How shall we fare
Well or ill
Or languishing with poetry and headaches
On Elizabeth Barrett’s settee
How shall we move
Ahead or back
Or locked in a tree
Lured by Niviane’s song
How shall we write
Poetry or prose
Or languages unborn
Sung by Tolkien’s peoples
How shall we live
Steadily or anxiously
Or laughing at fate
With lying legendary Malraux
Where is the sweetness in this sour parting?

These questions and more
I am left with
Even while satisfied
Mourning April’s passing
Though eager for May’s borning

Oh, wait, there is the sweetness
I found it in the poems.


À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

[Rebecca’s challenge today was to play with things lost in translation, in some sense. This poem probably needs some explanation (which might be a bad sign for a poem). The first volume of Marcel Proust’s seven volume (!) novel has a famous incident of the narrator recovering memories of a childhood home when he eats a madleine. The title of this poem is the French title of the novel. The first English translation was titled “Remembrance of Things Past.” A later better translation has the title “In Search of Lost Time.” The correct French of the last line of my poem is si’l vous plait (if you please). I have a personal backstory around the title of the original translation, but I won’t bore you with that.]

When we eat the madeleine how much is memory and how much imagination
That rich sweet taste crumbs clinging to our tongue, gums, palette
That softness traveling down our throat, right through us
Getting mixed up with everything else we have taken in
And coming out quite differently
So we wrinkle our nose and flush it all away
Wipe ourselves clean of any indigestible remnants of that madeleine
Even while the crumbs still remind our mouth of the original sweetness, softness
Crumbly richness delight
At least until we brush our teeth and get on with life
And then what?
Blankness waiting to be filled with misspelled words
Wrong guesses from the infuriatingly vague crossword clues left by our befores
Or right impressions quietly waiting to be relived?

Do we ever truly remember or remember truly things past when we seek to recapture lost times?
Tell me please, Cher Marcel, but in something less than seven volumes,
See vous plait.

In Memoriam

[James Cone, an African-American theologian, often called the Father of Black Liberation Theology, died on Saturday,  April 28, 2018.]


“Christ hung from every lynching tree.”

Emmett Till’s open coffin

revealed Jesus Christ.

“The oppressed are the Christian community.”

Rosa Parks sat next to Jesus.

The scandal is that the gospel means liberation.

Christ died from the bullet that

killed Medgar Evers.

A powerful liberating presence among the poor.”

Jesus Christ’s body was blown

apart by a bomb at the

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

“America has never intended for blacks to be free.”

Jesus, known as

Rev. Bruce Klunder,

died under a bulldozer.

“I have one right: That of demanding human behavior from the other.”

A Mississippi

earthen dam hid

the bodies of Christ

and three young men.

“I have one duty: That of not renouncing my freedom through my choices.”

Viola Liuzzo

died when

a Klansman


Jesus Christ.

“The lynching tree…should have a prominent place in American images of Jesus’ death.”




Jimmie Jackson

and Jesus died.

“Black Power is…an inward affirmation of the essential worth of blackness.”

At South Carolina

State College,

Christ was killed,


against segregation.

“The Christian gospel is more than a transcendent reality.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s

assassin nailed

Jesus Christ

to the cross.

“The acceptance of the gift of freedom transforms…”

Jesus died when

Trayvon Martin

was shot.

“…doubt is not denial but an integral part of faith.”

Christ was found


in Sandra Bland’s

jail cell.

“The gospel is also an immanent reality.”

When he took Philando Castile’s life,

a Minnesota officer

killed Jesus Christ.

“Before being Christ, he is truth.”

James Cone died today.


Notes on Quotes

[Rebecca’s challenge today: collect snippets of whatever throughout your day and use some in a poem.]

The poem of my day
Moves through random
Wonderful quotes
With a recurring animal theme.

“Good morning, love. I just found a dead mouse in our bedroom”
– My early morning wake-up text to my husband.
“Can Blue and I come take a shower at your house?”
– Asked Ann, whose water was turned off
(Blue is her dog; please don’t ask
If they shower together).
“Charly needs to lick someone”
– Said my mother
Talking about Carol’s dog
Whom we are caring for
While Carol is in Denver
Charly just had surgery
And needs four different pills
On different schedules
And Charly, old not quite toothless dog,
Hates taking pills
So my quotes are best left
“The problem is I can’t hear with my glasses on”
– My mother again
No animal involved but
How could I not include
Mom’s explanation to the audiologist
Of how the temples of her eyeglasses
Cause feedback in her hearing aids.

And my personal favorite
My nominee for Best Quote of the Day,
“How the bloody hell do I stop being live?”
– Asked Tina, after posting a duck fight
(Or was it a mating display?)
Live to Facebook.

There are days
Thankfully less now
When I might ask,
“How the bloody hell do I stop being dead?”

Gardening Aside

It takes just a moment to plant
The tiny dill in the soft dark dirt
In front of the garlic
A moment more to glance around
And see
Last year’s curly soft green parsley
Already spreading strong
Among last year’s leeks
Long leaved this soon
By what secret magic did that happen
Solomon’s seal poking up confidently
Under the volunteer magnolia
Erect as any army regular
Lower branches trimmed to make room
Amid Solomon’s variegated pointing seal
For hostas and day lilies
While in the sunlit corner
One clematis has begun its upward climb
Though it looks too fragile to cling
The other, I think, is dust to dust
Earth for our next effort
In this tiny patch of garden

I think of my husband
Moving boulders, digging ponds
Planting trees, shrubs, ferns
Building a foot bridge
And my yoga platform
In our large back garden

I think of Blake
And I am grateful
For this small bit of infinity
Along the side of the house
Next to the deck
That is the most that I
Timid non-gardener
Can hold in the palm of my heart
When my husband is away


[Rebecca’s challenge for us today was simple: write about something gross, disgusting or ugly.]

In my childhood disgusting was
Oh gross oh yuck barf pee-yew
Piles of dog shit on the sidewalk
Before dogs were pampered pets
Fed zoned grain free diets
Back when dogs ate left-overs and garbage
Caught birds and squirrels
Nutria and groundhogs
And the smell of their shit burned
Made my stomach clench
Filled my mouth with almost vomit

Gross back then was moist
Almost shit-looking clumps of chew
Spit out on the sidewalk
With still a sweetish tobacco smell
Resurrecting memories of my grandfather
From ugliness on the sidewalk

You could never look away
Never pretend it wasn’t there
Because if you looked away
You might step in it
And then there was the worse ugliness
On your shoe
And the even worse ugliness
When your dad found out about it

Still, I wonder,
Maybe it is just the softening
Effects of age and distance
But now that seems less ugly, less fearsome
Than the ugliness of her dementia
Dirty, stringy hair
The smell that makes me feel guilty
As I blow good-bye kisses from across the room
Her “toilet explosions” and doing her laundry
Separately, hot water, bleach and still

Now the ugliness I struggle with is
My disgust at my own revulsion
Apparently, obviously, sadly
God did not make me of the same stuff
As Sienna’s Catherine or Calcutta’s Teresa

Salvation Dreams

“Unless you become as little children…”

Kneeling in the dark church
Amid lingering incense smells, lit votive candles
Inviting angels and visions into the pews
Prayers become dreams become wishes become dreams become prayers
If I pray harder, fast better, abstain more faithfully
What I take for my soul longs for visions, visitations
Stigmata, even , should I yearn, learn, turn truly, completely
Radiantly, incandescently holy
Pure dreams, sure dreams, child dreams
Knowing with the deep knowing denied the winter witch
Knowing the onetrueholyapostolic
Way to enter heaven
Sin is my original nightmare, soul stains
Venial and mortal
What if I die on my way to confession?
My envy of altar boys is sin
Wanting to be an astronaut, probably sin
Wanting to be a priest, definitely sin
So I dream of being a saint
Blessed and loved, special and content
I kneel and dream
What I take to be my soul dreams of being a saint
While my traitorous mind
Dreams of priests and astronauts
JesusMaryJosephSaveMe I pray

“…you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

My Friend

Echoes chime and ring through her life
Seeing reverberates through time
This garden reminds her of one in Norfolk
Years ago
Hearing resounds each moment by moment
This hymn was a favorite of the former priest
Tastes and scents, touches and feelings
Reflect and repeat, repeat and reflect
This cheese now, remember the gouda from the abbey
Made by the nuns who say their cheeses are blessed by Jesus
This perfume, her mother’s favorite
The blanket’s nap beneath her fingers
Just so her infant son’s favorite blankie
The son who now lives in England for his job
Her trip there to visit him
How like the one she took with her ex back when
She walks through her history
Her past ever in her present
Living with her ghosts
But oh so gently
Echoing, reverberating
The loves she treasures and shares

Driveway Narcissus

One of my favorite pictures
A picture that I see often without looking at the photograph
Is Woody smiling up at me as he kneels in the long dirt
Running beside our driveway
He is planting hundreds of bulbs
Daffodils, the narcissus of the plant world
In the bare dirt along our driveway
Now every spring starts for us with the early daffodils
The simple ones, white, at the front of the driveway
Then come the yellow ones, then the yellow ones with orange hearts
Then the doubles, all nodding, all along the driveway
Until the whole length is full of beautiful Narcissus
With every reason to be pleased with themselves
People driving by have been known to stop and comment
On the beauty of our narcissus
Our gorgeous nodding narcissus
But the picture in my head
The picture I love
Is Woody kneeling in the bare dirt
Not nodding at his own lone beauty
But smiling up at me
With promised years and years for us in his eyes


My Chilhood Place

Rebecca’s challenge for us today was to write a poem about a place.]

The place inside me that should be full of home is often scary empty.
Questions about home confuse embarrass me.
“Where are you from?”
Do you want to know where I grew up?
But the me you know,
So little of that me is from the place I grew up.
Do you want to know my childhood home?
But when I say New Orleans
I see in your eyes a different reality than my childhood
My childhood was not the French Quarter
And Mardi Gras and Cajun/Creole food
And the most unique (how I hate that phrase
And not just because something is either unique or not – unique does not admit degrees)
City in the United States as it has been characterized
All of that surrounded my childhood
But none of that was my childhood place
My childhood was not the smells of mom’s cooking
Or my dad whistling as he strode home on his long legs
From the bus stop after getting off work
My childhood was not delivering roasted nuts to vending machines
On weekends, riding in our ’53 Ford enfolded in the
Warmly safe smells of huge bags of fresh roasted nuts in the backseat
My childhood was not standing at the rail of the ferry across the mighty muddy Mississippi
Half thrilled and half scared looking at the flat barges and white banana boats
Squirming around, wanting to return to the car long before it was necessary
Always worried, no matter how often we took the ferry,
That something would go wrong with the docking
My childhood was not the Big House on Allard Boulevard
Just off the bayou
Filled with always old, almost indistinguishable great aunts
Tante Lise, Tante Del, Tante Dele, Tante Ne, Tante Georgine
And my tiny great grandmother, Mere J C, blindly crocheting in her rocking chair
Bonjoour, Mere, co -maun taullay vou?
My childhood was not our Catholic school
With the crowded classrooms, straight rows of straight children of the boomer generation
And the nuns and the uniforms and the clickers
And the lines and the rosaries and standing in the fenced playground
Watching the others play and wondering how they knew the secret
And where I could learn it
My childhood was not summer weeks with my grandparents on Texas Air Force bases
Or daring to pet the small gators that the boys cross street found in the canal round the corner
Or sharing a bedroom with my two sisters and whisper reassuring them that
Despite the noisy fights, our parents would never divorce.
We are Catholic.
My childhood was not the hot summers when we really would,
At least once ever year,
Try to fry an egg on the sidewalk
Or the Christmases at my father’s father’s house
When our cousins always got lots more than we did
Or the tree with the angry cardinal that our neighbor, Mr. Joe, shot
Or Mr. Allen who couldn’t drink tea because it reminded him of his years
Hidden in a French village after his plane was shot down
Or the swing set in the back yard where I put a hole in my head
Or the chain link fence enclosing every yard all down the street
And I ripped my wrist open on ours when my dress caught as I climbed over it
I was over it, I just had to free my dress, carefully without ripping it,
So I didn’t get in trouble but instead I ripped my wrist
My childhood was not the vegetable man who came round every week, Mr. Chris
Or my young uncles who tried to teach me to blow bubble gum bubbles
None of these are the places of my childhood
All of these you might hear about from my mom and sisters
Or from me
But, still, for me, in that place called home
There are only three heres:
Books and church and fear
And I don’t know why.