
and suit us to yourself,
caked and cobbled as we
are, kicking,
flecked with blood and peeled
wet as color. Pellucid,
wiped clean and yet
not sanitized. Juice pressed
beneath our kindled gaze.

We walk behind you dripping
and you will not look.


It is in fires and floods
most things are lost. What
is underneath? We cannot see,
we did not seal or copy
and it wrinkled, flaked,
God forbid
we forget
this lost effort of a life
of costly things. Royal,
bright as pain, striated
vinegar down a pole.

Bathe up to the knuckles,
preserved in layered earth.


I would not be young.
I would like to know,
sap cloying to my clothes.
Creak and sway in wind,
groan under breath. Over
my head, eight umber
tablets,    angels,    angels’ tablets.
I carved into the smooth side.
I hope you know his name as well
as mine. Benighted, discreet.
It is sometimes the same.

You said to meet you here,
to bare my feet.


He has come into himself more beautifully
than bent head under wing.
Illumined, half erased, past
the bleached bones already.
We wrap you in transparent paper,
ashes. The smoke of something holy lingers.
Composed, rescinded, stroke
the loose skin on your wrist.
“the body dies, the body’s beauty lives.”

He sighs out like a match.

(Quote: Wallace Stevens)

Monday, October 1, 2012

While Waiting to Talk to Cassie, and Later


Behind a row of black oil machinery
he saw me, coming of the men's dressing room,
and said, "I ask no questions,"
which isn't true. Because he does, I'm sure, ask questions
frequently, and sit with them like he sits with his pouting son,
because he's patient that way. And often
answers need to know we care before
they open up.


There were already in this place
three princesses who died lonely noble deaths
and smelled like rose petals
pressed between rice paper.

Lest you think I envy them, I say,
Lose all to the green, the everlasting
honeysuckle song, the stones beneath
your palm, the rollick of the free-born field bug
snapped from the blade by
the slightest touch.

For with backs turned, they step where there are no steps,
and I follow, moth like, their singed horizon.


Apple-brown clouded eye,
lift and entertain my last, my exhale.


If you are not me,
you are very close
to being what I was
at your age. Birds at the top
of the food chain.
Feet flying up to the bar.
Heartsore because
Lady Jane Grey
died for nothing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Four Poems from Childhood


Ten years old
I started throwing parties
for the neighborhood kids.
Two weeks before,
my bottom dresser drawer
emptied out for party things.

A tablecloth, cut-up colored paper for confetti, old toys
for prizes and favors. Hand-drawn cards for games.
Candy squirreled away from the church event -
not by me only,
but my brother and the neighbor boy, too.

Ten dollars from my Grandma, who always
sends us ten dollars exactly on our birthdays;
the final judicious trip
to Wal-Mart. Each cent counted
for cheap soda, balloons,
Skittles, Little Debbie.

“Mystical Myst”

I remembered today
that I used to have a story
called Mystical Myst, and I
was a slave girl named Mearta.
In all my drawings she
had short dark hair, could handle
a sword. I think maybe
I still try to look like her
without knowing it.


I wasn’t rebellious
as a child. That is,
I didn’t run away
(properly) or smoke
or throw fits. I got along
with my parents
for the most part, listened
except when Mom read
a book of instruction
for girls (then I hid
my head under the couch
and plugged my ears).
The one rule
I remember really
hating, really yanking
to disobey was
don’t wear skirts
in tall grass.


I was eleven.
It was time
for a H.A.S.O.P. –
a Heart And Soul
On Paper. Diary
to the nth degree.
So secret I didn’t even
want the boys to steal
and hold ransom my black
notebook filled with writing
so small even I
could barely
read it. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Unjust, Gentle, Mild

There's something wrong in this. Who made me
so easy to need you, so
needy to please you,
so hard to give you what
you deserve you

carrot soup familiar
find my keys with a headlamp
see my friends surprise
rompus-bompus fly or fall
and trembling at these
people all here, and I'm old now,
but I remember

the way she pauses
in talking, how he studies dreams
together across from me
our eggs, toast, and fried potatoes
smiling early morning smiles and
reunion of how changed and
the light

that you made
me is a wonder. Who
needed another half-drafted worker
laughing at another day done and not
much in it but you, and my weak lungs
running barefoot farther than ever
because you say you love me
and I don't
deserve it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The River, Stolen Word Poem from Carolyn Forche's "Travel Papers"

We halted where
the river, thick with freshwater whitefish, vendace,
bulged under arching birchwood
limbs before stretching out again, fated for the sea.

We built a fire
from half-soft wood where ants once lived –

ate silently, then
hung our tarp between two sturdy oaks. Outside
was only another roof. We, ourselves –

Not so much within
as under, dreaming,
the earth beneath snow when spring begins,

articulation of the body visible.

The trail we left behind
was kissed with yellow gorse
and pea-green fronds.

We found a naked patch, burnt
by a still pond, scarred with ash, pearled with feral swans.

And now, weary, birch-lined,
we set up camp by the river you say reminds you of Dresden,
the Elbe river armored
in green, infested with boats in afternoon
heavy with their passing
loads of freight
bound for Prague or Torgau, (or Budapest

for that matter, since all you saw was disappearing
hulls behind the hunched backs of fields).


When we met, in America,
we recognized each other
for that hungry look of refugees in another world.
You had become, as everything uprooted becomes,
a knitted collection of skeletons.

We ducked under the storefront awning, soaked;
when you saw my face you pushed our way through to the stove.

I remember your eyes were black as basalt
not cooled, shot
with blood like particles
still glowing. You were one
day from drowning, then.
One day from taking
the chance that there was something other
than this bog.

We wondered, afterward, if our darkness was imaginary;
if even the missing names in the registry
were some foolish joke, or ghost
of a story someone wrote in prison
and scrawled on a stray sheet of paper.

Because, why else the lilies?
How else could men carve the frieze?

We had to believe this was hand-blown,
not something God let drop
to crack with a snap of twigs
or breaking glass.

After winter, we thought those things. Such
damp and heavy coats we peeled
from us!

I heard the change in your voice
as told me you saw a morning glory bloom
and fill with bees
one after the other that morning. Your

wonder at the unknown,
the bare child of you,
decided there was something to be lived.

We signed papers by July, and you
said you were (and you still are),
sad I could never meet your mother.
You felt the calluses on my hand,
and I knew without words.

But now we stretch out under moonlight.
Hoping against rain, and not –

Hoping rather that our walls of one window
will open into something wider still. A dream

I had on our first night back –
you told me I was right – said rain was coming.

We wind
our way to Poland, Gdynia instead
of Krakow.
It seemed
as if twilight
was thick with clouds
of swifts.

We held
a ceremony for meteors under
the sky in August. Perseids
ripe, and dripping of time.

Why don’t we take the road?
You pointed to the river: there –
you said, was the road –