DEDICATIONS, PLEDGES, COMMITMENTS. For the past. For my own path. For surprises. For mistakes that worked so well. For tomorrow if I'm there. For the next real thing. Then for carrying it all through whatever is necessary. For following the little god who speaks only to me. --William Stafford

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blessed Be

There, high in the tree hangs a paper-wasp nest like an over-ripe fruit.

Beside the wasp's nest, linnets have built a nest of their own: strange neighbors.

Something about those two windblown nests reminds me of lions and lambs.

Unlovely In His Bones

Unlovely In His Bones

I know a woman lovely in her bones
--Theodore Roethke

I know a man unlovely in his bones
by any simple human measures, still

of ill health, with body parts and passions
as rotted as the pistons of an old

Plymouth, yet, sweet in his pure and tender
soul, who would be raised from his sickbed by

angels, sharp-edged but in no great hurry,
spinning on their graceful harpy wings like

falling-down galaxies. He raises his
obscene middle finger toward the coat-rack

in the corner, in the half-light, spinning.
I know how it is, how space flight is a

risky business. I wonder why in a
universe where angels dance with ions

in a hundred visions and revisions,
Prufrock-like, why is this final, deadly

apparition not an angel? Would not
an angel, any angel, even an

unlovely one be better than this per-
verse revolving coat-rack in the corner?

With Love,

There are a hundred paths
through the world that are
easier than loving. But
who wants easier?
-Mary Oliver

Wasn't it good, though? Wasn't it good,
all of us there together, awash
in Mr. Richard's California light, awash
in color from your bold hand, wild
as the Day the Yankees Lost the Pennant?

Alive, and racing Kije's Troika through
a white shower of strings and little bells
toward a sky and an ocean as blue
as a Carolina day?

Now you are a prayer, or what a prayer
should be, knowing you may have
closed your eyes, but this is no dream.
It comforts us. The God you met waits.
God--a figure like the sun, a face
of copper, of gold, with the merciful grace
of the little girl in red stockings who also waits
to take your hand. It comforts us

that whatever it Was,

My stone has hands
It sleeps in the cradle

Of my hands,
Drinking my fire

My stone grows hair
In wonderful curls

Down its silky back
It loves the ice

That breaks me
More than it loves me

It sings of boots
Of blackbirds dying

Of the cracking of heaven
My stone knows black and white,

Was there at the hour
Of my birth

Understands cemeteries
Is flexible
Why I Love Poetry

You know, the number of people who love poetry is about the same as the number of people who love to wear Davy Crockett hats. So we are a rare and wonderful people!
I think I was, maybe 9 or 10 when I discovered poetry let you say things you could say no other way, and when I was 15 or so, I found that poetry offered a way of understanding things I never understood before. Poetry sparked a new way of feeling, of insights and images I had never imagined: that someone could write The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees/ Is my destroyer moved me to tears.

Edna St Vincent was my first love. Dylan Thomas was my second. After that there were suddenly too many to count, like stars on a good night, after the first one or two.

Mary Oliver writes of praying in words I think apply to poetry as well:

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but a doorway

into thanks, and a small silence in which
another voice may speak.

Like Abbe Joseph says in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, stretching his hands toward heaven, his fingers like ten lamps of fire, "If you will, you can become all flame." And we all understand what that is like, don't we? And we've all come through the doorway into thanks, and most of us have found the silence in which another voice may speak....

And if this isn't clear enough to be useful to you, stick around. Hopefully one day it will be, and you can become "all flame."

Just pay attention.

Love, she murmurs
under her breakable manners
to the special jockstrap,
counting wins and losses,
finding new delicacies
under each heavy-handed syllable.
She knows the score:
it's nip and tuck
before the final round
where, unmannerly,
she pulls the trigger,
smokes a screaming bullet
as a breadloaf
into his gut,
a second into his groin.
The afternoon
churns red and white
as Robintino's checkered tablecloth
and the red pasta on white china.
His wineglass tips,
spills onto his trim
and familiar white vest.
It is a long joke
with no ending but
a ruined vest.

(That's about enuf to piss off the good humor man! Understand, she never intended to kill him, just wanted to put a scare into him, which she did. She knows he has more moves than a bowl of jello--when he saw her there, face red as a tomato, you could've knocked him over with a feather he was so surprised. Too bad. He was on a roll, you might say, and he was stumped for about a second when she started pitching bread loaves at him--thought she was crazy as a loon--but then again, she might've come at him with the bread knife! He knew she'd caught him between a rock and a hard place, but hell, life's never all fun and games. Too bad about the vest though. It was almost new.)
They Never Told Me Not To Go There

They never told me not to go there,
and there is a certain holiness in repetition.
I am not innocent:

I know where the body's buried
and what goes down at every streetcorner.
What comes up is always waiting there

pinched and brown as a scroll
of inkstained goatskins, a chant unrolled
upon a stick--the poetry of innocents

awaiting judgement. The left hand
never knows the right hand's doings.
I recall the phrases written there.

The priest intones a litany,
a sort of requiem: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison--filaments of innocence--

the price of repetition, and of waiting
without conscience. But there's a price to pay.
They never told me not to go there,
I am not innocent.

Friday, May 02, 2008

His Mate

Their calling voices clash over the great dark fields, each of them alone.

The Great Horned Owl

Listen: the call of a Great Horned Owl, lovely, if you're not a field mous


Red bird rising
Deep blue day
Born again: green

Sports is not my long suit, yet
something like a softball catches
summer visions of my dad,
sainted, with a wad of gum
sanctified to one purpose:
stuffing it in the umpire's
short-winded, surprised pie-hole!

Out there, somewhere
you have real faces, like
or unlike, mine. People
I pass on the street
might be you. They are
all going somewhere. I, too
am going somewhere.
Sometimes our eyes meet
but only for a moment.
Was that you I saw
last month, at the airport
going to Buenos Aires, or Seattle?
Was that you behind me
in line at the supermarket
buying wine and flowers,
oranges from Florida, avocados
from Brazil?
Do I know you?
My face is a keyhole.
Your face is a key.
This little glass contains
the world, unlocked

She wears a straw
Sombrero to hang the clothes
On the line
It keeps the sun
From her pale freckled skin
She carries the wooden pins
In a green-flowered bag
Tied at her waist
The wind whips water
From the corners of the spotless
Sheets the long pants and
Endless shirts, figures
Writhing in a blast
Like men afire
Racing like couriers with
Meaningless messages
Her red hair twists around her
Pale freckled face
Like flames
Her tiny white hands fasten
Each pin like a candle
A row of candles
On the trembling line
She bends over the basket of
Wet clothes again and again
Hushing the baby
Who weeps at her feet
Tomorrow she irons

I once saw a women,
Call her Isha, heart and bones
Formed, in fact, chosen, like Eve
In Eden, by the breath of His mouth,
By a rib in the sweet dough
Of her flesh. Before she emerged
Was it like a fire, then? Like coming
Out of some great silence
Not dark, not light, but out of some
Infinite blank page set so suddenly
Aflame: No Thing, igniting some dust,
Some tinder, with sparks, bonfires, conflagrations
Of particles created, colliding, decaying,
Like everything she knows as real?

And After Word, under a harmony of
Constellations, after the naming of animals,
Those beautiful beasts in the rumbling seas,and
In the seeded fields, knee-deep in grass, or
Above her, touching the air like God
Walking on water, like men and caribou
In marshes, planting rice, like women
Dancing under trees, like children digging
For treasures, like the painter with his
Oils and brushes, like the doctor with his
Medicine bottles and his pills, like the soldier
With his rifle and his helmet and boots, like the
Boy with his book, like the murderer and
His victim, like the drowned, and the saved.

It is so hard to be chosen; to be
The Beginning of The Rest of the Story
Is to divide and expand forever outward
In a sequence of possibilities, growing greater
With each division. We are mere followers.
As simple as that.


The moon is a hole
cold wind wears a black slicker
the last bus goes by the board
little david

your smooth soft freckled body
and the quiet fury of those children
in grass up to your knees
that burns like fires in the fields
kites that fly in circles
naked jaws and neckbones of skulls
the shaken joy of snowflakes
crawling lines of blood, and the spit of guns
and the sleeping gift of seeds
a fucking handful of shit
lucid shoals of children's laughter
preserved, a needle in the brain
a bird's egg in the hand
the stone that killed goliath
your soft clinging mouth
exhausted children calling, calling
like the lamb before the lion
the kid goat tied to a tree
like a kiss upon the brow
the tap tap of a drum
a bed that's warmed by love
faraway no thing moves but
the silence of a secret
the blinking of a crow's eye
where church bells thrash the morning

About Me

My photo
1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.