Friday, May 24, 2013


I hang by my feet to sleep
leathery wrapped
shoulder-to-shoulder companioned
at dusk
our maelstrom unfurling

like swallows
conferring at one
patch of sand in the San Lorenzo River
whirl of ash skyward
rows of soldiers below
never-ending touch-&-gos

spangled mallards in 3-duck formation
scan for landing
every pass a tighter curl
lock on target, shallow glide
into splashes & skids
the water scarcely disturbed

next to Ray on the plane
a woman suffers a heart attack
(it wasn’t something he said)
Afaa’s class in Boston takes on Mother Courage

someone is always standing
at ground zero

detonated transform
body to mist
body heat to heated air
better to dissolve completely
than live grievously injured
bystanders spattered

in south Florida
early-twentieth-century hunters
looked forward to spring
for targeting rookeries — heron, ibis, egret —
killing the nesting pairs
for feathered hats, not hate
their families so poor they ate gull eggs

still, people ask
how can it happen here?
so placid with insular contemplation
innocence does not equate
to protection

the spring wind pummels new-leafed branches
borrows orange petals
iris & agapanthus blossom in their place
flowering maple is not maple
but Chinese lantern, Indian mallow
cousin to flannel flower

My Anger Will Ebb

After all
my friend, alone in her house
a half mile from the boat
aflame as if in a Greek tragedy
is alive & well
reunited today with daughters & spouse.

Far away & helpless
as she was close by & helpless
I waited, she waited, so many waited
sure he would be caught
sure she would survive unmarked —
we are all marked.

A boat in a Greek tragedy would be a trireme
three ranks of oars
one above the next above the next
a beak for a prow
better to ram, to pierce
the enemy boat.

The dogs, locked inside all day
burst out of doors in frenzied relief
like the children denied playgrounds
the workers denied work.

Meanwhile I walked up Soquel
jaywalked across Ocean
climbed the Broadway hill
to watch the hybrid rose — orange, yellow, & pink —
bloom careless & sprawling
above the chainlink fence.

Anger is sullen, is pouting
is dismay at the world refusing to cooperate
is armies of men with guns
is war, is death
is a 19-year-old killing his life
with killing — ablaze in a boat.

My grandchild studied my knee to find marks
where the ladybug might have bitten.
In the shop a woman
held a paper towel for the slug
to ooze up & onto —
carried it outdoors.

I didn’t want to come here today.
I wanted to stew in anger caused by too long fear.
Yet the sun shines, the bus runs.
I could sit @ the Scotts Valley Peet's
knowing we would read
we would write
fast words on slow paper
we strangers & not quite friends.

— 20 April 2013

On the Way to the Playground

I push, she rides the
stroller down Chestnut

nasturtium, I say
I need to take a picture of this rose

tires inflated
fabrics orange & black

lavender, jasmine, penta, calla
I need to touch, she says

fingers to yellow petals
palm to pinkest crowns

— 24 April 2013

Bags Don't Come Free

Saturday morning
I plan to ride my bike to Target
to buy 
front-closing bras
for post-surgical Esther 
but the fog is down —
the temperature's barely 50.

Instead, I bike to her house
where no one’s up. I unlatch
the chicken house ramp —
Say hello, chicks, to the new day —
park in the basement
& snag the key to the little car.

I drive the route I’d meant to bike
along river, ocean, harbor
via East Cliff, Murray, 7th, Brommer, 
Target's not even open
then they are, but they don’t
stock front-closing bras.

I walk through the dark mall & outside
& into Kohl's to find bras.
No one’s here. Thousands of bras.
I haven’t bought a bra
in 45 years — a nursing bra
I tried once & tossed.

No clerks in sight so I scan
rack after rack — 1500 styles of bra. 
Only three close in the front
in 38B, so I buy them
from a checker who asks me
do you need a bag? No

though I think about how
I will look walking outside
then in, through the empty mall
back to Target & out to my car
holding a beige, a black
& a salmon pink bra.

The checker calls me back
& hands me a black cloth bag
marked Kohl’s — I thought
she says, we’d given
these all away.
 She doesn't know
I pass no one

while walking my Kohl's bag
back to Target to shop 
for placemats, napkins, & a spatula.
Do you need a bag? No 
thank you. Let my housewares
share space with Esther's bras.

— 27 April 2013

La Blanchisseuse

Though she knows
smoothing cloth
how to smooth a cloth
on a flat surface

how to scrub a stain
how to warm the irons
to iron, bite off thread
tie a knot, restitch
a raveled seam

how to cut from yardage
the idea of a sleeve
to fashion a shirt
for someone else

though washing
sewing, she’s looking off
beyond a world
of fingers on cloth
of lye, of steam

the weave of labor
the dour distraction
of indoors.

— 28 April 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Argentine Losses

most people don’t write
at a distance, they don’t exist
plants don’t write
my cat, never

1 May 2013


the screaming hairy armadillo
digs the hole I fill daily
next to the garden wall

wild, the young hare
beds among zucchini
shiny black eye

wild fountains of sand
los ocultos architect
underground mazes

wild, the giant snail oozes
across asphalt
pink-rimmed pallium

wild, the parrot flocks
patrol fruiting vineyards
the sky screams

wild foxes, bald with mange
one by one, dead
for the black vultures feeding

wild, the turquoise-spotted toad
buried overnight
in the sprinkler box

wild, the whistling heron
yellow plumes fan
along the riverbed

wild slaty-breasted wood rail
the plumbeous rail
deep in the pond lilies

wild, the vines
bearing cayote squash
scraped & boiled for jam

wild cactus, the prickly pear
long spines spear
my hat’s crown

wild, the verdolaga
common purslane
succulent scourge for the weeder

wild, the dung-feeding beetles
noon mists of grasshopper
palm-sized bats at dusk

wild pink-spotted hawkmoth
wings battering bathroom tile
under the cat’s paws

wild, the tyrant flycatcher
morning’s choral voice

— 4 May 2013

I Still Have the Floorplan

We look off
as newborns look
into other space
where a door opens
onto a room
& farther doors
to further rooms
of the infinite house
where others live
whether we know
them or not —
known space
we’re hoping to
resurrect from
first memory
every time we
reconnect to
our commonplace.

— 16 May 2013

The snail's

cracked shell


body mass.

the crow

our passing.

— May 17 2013

Miss Vee

I know it’s unreasonable
especially for someone like me
who doesn’t cry easily or often
to tell you how often I cry now
how I might show up at your house
unable to say a word without crying
but if I try to explain
it comes out sounding
like something Elizabeth Bishop said better
in a poem that’s in a book I’ve lost
along with the rest of my books
all my journals & my mother’s journal
half my clothes plus everything else
Mike didn’t bring back in his luggage
when he returned from Argentina
things I don’t even ask about
like the chenille throw Susan gave me
the fossil rock Ben gave me
material things I cared for
yet those are the least of it
so far behind 
horses cropping alfalfa out windows
that leaked in every rain
onto the windowsills & down 
along the badly set & poorly caulked frames
wet that streaked the paint
of many colors — kiwi & mauve
jalapeño, sunset, goldfinch
so swift & violent
I scrubbed every trace from my computer & the web
every picture, every glimpse exists
only in my head now
how foxes walked
softly on small feet
how parrots tipped forward & back
on wires holding grapevines
how doves paraded beside the pond
balanced on rocks, dipped their beaks to drink
how toads floated on loose limbs
at the pond rim
how as a kitten
my cat fell in the pond
how she must have clawed her way
up from the water
how I saw her — legs bent, belly dragging
back to the house
where I lifted her, wrapped her in towels
a shivering frightened small cat
the same one who arched her back, fur high 
swagger-hopped out to take the fox
before I grabbed her
rushed her into the house where she would be safe
I miss her more than the mountains
burning red at dawn
more than the llama-wool rugs
beneath my bare feet
more than my red plush chair

— 20 May 2013