Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quill #19 - Comforter (2010)

I saw him balance a chair,
On top of a solid wooden desk,
Using one finger of his right hand,
While explaining potential energy.

At night he would recline.
I would climb into sturdy embrace and,
Entranced by the sun-ghosted hair
On his ticklish forearms,
Gently pull strands,
Not knowing how they tugged at his heart.
Body and mind entwined, he never protested.

Annoyed by the same treatment,
A husband doesn't see the china doll in his wife,
Until another blithe sprite comes along
To cajole threads one by one
From a fabric unfrayed by time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quill #18 - Silk Screen (1995)

Stillness in my garden
This black night
Rustles paper souls.
Easy to spy upon brown shadows,
A country of bamboo puppets,
Shuffling through one bright house.
Stillness so profound that cattails do not tremble in the breeze.
Even the waterfowl flow carefully,
Present themselves as angelic geisha,
Sneaking lies below long lashes,
Listening for deep currents.
Tameflowers bend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quill #15 - Distance (1994)

His black, suede hat sits on the table across from me.

.....Brown leather
.....Band, silver concho, matching
Black coat rests upon the dusty rose seat.
...............His son wears the same size shoes.
A stack of silver coins leans like a tower unable to fall
Away from his steaming styrofoam cup;

Ninety cents doesn't buy anything here,
.............................................But I have money.
He drew a red cupid's heart on the cup
.............................................Before leaving it in my care.
..............................His daughter colors
.............................................Beside me in our
..............................Booth, too small to roll
.....Black balls down a
.....Brown groove.
.............................................I add our initials to the heart
While he's gone.
..............................She keeps asking for the money;
..............................Chocolate streaks around her mouth,
Climbing on the coats to see her daddy better, and

...............Clapping tiny hands when her brother waves.
Like thunder, you learn to ignore the noise, the
Rhythmic thump, deep rumble and clap,
Echoing thump, rumble, clap,
..............................A cow charm fades on her denim purse,
In a bowling alley,
In tornado alley.
.............................................There's no place like home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quill #14 - "Gay" (1997)

A thinking man,
And a thinking man's man,
Thinking in abstracts;
Reality wearies.

In concept,
Brings a rush of blood to their tiny heads.

In practice,
Takes time and energy, small in supply these days.

Both know they will die wishing for more,
They practice in private,
Putting off difficult action,
Denying strong wine for the cheaper pop.

Cork scents don't lie.
Honesty would be working too hard;
It's easier to ignore an already made bed,
Especially one that smells like spent happiness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quill #13 - Becoming One

There's a certain aura surrounding couples who are supposed to make it through the rough patches of life and into old age with each other. You can almost see the strands of love between them when they share a special look, continue to have passion after the second, seventh and twentieth blush of the romance, even after children come along to seal the deal. It's a kind of emotional bondage and it becomes stronger over time.

When a certain good book mentioned leaving your parents to "cleave to another" and "becoming one," I used to think that was poetic license for moving out and having sex, preferably within a legally sanctioned, morally approved marital contract. I have discovered there is a deeper truth.

Most of my insights in this life have come to me because I made mistakes, big ones. And sometimes I didn't learn the lesson until years later, when I finally understood what my mother was trying to tell me. We seldom agreed but she was no fool.

For couples in love, according to songs the planet over, there's always a sense of "us against the world." My mom was more blunt. She told me I had blinders on. She tried to talk to me about my husband, in the early years of marriage, and I know his parents tried to talk to him about me. Of course, such talks always made us angry with our parents and more ingrained in the "us against them" mentality, clinging to one another as if drowning in a sea of opposition, with only each other to hold us afloat.

Such comparisons are lovely until you find yourself having to deal with what seems like pigheadedness in someone you used to understand. You thought you knew this son or this daughter. They were completely reasonable and intelligent people. Then, one day, but only if their significant other is involved, they put on their dark glasses and howl at the sun. And, it isn't just one or the other, it's a pact between them. Sometimes you wonder why they can't see that they've just turned into werewolves, but they can't. I couldn't. Nobody can, not if they're truly bound.

I love our children, all of them. I love the ones that married into the family, that we adopted, that adopted us, and the ones who were miracles of modern medicine. They're all important to me. But, there's a steep learning curve to an empty nest. Suddenly, half the news reports on TV have no relevance to you. You're never going to deal with schools again, won't need to know the latest toy recalls, or explain the birds and the bees. You've done that and, good or bad, your work is finished. All that's left is cleaning up the house and spoiling the grandkids. And you have to stay on good terms with the parents if you want access to the progeny.

Being the mother-in-law is always a precarious position. One sure way to fail is to point out the daisies that are opening up and turning their heads, or to mention that your neighbors are cutting their grass, or that everyone else is having to squint. When your son or daughter is insisting there's a moon, best to look at the trees and listen for hooting, 'cause you're never gonna change the basic truth that love is a rose with gigantic thorns, and it's far too easy to get stabbed through the heart.

My mom was really good with owls.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quill #12 - Fried Sonnet (1978)

"The time has come," the chicken said to me,
"To use my brain, however small, it's mine,
And find a way to be where I should be,
And thereby not have dinner with the swine."

"For though you see I am a barnyard hen,
And cursed to lay my eggs within this bin,
I still have got a right to sate my yen,
And eat somewhere where manners aren't a sin."

So then I went to see my mother dear
To tell her of my friend, the chicken's, plight.
She took the hint right off, although I fear,
The chicken's hope was not the fate in sight.

The discontented poultry got its wish,
And surely made a mighty tasty dish.

(class assignment, junior year of HS)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Quill #10 - Thief in the Night (2001)

We lived in her upper room
Until you stole my life.
I would have given you money,
Why did you take my wife?

A million wives you've had till mine,
A million more someday,
Biggest polygamist in time,
Orgasmic when they pray.

Lost and hungry, cold, alone,
Twelve steps away from any home,
No lighthouse beacon ever shone.
No foghorn warned me not to come.

I don't know where to go from here.
Brother, can you spare advice?
Lost the passport to my future.
For what crime did I pay this price?

I never thought I'd lose her.
There is no higher court to sue.
No mortal man can ever win
Against a groom like you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Quill #9 - Footsteps (1994)

Jack Sprat's wife had heart
Troubles, became diabetic
From his cigarettes, her fatty diet.
Hypochondria, Medicine called it,
She lost over a hundred pounds in ten.
(Weeks! Thin is in.)

Cancer grew in her hands and knees;
denied insulin, passed sugar for six years,
Several doctors ignored her asthmatic pleas;
Nurse finally saw pain screaming through the tears.
(Angels of Mercy, preserve her!)

Jack took his habit outside then,
Till two sons moved back to the pumpkin,
Brought their young, motherless children with them,
And, exhibiting no intrinsic consideration,
Grown men trailed camel turds all over tarnation.
(Gotta be a man!)

When Jack & Sons dropped her skeleton six feet under
Every orphaned grandchild mourned a beloved lost mother.
A single watcher's thoughts were bitter,
Daughter-in-law, married to Jack Junior,
With grown sons beginning to take over
(Xeroxed chain-puffers like their father),
Dogging Mrs. Sprat ashes to ashes.

Quill #8 - Planetfall (2003)

Every object carries a world.
Books fill my house, floor to ceiling, remaining empty until they're read.
I devour a story a day but the stacks grow higher.
Husks surround me, beckoning,
"Make me real!"
"No, me!"
"No, me!"
Calling for attention like corn stalks that have grown too tall.

I give them all away,
Planting seeds,
Hoping for fertile minds,
Toiling against the blindness of strangers,
Taking comfort in a future crop.
A mere farmer, who listens when the wind speaks.
Sometimes I talk back,
Never saying the right charm to control the weather.
I am buffeted by faceless storms,
But the seedlings remain safe.
My failings won't stop this rain.
These worlds belong in someone else's hands now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quill #7 - From That Day Forward (2001)

They drove us to a tiny junction
Where water and sky and city
All met at once
On a uniform patch of white rocks.
And the overlap was such a sublimation
From city to nature
That the epiphany disarmed us,
Tom with me,
My sister with Tom's friend,
Both men warriors,
Strict among others,
But free with us
At that moment,
And we free with them.
We women,
In our breathable pants,
Stuck toes in cold water,
And fell in.
And their laughter overflowed,
But was gentle,
Kind, not cruel,
Tender and warm,
Like the coats they wrapped around us
Till our own raiment dried.
Then was the day he decided
What I'd already known,
That man and nature could not live apart
Without the loss of both.
We married the next September.
But his humor,
And the love in his eyes
Throughout our lives together,
Was his vow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Quill #6 - Cleanliness is Next to Godessness

The whole family was around for a holiday a few years ago. I don't remember why, but we were discussing bar soap. Our family shares the bar in the tub, as I think many families do, and I happened to mention that I always rinse off the soap before using it on my face. That statement had the kids staring at me with surprise.

I said, "Don't answer these questions out loud."

"Where do you use the bar of soap first, when you take a shower?"

All of them smiled and nodded.

"Now, where do you use it last?"

As if coordinated, the entire bunch scrunched up their faces and said, "Ewww..."

I am a vindicated woman.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quill #5 - Texture (1998)

At first I tried drinking it in the usual fashion,
Warm and straight out of the container,
But it just made me want to gag.
Not from the flavor!
After a lifetime of texture,
I wasn't ready to lose variety in my diet.
Never a wine connoisseur
The age or origin of a liquid didn't matter to me.
I was hooked on texture,
And began to experiment with several techniques
To see what could be stomached.
Air drying,
Temperature changes,
Even a bit of gentle cooking,
And, eventually,
Realized that all were palatable.
I guess the form doesn't matter as much as the content.
In any case, I was able to effect
Such a wide variety of textures,
My friends began asking for recipes.
Instead, I began a catering service.
My specialty,
A full eight-course dinner,
Was the favorite among my clients.
I would begin with mulled wine
And a pastry thin crisp
To crumble into the soup.
Then, a fine simulated steak with gravy,
Followed by warm pudding.
Some guests would balk at the cooked items,
Until they tried them.
Chewy, moist drops in candy mold shapes
Were the piece de resistance.
No one ever turned away from those.
Animal and people shapes were the most popular,
Cartoon characters for the children's parties.
Drops were difficult to time correctly,
But well worth the effort.
If all else failed to satisfy,
Red velvet cake with bright whipped topping was a crowd pleaser,
For any party, any age.
More often than not,
My clients would groan away from the table,
Marvelling at how many different ways I'd managed
To prepare their favorite food.
Which is how I made a name for myself - "Dan's Macabres" -
Caterer to my vampire kin.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quill #4 - Crosses (1995)

Glittering threads between my hands,
Right hand crosses left.
Golden flowers in narrow bands,
Left hand crosses right.

Satin birds fly where I will,
Right hand crosses left.
Feathered deer grow on a hill,
Left hand crosses right.

Stitches on a linen weave,
Right hand crosses left.
Fill the world for which I grieve,
Left hand crosses right.

Hair is all that's left of him,
Right hand crosses left.
I'll sew it till my light grows dim,
Left hand crosses right.

Victorian tribute to the dead,
Right hand crosses left.
Pillow where I'll lay my head,
Left hand crosses right.


This poem won the Silas Summers Literary Award, 1st Place in poetry, 1995-96, and was published in the e-magazine, Cartouche, in 1996.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quill #3 - Veneration (1999)

She would feel the Presence directly behind her,
Breath tingling the nape of her neck.
"Death approaches from the left," she'd read.
The Presence wasn't Death.

Once, in the birthing room,
Barely two years before her mother's passing,
The Presence had come to her,
Helped her disconnect the pain,
Kept her mind busy with words of
The Nature of gods.
Important stuff.
Now it was the only mother left to her.

She, always a side-curling sleeper,
Would feel one lock lifted,
A cold sensation of air underneath,
Then the tress would be dropped.
Tense, awake, she would wait for another sign,
Another message of insight,
Some reason for the Presence's interest in her hair.
She was dissatisfied by its silence.

Later, she remembered a toddler game,
Favorite of her maternal grandfather,
Played regularly by her mother,
Brought over from Sweden by earlier ancestors.
Child positioned on lap,
The teasing elder would raise a rearward plait,
Murmur words, daring the child to respond.
The words meant, "I love you."
But that puzzle wasn't solved until her own daughter was born.

"You'd better not do that," was the challenge.
Her daughter, intrigued as she had been,
Wriggles from lap to back to repeat the ritual.
Child taking the mother's stance,
Giving the parent's command,
Giggling at her own audacity
And her mother's attempts to prevent the role reversal.

Repositioning the child for repetition,
"This do in remembrance of your great-grandfather,
Your grandmother, and me," she whispers to her toddler.
Prickles at the back of her neck complete a deja vu.
The Presence, finally honored, moves on.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quill #2 - Running away from home.

I was three. I had just watched a TV show that included children running away from home, a fantasy that appealed to me whenever I was about to be spanked, but I threatened my mother with personal independence one too many times. She took me to the door, opened it, and told me I could go.

I looked up at her. She was wearing a blue cotton dress with little flowers all over, button-down front, tailored at the waist. I barely reached the hem. I considered the prospective spanking, then turned and looked up the long sidewalk steps leading from our house to the highway, almost a full block up a hill. I turned back toward the house and said that I could run away later.

"No, I'm tired of being threatened. Do it now."

"I'm cold."

Mom closed the door on me, went inside and got my sweater, helped me into it, buttoned all the buttons for me, and then waited.

"It looks like rain," I said.

The door closed. A moment later, out came my toy plastic umbrella and red rubber galoshes. Mom handed me the boots while opening the bumbershoot. I pushed my shoes into them. She gave me the umbrella while fastening the tops of my overshoes, helped me stand, brushed off the backside of my yellow dress, and turned me to face the hill.

I turned back. "I want to say good-bye to Daddy."

"No," she said. "He won't be home for a long time and I have to fix dinner for him. Better get going now."

Finally out of excuses, I took a deep breath and looked up at my mother's face one more time. She seemed quite serious. She turned me away and gave a little push against my back. I swallowed hard and headed up the hill.

I was walking slowly, and it was a long steep hill. The cars were pretty far away, yet, but they were worrying me. I knew I wasn't allowed to cross the street alone, especially busy ones. I decided to turn left at the top of the hill and follow the road to town, about two miles from where we lived, and then look for my grandparents' house. I had been that way hundreds of times, was hopeful I could find them, and pretty certain they'd take care of me since my parents didn't want me anymore.

I don't think I made it more than halfway up the hill when Mom grabbed me from behind, swung me around, then carried me back home. I had just begun to adjust to the idea of really leaving and was almost disappointed, all the moreso when, at dinner that night, she told Dad I was crying and upset the whole time. I distinctly remember that I was not crying, and was taking things rather calmly, but mine was not the version told to every family member, friend, and chatty acquaintance over the next year.

I never threatened or tried to run away again, though I considered it often. She took that as evidence that her parenting skills had worked.

I just never thought of a foolproof plan.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quill #1 - Connections (2010)

We can't,
Just cannot
Slow it down any further.

Every prismatic light show passes beyond our vision,
Sensory overload to the point of blindness.

No beehive, mohawk or mullet holds the key,
No paisley, peasant or plaid,
Nothing blue, borrowed or antique,
Even a million FaceBook friends.

If we could skim along like a dragonfly on a pond,
We would lose everything.
The turtle's pace already exceeds our capacity for change.

Disconnected lily pads,
Drowning in tiny rings.
Time is never still.

Arm to arm,
Children reach across.