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 –