30 November 2009

Day Twenty-Nine of the Poem-a-Day Challenge


If there was a way to give him all without
giving him anything, I guess I've done it.
I guess. The bedspread was scratchy. The
blue Jesus on the wall quietly prayed. I watched the
second hand on the clock move around and
around, stopping to kiss each tick once quickly on
the way to tock. In retrospect, I could have been more
original. It's not like I thought I was the
one. Not really. That's probably what we all
say. In retrospect. But beneath the
sidewalk and the water pipes and the dirt was
someone a little uncertain who happened to
hold a lever in her hand.

29 November 2009

day 28 p.a.d.

Through this Moment

A cardboard boat, its mainsail a
torn-up t-shirt blowing in the
wind so a pattern of reddish
light twinkles on the water, crawls bit by
bit over the inky flat rocks of the
riverbed. It must have been built while
I was sitting here trying to mend another
hole in the sofa's upholstery. He is so far away
from me right at this moment. But there are
others, moments so close, moments of
fusion. Ice melting into water. This
tempestuous soul who only months ago
was blood and bones and water.

28 November 2009

p.a.d. --day twenty-seven


Arranging and rearranging the hem of
her red satin dress, she pauses to
look at the camera. I do not expect

a smile or an offering, perhaps a
scream, a silent scream for
melodrama's sake. All angles are

her angles. At any rate, the
ghosts hide in the dark until
she's away. I knew her before

she had to put gold in her hair, when
her curves were round and soft. If
you believe miracles occur then

you've never been strapped to
the bed when she administers the
dose. Degree by degree.

27 November 2009

p.a.d. -- day twenty-six

Of the Waves
for Kenneth

A little boy
stands on a box
in too-big blue jeans,

munching on
carrot sticks and
singing Dylan.

We rush through
dinners, school days,

barely stopping to
bend and breathe in
the sweet and salty.

He stands on a
cardboard box bare-
foot and plucks a

guitar, his ten fingers and
toes are gulls that
say good luck

slowing us down. The
boy who swells and
breaks like every

breath is every-
thing. The boy who
knows a clock different

from the one hanging
on the kitchen wall. The

boy whose laughter draws
honey from the
roaring sea.

26 November 2009

day 25 p.a.d.


Little snowflakes, little chalky
wafers, you flutter outside my

window. I stick out my tongue but
still cannot taste your

chill. There is a cold I cannot
catch! If you could nip, or bite--

close your arctic fingers around
my throat. Not this, not

this falling down without
frostbite, without numb.

I'm weary of watching
you wobble, stark as

bone, lifeless as the
shavings of a fingernail.

25 November 2009

day 23 p.a.d.


Supper is full of noise. The
sharp staccato of celery being
chopped. Forks and knives
rattle against each other like
bells with broken clappers.
Grandpa grunts as he tries to
get out of his chair.

In the middle of
everything slouches
a whistling boy. Sneaker
toes tap linoleum. Sigh. A
pencil clucks and whispers across
the paper. Sigh. Pencil
becomes drum stick until
the song ends. Sigh.

Platters stomp and
tromp on the table. Glasses
fill with water. Chairs
pull out. A rushed
prayer. The rip of
crusty bread. Everyone
speaks at once.

23 November 2009

poem-a-day challenge -- day twenty-two

Flash Flood

The first time it rained, I was
a wreck. I remembered
stories my new husband had
mentioned, stories of
basements slowly filling with
water, animals floating by
vacant family room
windows, taking a
rowboat to work.

I imagined my baby being
whisked away in his
bassinet down Bay Avenue.
I lifted him carefully into
my arms, with great
ceremony, like I might
never do it again.

I ran upstairs and tried to
pack a bag, a plastic grocery
bag, with necessities. What
was necessary? I'd never lived in
a city that flooded. Suddenly,
I was homesick.

The rain in this new place, this
strange city, the rain here is
moody and scornful. It assaults
frisbee throwers in the park, crushes
flowers and has been know to
steal umbrellas right out of tightly
clutched hands. The rain here takes a
joy ride and never looks back.

p.a.d. --day twenty-one

Budd Bay

She leans over the landing and drops
pebbles into Budd Bay, the smooth
rocks work their way down her fingers and
out of her hands into the murky water.

The afternoon sun tints everything
an unnatural buff color, like
polaroids from the 1970s.

Her hair slips between the slats of
the boardwalk. Tucked behind a
pierced ear. Strands brush her
forearm. Protein filaments.

She drops another pebble. Plop. The
surface of the water explodes.

On a bench further down the
wharf an old man clips shades onto
his eye glasses. A woman with
curly hair sits down next to him and puts a
blanket across his knees. She shouts at
him to straighten his collar.

Surface tension. Ripples. Water lit by
late summer sunlight. Quickly it goes.
It cannot hold its shape.

21 November 2009

Day Twenty (p.a.d.)

And Then It Unfolds

There is a rush of
wind, sheet music scatters like
dandelion snow, you lose your
balance. Off kilter.

You watch yourself
disentangle. They say
you grew the beard to appear
more distinguished. Older.

Just seconds ago your
fingers were skillful and
sure. Already you are
trying to recall how

smooth the keys felt under
your fingertips. The slight
resistance. The delicate
sound of pianissimo. The
exact moment

when you floated away from
the sanctuary of the concert hall and
unraveled knee-deep in
sea grass.

20 November 2009

p.a.d. -- day nineteen


For years I've been looking for somewhere to go.
New York. New Mexico. Old El Paso. I have even
planned things out once or twice. Called the
numbers and received the brochures. Checked on
apartments and duplexes. Looked up crime rates.
And then, in my dreams, there I am searching for
a pine tree to sit under, a warm cup of coffee, the
bellow of the sea.

19 November 2009

p.a.d. day eighteen


The act of forgetting is a slow one.
So much sneaks back in.

The fallen feather of a
belted kingfisher. The smell of
pepperoni pizza. The manner in which
a girl in the street quickly says hello and
then tucks her chin into her

Remnants of debris.

I stumble on their tangled bits.

Forgetting to remember to
forget is a fascinating,
formidable thing. Each
memory opening always
into another.

18 November 2009

day seventeen of the poem-a-day challenge


The black smoke rises like a
cat stretching after a nap. I used
to be able to smell it. I used to
like the smell. I used to do it on
purpose just so I could inhale the
withery scorch . In the middle of
the day I drive back to my place just
to watch a slice of bread go from
golden brown to charcoal.

16 November 2009

p.a.d. -- day sixteen

Clouds are Water

Grams is on her knees bent
over the washing basin, rubbing a
linen blouse upon the galvanized
steel ribs of the washboard. I try to
open the window, to holler, to ask
her why she doesn't just throw the
clothes in the washing machine, but
the window won't budge. I watch
her scrub--plunge, lift, plunge. She
is laughing. Her cheeks are
clouds and clouds are water.

day fifteen p.a.d.

Pickup Truck

I stare at the fuzzy blue dice hanging from the
rearview mirror and try to breathe through my
mouth to avoid the sour smell of his sweat. The
sun is hot on my thighs and I wish I hadn't worn
such short shorts.

I pat his arm quickly and sit on my hands to keep
my legs from sticking to the blue vinyl seat. The
radio has gone staticky but I don't dare touch it,
don't dare chance tuning into some honky tonker
moanin' the blues.

I don't know what to say so I keep pretending to
yawn, keep pretending he never said it. Each
time we pass a traffic sign, a whoosh like the
wind being forced out of an air mattress, quick
and all at once.

15 November 2009

p.a.d. day fourteen


Simian crease, sugar-stirring
spoon, Bob's suspenders, electric

circuit loop. Cocaine, a cat's
tail, steel rails running on

wooden ties. The point
spread, kohl powder

penciled around bloodshot
eyes, getting from point A to

point B. Kenneth's untied
shoelaces, the 50-yard

line on a football field,
grocery lists, the end of

a marathon, walls, a picture
frame painted gold. Song and

dance, the pink satin ribbons in
Kate's hair. Postcards from a

childhood pen pal, a filmstrip, the
string attached to a tea bag, the tone arm of

a phonograph, The stem of a late summer
sunflower, veins returning impure blood back to

the heart, a fading face drawn in the after-
shower fog on a bathroom mirror.

14 November 2009

p.a.d. -- day thirteen


Fashion magazines, broken-
down cereal boxes and
seven drafts of a poem in
a bundle on the curb.

The gray cat reclines on
last week's spelling
test, she bats a jigsaw puzzle
piece between her paws.

Last night's carry-out
still on the coffee table,
Kung Pao sauce weeping on
a brood of cut-out paper dolls.

13 November 2009

day twelve p.a.d.

If Only

If Only Mama'd let me go to the county fair,
ice cream candy apple coca-cola stains on
white t-shirt, flea market tye dye sunglasses
hats with detachable hair, $10 entry fee vocal
dance instrumental bathing suit beauty pageant &
talent contest, down and dirty grass
roots lawn mower racing, beekeepers apiary
honey comb in wide mouth jar with rust-free lid,
to market to market to buy a fat hog, fortune
telling star tarot card palm in Gypsy Lee's hand.

day eleven of the p.a.d.


If I ever build a house I'll paint it blue,
or green. Sea green. I'll build it beside a
river so it feels like I'm always moving.
I'll let ivy grow up the sides.
Two pink flamingos planted in the
front lawn to remind me to smile.
On second thought, no
flamingos. Yard statuary gives
the impression that I'm here to

p.a.d. day ten


On a log dark-hued as this ocean night we are cloaked.

The murk and mist mask
a too-big nose and
knobby knees.
Everything is the ocean.

When I close my eyes, you sing I Want You to Want Me.

I will darn socks someday, some
day, and you will forge pots and pans out of
iron, but that life is thousands of
nautical years away.

What would it be like to wave, to ripple across the
surface headed nowhere in particular, to vibrate from
moment to moment? Veiled in water, waves,
name and number withheld.

11 November 2009

p.a.d. ... day nine

The Lady Looked at Herself

The lady looked at herself
(with curls and cheeks round as
apples)in a pool of dark still water
more slippery than a raven's back
its feathers wet with rain.

The women plaiting her hair
(none of them knowing kinship is
more fairer than guile and
envy) tell stories about the
lady's vanity and love of

looking at her own body (a
most excellent body, both up and
down) and their stories buzz
and hum until all the men and
women (especially the women) believe

the lady is a bad lady
(and a sinful lady and
shameful too) and they cannot
begin to explain (these women)
how they have come to feel

contemptible of their own bodies
so they begin to make excuses
(about a hair out of place, about
needing to check their lipstick)
for looking in the mirror.

Somewhere (with ribbons of
gold that flow and swim) is a
lady who leans over a vessel
(a bowl of painted glass) and
looks at herself (long and slow).

10 November 2009

p.a.d. -- day eight

so, yeah...these are getting pretty awful...but at least i'm writing, right?...right?

Should Anyone Ask

It is evening. I have wandered off. Okay,
I've been abandoned. I am lost. My feet are
dirty. I carry a branch of laurel but still
my prayers are fruitless.

The sky is the color of wild greens. The moon looks
counterfeit and sad. The dragonflies make music by
opening and shutting their wings and the
toadflax nearly reaches my knees.

I will not chase love like a stray dog. I am
not a fool. I will leave these accursed woods.
But first I must wash my feet. And close my
heavy eyelids and sleep. Don't worry; it's just
a little nap.

07 November 2009

P.A.D. Challenge--Day Seven


She plants poppies by the roadside
to cheer up the drivers on their way
home from work, because they were his favorite
flower, because he was a veteran, because his
blood, when it dribbled out of his ear, made a
red whorl on the white pillowcase.

She plants poppies by the roadside
because it keeps her hands busy, because
she loves flowers, because she wants to
bury something that will rise again,
because if she isn't doing something
with her hands they wrench and wring.

She plants poppies by the roadside
because her love for him is eternal,
because she needs something to take care of, because
it requires no intercessor, because the petals that
bloom out of the wrinkled bud are thin as
the wall between here and him.

p.a.d. day six (already?)


One eye, half hidden by hair,
one blue eye, turquoise domes
in Bukhara, turquoise and
indigo, electric indigo, blue
larkspur and Miles Davis at
midnight blue. One eye
under one curved eyebrow,
a fermata, one blue eye,
unblinking luminous blue.
One eye, shuttered by two
fingers, one blue eye,
blueberry stain on blue jeans,
bluefire jellyfish blue.
One eye, screened by
black eyelashes, one blue eye,
turkish tiles blue, seashell
blue moon periwinkle blue.

06 November 2009

poem-a-day challenge for november...day five

Growing Old

Everything was marshmallows
and running barefoot in the grass.
Giant pines, rubber boots,
trillium in the rain. The chain of
daisies made the princess.
Beautiful was dragonflies
and grandmother and calla lilies.
This is how the door closes: climbing a tree
in the backyard becomes a story
about climbing a tree in the backyard,
a story that opens the door
to memories, barely recognizable,
stories told again and again
until they gain significance.

Pierced ears, slumber parties,
a best friends necklace.
The knobby surface of a football.
The tremble of a kiss.
A boy who smells like thyme and
letters folded origami-style
buried deep in a pocket.
A strip of black and white
photos taken in a booth at the
county fair--found in a book of
american poems--the promise to
"stay cool forever" forgotten.

The black dog shot and
buried in the neighbors backyard.
The headache and vomit
of a first cigarette.
Being picked last, tripping
in the hallway, a bad haircut.
A boy kicked and punched
to death on a football field--
no one remembers how this happened,
how rage breached the thin blue line.

Falling leaves, frosted blades
of grass, a sun that sinks
too soon. This is growing old, this
is a story about a memory, a story
about the smell of grandmother's
pumpkin pie. About a hayride, under
the harvest moon. About climbing a
maple tree in the backyard.

05 November 2009

p.a.d....day four

Maybe Next Time

Maybe next time she won't spill over like a shaker of salt,
maybe she'll shake the habit, shake it like
a single-serving salt packet


tear here),

maybe she'll slip into something a little more comfortable

(scratch the surface--

when it rains it pours),

maybe next time she'll buy the shamelessness on credit,
get wasted at the kitchen table, fingers clutching
the flushing white pillar of her neck,

(after the excavation--

a crystalline shower).

04 November 2009

P.A.D. Challenge...Day Three


Chemical-coated plastic smiles stalk me from strips of film that spill out of little paper pockets and drawers and boxes,
luminous white lips that glow eerily even through closed eyes.

The blue, licorice-scented hyssop is in full bloom
but I sleep until afternoon, and rise to walk through the dark hallway and bump into a cold wall covered in photographs.

When I dream, I see images of feathered hope perched
on a black bag full of trash and leaking barbecue sauce, he sings
the sweetest song, but I'm wearing earplugs.

02 November 2009

P.A.D. Challenge - Day Two


I got out of bed to see if you left the oven on
And tripped over a pair of blue clogs in the doorway,
I lay there starting to remember things;
The ocean in August, the moist of your armpits, a seagull we named Bob.

I knew there was no way for me to rise up gracefully
And the hero was snoring.
For a moment I panicked,
I'll drown, I thought. I'll drown.

But the green crayon next to me was unflappable
And reminded me that I had swimmer's legs,
Any fool can trip on the carpet, she reminded me,
But it takes a goddess to rise up and walk again.

The oven wasn't on. I walked back to bed,
the expanse of oceans at my feet.

01 November 2009

November P.A.D. Challenge


Though the past generally precedes the future,
there are occasions when we float
the way a Peace dollar hovers
over a pool of mercury,
the buoyant force of a mind
unclinging itself from self, a time dilation,
an accelerated glide along vertumnal lines.

We calculate the paths of kinship,
execute contracts on love, dispense fine print
limiting our liability, we grow hard
like a grain of sand, a grain that grows
like a dream when we close our eyes,
the globular glow
of a second awakening.

The wooden sign
nailed to the side of the outhouse
says: The turbulent strokes
of the seascape have killed
5 x 5 + 3 visitors, 1 let go
and flew 20,000 leagues over the sea and
was reborn as a starry night.