They Needed No Star

They followed no star
Brought no gifts
Spoke to neither
King nor angel

But when Mary was sick
Sarah cooked dinner
While Adah entertained the busy toddler

When Joseph was injured
Rebecca helped bandage the wound
While Naomi distracted the worried boy

When their almost-adolescent disappeared
Ruth comforted them
While Leah searched the caravan

When Mary stood
“Near the cross of Jesus”
She stood with her sister,
With Mary of Clopas,
With Mary Magdalene

They needed no star
They brought no gifts
They heeded not king nor angel
They just helped

Hebrews 11:1

the substance of faith
becomes myth
through the years

the evidence of the unseen
becomes distorted
through my tears

can I rely
on prophets or politicians
on priests or pundits
on popes or presidents

today’s truths
tomorrow’s myths
as yesterday’s certainties
are today’s lies

I struggle
for balance
against hurricane winds

by my rope of psalms
to faith’s once steady

Here I Sit

Here I sit
in bed
surrounded by books
paper and electronic
scribbling in my small notebook

Not for me
Luther’s drama
No one forces me to speak
Without horns
“Hier stehe ich.”
“Ich kann nicht anders.”

And yet
here I sit
in my comfortable private bed
in my warm well-lit room
in the 21st century new world
with conscience captive to the Word of God
not trusting pope or councils
no less than that long ago
misogynist anti-Semitic
totally foreign proto-German

Sitting in my comfortable bed
scribbling in my small notebook
no one holding me to account
nonetheless I silently shout
to Pope and priests
with my sisters
Here I stand.
I cannot do otherwise.

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.

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. . . .

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.


We call ourselves so many names:
I am sorry…tired…hungry…hired
I am late…glad…irate…bad
I am fearful…sad…joyful…mad
I am pretty…fearless…weepy…friendless

God says
“I am Who I am”

And calls us beloved.

Simple Silliness

[I think my response to today’s poetry prompt is simply my mind escaping from the too serious busy-ness of the holidays.]

To breakfast on a roller coaster
Is quite absurd
Even more absurd
With candy cigarettes and pop

But, really, my dear,
What were you thinking?
A roller coaster party in winter
Early in the morning
Is not merely in bad taste
It is in no taste at all
Even with karaoke
Or perhaps I should say
Especially with karaoke

No, really, it simply won’t do
With not even a slim chance
Of being acceptable
Or memorable

I don’t care if you did buttonhole Casper
To run the coaster
A ghost to host the coaster
Just misses the mark for charming

Although I must admit
I did enjoy meeting the Kirbys
And Captain Gregg was such a treat
Though Mrs. Muir took quite a fright
As we gathered speed
On the downward plunge

As dreams go
It has this single virtue:
‘Twas no nightmare
But I would fain hope
For something somewhat classier
With a touch more savior faire, n’est pas,
Tomorrow night

From Where Such Sparkles

[If Christmas does not happen in this house this year, I shall blame it on the delicious prompts from Two Sylvias Press.]

The slight curve of the street makes it hard to park the car
just right, close but not too close, to the curb
so mom can step into the street.
With effort she pushes the car door open
just enough
so she can hold the open door for support
as she waits, more or less patiently,
for me to get her walker from the back seat
unfold it and place it just so
on the sidewalk
so she can maneuver that intimidating
step up from curb to wide walkway.

But first I grab the handful of mail
from our dented black mailbox
sitting slightly askew on its single leg
dented and askew because mom
a few years ago when she still drove
backed her car into it
when she still drove.

We make our so slow way
up the short straight concrete path
recently widened by my husband
to the three broad steps of the small porch.

Mostly mom is a treat to watch
as she has figured out how to safely
climb the three railed stairs
with the walker.

Mostly, usually, but not always
so I stand behind
ready to right any wrong.

Then the difficulty of maneuvering
on the small porch
around mom’s not insubstantial self
with walker
standing stolidly unaware.

My hands full
because I collected the mail
even though I already have a grocery bag
and my purse
and mom’s sweater
why do I never remember
the small porch challenge
of walker and woman
storm door opening out
wooden door opening in
at least I left it unlocked.

Forever and a day or longer
to cross the threshold
walk the short hall
turn into her bedroom
settle her in her recliner
park the walker
find the remote
and the phone
answer her urgent insistence
to see right now
the groceries
if any mail is for her.

Finally, gratefully
I stand at my kitchen counter
to sort mail
knowing most will go
to the recycle bin under the sink
bills, ads, pleas for money
sometimes with a calendar or address labels
cheap socks or cheaper gloves
I like the occasional one with a reusable bag
but even then I never give in response.

Today includes the small state supplement check
the one I always forget about
though it comes faithfully every month
and is part of my budget plan
but still feels like a bonus, a gift, a treat
every month.

I set aside the utility bill,
put the check in my purse,
throw everything else in the recycle bin.

almost everything else

I hold one small white envelope with two hands
turn it over and over
as if revolutions will yield revelations.

It looks like it should hold a card
but it is too yielding for a card
it feels like it holds nothing.

No return address
local postmark
handwritten address
to me, only me.
The handwriting reminds me of my late husband
15 years dead
old-fashioned, mixing cursive and print
the 4 scribed like a typed 4, with enclosed top
written with a black marker pen
Just like he used to do.

Just like him.
The name on the envelope
on all my mail
half mine, half his
first half mine alone
second half the one I took
when I married him
the one I kept
when I married again
last year.

Though I open the envelope carefully
the dusty sparkles surge out
float slowly to the floor
enliven the air around me
a few even come to rest on my hands.

That’s all, nothing else
for the rest of the day
sparkling dust clings to my hands
sparkling dust resists being swept from the floor
sparkling dust rises, occasionally, into the air around me
as I tend to mom’s long slow needs.

The Pusuit of Happiness

To know what makes you happy
is insight.
To not know what makes you happy
is sadness.

To want what makes you happy
is hope.
To not want what makes you happy
is troubling.

To be able to do what makes you happy
is privilege.
To not be able to do what makes you happy
is hard.

To know what makes you happy,
to want what makes you happy,
to be able to do what makes you happy,
but never have the energy to do it
is depression.