My mouth cuddles the words of her poem
My left shoulder blade sharpens when I move just so
My fourth toe on my right foot aches still
Ten years after its Zumba dislocation
I jigged when she jogged. Her heel and my toe
Unexpected unwelcome brief
My left knee still lives on the icy trail
In the cold winter afternoon
Fading too fast
Where ice, ski and knee challenged each other
My knee lost
My glasses fog up when I wear the mask
That mom sewed, folding elastic between cloth layers
So I breathe into my husband’s old 100% cotton t-shirt
Cigarette paper,
The dermatologist says,
Is the medical description for what the disease
Has done
Here, there, most everywhere to my skin
Rough and ugly under my hands
Until his touch refires the clay
Into warm smoothness
Our physical incarnates
Our divinity

Retrospeculative in Two Parts

Part One
Whoever said hindsight is 20/20 never compared their memories to another’s. When I look back, as through a glass darkly, I see some unknowable mixture of memory and fantasy. If my alchemy is generous, I may find gold within the dregs of memory’s cup. But too often it seems I suffer a reverse alchemy.

Part Again
I pan the whitewater river
That rushes over the valleys and hills of my past
To the narrow canyon of my present
Where I stand in hip boots and helmet
The better to protect me from drowning in tears.

I pan for those memory nuggets
That I can refine with true alchemy
Into rare golden understanding.

I hold them out, so small in my wrinkled palm
Those bright shiny memories
To share the treasure with my family
Only to be told that I offer them but
Fool’s gold

Good Enough

His mum said, “You are already a winner, darling.”
He said, “Such a mum thing to say.”

Not this mum

I might say, “Do your best, darling,
And know that, win or lose,
I love you always.”

But to myself I would think,
“I might love you a little bit more
If your best is good enough to win.”

My children would, of course,
Hear it – did,
Of course,
Hear it.

Pity, that.

Something Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird

Life now has broken, like the first sin fall
Words go unspoken in this strange place

Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Praise still for rainfall
Prayers that You heal all
Praise gifts that be small, at this slow pace

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Now in life’s new slow, curse of a virus
Restless we now grow, staying at home
Can we yet find praise for the desirous
And help spirits raise in our own home

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the One Light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Ours still the sunlight
Ours still the morning
Born of the One Light Eden saw play
Praise with your patience, praise with your staying
God’s recreation in this new way

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird

Life now has broken, like the first sin fall
Words go unspoken in this strange place

Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Praise still for rainfall
Prayers that You heal all
Praise gifts that be small, at this slow pace


I curse fluently and foully
As though auditioning
For Deadwood
Long and loud
With tears in my eyes

But what good does it do
When the insanely selfish
Continue unfazed
With their diabolical plans

So I curse my inability
To call down fire and brimstone
Boils and gnats
With my wrath

To curse effectively
One needs the right god or demon
On your side

The demons seem all to be busy
Riding the backs of those
Gathering to protest
The loss of their right
To kill others

Guns are no longer enough
The demons whisper in their ears
You must have the right
To shake their hand
Kiss their cheek
And spit in their eye

And as a god for cursing
Jesus is sorely lacking
I don’t want to turn the other cheek
I don’t want to forgive them
And I certainly don’t want to be
Whipped by their rights
Crucified on their delusions

I want YHWH
An old-fashioned personal god
Of righteousness and vengeance
A god who loves only
The faithfully masked
The isolated chosen ones

I want metaphorical
Jawbones of an ass
To tear their temple down
I want to crush and bury
Their stupidity
Their arrogance
Their selfishness

I want to curse them
With Shakespearean grandeur
Would t’were safe enough
To spit upon them
I would
Cripple them
That their limbs may halt
As lamely as their thinking
A plague upon them!
This plague upon them!
And a vengeance too!

I curse until I weep
And then I pray,
“Curse me not,
Sweet God,
With this unforgiving spirit.”

Love’s Ambition

Betsy Wyeth died yesterday
Aged 98
A decade and more after Andrew –
Does Helga live still?
Of course she must
Whether dead or alive
Betsy and Andrew ensured that
With his paintings and her word:

Betsy’s long life
Merited a long article
Only because she was
Andrew’s wife, muse, model,
Business manager, archivist,

That revealed secret
The Helga paintings
With one word
Became the art world’s
Enduring fake news:

240 paintings?
Of one woman?
A married neighbor?
Nudes painted
In secret assignations
Over 15 years?
Without the knowledge
Or consent of either spouse?
By America’s premier classicist?

Oh the scandal
Oh the juiciness
Oh the titillation
Oh the mystery
Oh the prominence
Oh the profit!

No president
No diplomat
No philanthropist
No artist, even,
Graced the covers
Of Time and Newsweek
That fateful –
Or was it fakeful –
Dog days week in 1986
That privilege was reserved
For Helga
While Betsy smiled enigmatically
And said only

With Betsy dies the secret
Of what love:
Andrew for Helga
Or Betsy for ambition?

I prefer to believe in Betsy’s canny ambition.

In a puritanical America,
shocked by pubic hair,
she made her husband’s sensuous renderings
a very public front page story.

Because she knew
Americans love nothing more
than to be titillated by scandal
and shocked by wanton

Our Fearful Odyssey

[In the style of the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey]

Tell me, Muse, of this land of much wealth, that was driven
far downward, after we had sacked science’s sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities suffered, with bodies stack upon stack,
many the discords we suffered in our spirits in our narrow homes,
struggling for our own lives and the safety of our countrymen.
Even so we could not save them, hard though
We strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who worshipped the idol of Discontent, the False God,
and he took away the safety of their homestaying. . . .


Stillness brings enlightenment
To quiet monkey minds
And perfect death needs no breath

Sweet spring never stills
Sultry summer life entwines
Yet stillness brings enlightenment

Mortality haunts autumn chills
‘Til winter quiet enshrines
And perfect death needs no breath

Living love grows tendrils
Curling grasping binds
Yet stillness brings enlightenment

When any movement kills
We spit life’s bitter rinds
And perfect death needs no breath

Thrumming humming thrills
Dancing life bumps and grinds
Yet stillness brings enlightenment

And perfect death needs no breath


She waits on the front porch
Small hands clenched on her lap
Short legs kicking over the edge
Silently reciting
Her magic charm
Pfadt, Pfahl, Pfeiffer, Pfoutz
Names from the phone book

His tall legs eat the sidewalk
Coming home from the bus stop
Already feeling the beer foam
Tickling his tongue

He smiles when he sees her

Hands unclench
Mind recital stops

She runs, trying to look like
Their favorite ballplayer
Rounding third
Heading for home

He catches her up
In a one armed hug
She talks as they walk

Her day, her plans, her baby sister
But not her magic names

In the kitchen
He puts down his lunch pail
Her mom turns around
Leans against the fridge
Spews the daily frustrations
The stubbornness, the sass

She sits at the table
Half listening
Pfadt, Pfahl, Pfeiffer, Pfoutz
Next to her high-chaired sister
Munching a carrot

He leans against the counter
Half listening
Wanting that beer
Until he turns
And backhands her across the face.

How To Avert Another Personal Catastrophe

Wake up with a headache
A particularly unpleasant way to awaken

Wake up but don’t get up
Find that wonderfully scented
Heavy soft and supple
Neck and shoulders wrap
Drape it, unheated
Over your eyes

Drift until early afternoon
In and out of something like sleep
With sometimes pounding
Sometimes waves
Sometimes dance
Sometimes galaxies exploding
Parents yelling
Children crying
Lovers leaving

Something unknown, unknowable
Finally drives you up and out

Then something else
Something like normal
Check email
Text a happy birthday message
Read a column
Help your mom find mass on her TV
Think about dinner

(Edgy, edgy, edgy
Easily offended
Prickly, mouth dry
Skin zinging)

Gather herbs from the garden
For the noodles
Collards for the vegetable
Smoked turkey from the fridge
Dinner is easy
But mom needs something fixed on her phone
She can’t get the call to go through
The one to her friend in assisted living
Just down the road
But unreachable now
And the call won’t go through.

“It can wait, Mom, we are just about to eat dinner.”

“No, Shirley eats dinner at 5:00 every day.
I know that.
So she is finished by now.”

I raise my voice slightly, lower the pitch
And turn to face Mom
So she can understand what I am saying.
I stress the first word,

“WE, Mom, we are just about to eat dinner.”

Mom, whiny, offended and angry,
In that well-remembered

(Replies as she so often replied to Dad
Right before the roof blew off the house)

“You don’t have to yell at me.”

Now here is the secret
The secret better even
Than that little prince’s
Royal insight

Just don’t respond.

There is absolutely no correct response
No response to keep the roof on tight
No response to right the wrong
Salve the wounded
Soothe the aggrieved

Not even an apology

Just turn back to the stove
Keep cooking dinner
Get down the plates
Take out the cutlery
Season the collards

And it will all go away
Except for the zing in your skin
And the easy tears in your eyes
And the echo of thrumming

But that was there anyway.