Archive for the ‘2016’ Category

Three and a Half Years after the Death of a Guerita

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

There is no time
to spend with you today,
lover of all things Latin
(especialmente the men),
except in songs that we once
heard together and sang.
Remember how our sister-sound
would mesh, two voices
from our mother’s throat?
We made one sound
of her parted flesh, a boat
with two sails blown full.

On this Day of the Dead I wear
your black peacoat, its pockets
finally emptied of your things:
old tissues, El Salvador keychain,
plastic packet of gum with foil
burst open over two empty wells.

There are many ways to hold lost hands.
Hold the things they held.

For two years, I touched the tissues,
the ones you worried chemo fear into.
They finally fell apart. I chewed stale gum.
I can’t recall—are these gloves yours?
I forget what you wore even as I wear it.
Your hands are cold.

Do you remember how
the grave digger surfed the water
in your Illinois grave? Oh, the March rain!
You—in walnut casket and concrete vault,
your faux gold name plate crushed
under his boot—were the board.
He rode you. Wow, look at the buoyancy,
he said in wonder, arms out for balance.
I was glad Mom had left; thought
Shakespeare would have loved this script.
I grinned. That lovable fool,

I shoveled along with him. Good worker,
he said, while I tucked you in from the edge
of the hole, slid and fell and stood and threw in
a foot of dirt. Aguas, aguas, I heard you say,
Careful, careful. Water gurgled and
sucked at clumps with thirsty slurps.
I couldn’t bring myself to stand
on your body, twice-boxed.
It would have made the work easier.

I didn’t clean my black boots a year,
whacked the clay-rich clods into a plastic pail
now lost somewhere in the basement.
I had meant to wet and sculpt of them
a headless goddess like the ones
you made in college, recuerdes?

Why do I save these odd mementos?
What good is it to clutch what enclosed you?
It only makes me sad, and, shhhh, relevado,
when I forget their context, when I forget
the way you filled your clothes, when I lose
the mud that holds you, waterproofed.

Saving and losing you, over and over:
such strange ointment, mi manita.



Translations, for my mother:

guerita: a white girl beloved of Latinos
especialmente: especially
aguas, aguas: literally waters, waters, but figuratively, move easy like water, be careful. Becca’s husband said this as she wheeled around her IV rack at her first chemo. She translated the words for me at the time so I would understand he didn’t literally mean waters, waters
recuerdes: remember?
relevado: relieved
mi manita: short for hermanita, little sister, it is especially a term of endearment for a sister for whom one’s love goes deeper than blood.


Middle School Football

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Our sons, their plastic shoulders dream
Of manhood. Each time a body falls
And a groan rises up like a man,
And the body is rolled or limps off field,
Holding a stomach, a wobbled leg,
There is a mother somewhere.
Maybe her eyes water, too.


Books on New Year’s Eve

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

TV tired of the stare,
Hummus, salmon, mandarins consumed,
The child’s chocolate wafers shared,
Facebook a bankrupt moon,
Over crumbs and a countdown dare
The family wonders what to do.

The woman opens poems.
The man, his mystery.
The child finds riddles hidden.
Quiet is a key.
No one looks up when
The metal vent bangs with heat.

31 December 2016

Boggle Love Poem

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

I would loan my own—
No, better, I would
Make for you a coat,
Embroider all the words
For love in Latin,
Fill it with fine batting,
With a bit of Tao.

No, it would be a quilt,
Warmer than coal
Fuller than nil.

Born beneath it,
We two,
Despite the old ban,
Our breath a quiet lilt.

Earth would tilt anew,
Chase our canned heat
Like a con sun,
Like a dumb lab’s tail
And never rest.

The tin moon, jealous
Of the way our love lit
Up a continent,
Would quit.

How to write a Boggle poem: Dust off your old Boggle game (remember? the one on the closet shelf sitting on top of five different kinds of Monopoly board games). Shake the letters, remove the lid, turn over the three-minute timer, and write a list of as many words as you can find. When the last grain of sand drops and time runs out, turn over the timer again. Write a poem for three minutes, using as many words from your list as possible. Among the words I found in this game were quit, tin, lit, lilt, bat, ban, con, quilt, bit, Tao, nil, lab, no, tail, it, and tilt. My sweetheart read me his word list, so I borrowed some of his findings, too: coat, coal, loan, can, and Latin.

Weltschmerz, or
How a Girl Saved the Pie

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

I was not thankful the morning
The girl listed all the people
She guessed for whom I was thankful.
She guessed everyone right.
I was fine with being wrong.

Despite a friend’s advice not to bake
When having negative thoughts,
I took the chance of ruining
Pumpkin pie.

With grand introduction,
In TV voice, the girl made me
The master chef of my own
Cooking show. I wanted
To smile. I couldn’t. I rolled
The dough, handed her the pin.
She rolled. I measured spice.
We took turns turning
Black spoons over the bowl.

The spices look like skin.
There’s mine, she said, cinnamon.
You’re this one!
Ginger, I clarified.
And Daddy’s here.
With pestle and mortar,
We hand-ground cloves
Looking like no one we know.

Stirred, we were a new skin
We couldn’t name.
And joy, buried beneath late November,
Knew I would remember
To tell you here.

24 November 2016
with thanks to Shea

two gratitudes

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

thankful tonight
to be infinitely smaller
than all the tiny stars

thankful tonight
to not know which
are long dead



Friday, November 25th, 2016

Cheshire smile buried in the beard.
Creamy rye stuffed into a kiss.

Stinky cheese runs off with my man
And marries him in Paris.


Super Moon

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

When the moon comes up
it doesn’t care about my mantras.

When the moon comes up
it doesn’t think about the egg it will become.

When the moon comes up
I ignore the crackling fire I built to celebrate it.


Well Up

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

In 1677, Leeuwenhoek scooped his joy
from a woman and leapt from bed.

“Before six beats of the pulse [had] passed,”

his microscope revealed a swell of sperm
damning the dry edge
of their pressed liquid world.

* * * *

La Rana clings to grasses on the shore,
yellow eyes following flies.

* * * *

Impenetrable paths, impenetrable paths,
the seeds of El Melon whisper until
someone cracks the rind.

* * * *

Is all a practice in welling up?

* * * *

I stand in the high desert
with an emerald umbrella.

* * * *

La Maceta breaks open,
roots too hungry for terra cotta.

* * * *

Giant blueprints of poems spill out.
Rewrite the ends.

* * * *

Judyth says,
Make sandstone altars to the ordinary!
Dig up, display your bones, your rusty implements!

* * * *

Leap from the dry edge!


after Family Matters

Saturday, November 5th, 2016
“Family Matters” by Alexandra de Kempf

“Family Matters” by Alexandra de Kempf

Birth dates sprout from our heads
As lottery numbers. Fill in the holes.
Shrug at losing the upper range.
Luck is luck and winning could be
As easy as family love
And the array of digits
Ancients assigned to days
To mark our arrivals, departures
And fortunes like spirals.

Perhaps the history of humanity
Is ruled by golden ratios
Of hermit shells, phallic risings
Of red flamingo flowers,
Lineages of human bodies spinning outward,
Spaceward, 3-D DNA. Forget ladders.

Are you a ladder?
Has your health been hammered?
Is your sight obscured
By capital’s metastasis, brain blossoming
Cancer’s white words: not enough
Morphing into more, more? What’s eating you?
The writing is on the wall.

We’ve stopped reaching for each other,
Prohibited by policies banning touch
Learned by clicking state screens.
Print your HR certificate, file for proof.

Instead, we point, mouths wide, teeth bared
Not quite laughing, perhaps shocked
Or screaming. Do you know a rich man’s body
From his stack of bloody books?
Or her Universal Perfect Breasts from fruit
Or the font of bottles?

Don’t nurse. He owns you.
Gift your kids strange teddy bears
He sells so they can sleep alone.
Nestle in with Ambien.
Get six hours for work. Hope for eight.
Let them cry it out in the dark.
Soon they’ll need only a phone,
A silken screen, a monthly plan
To stay in touch.

Don’t bother counting years
Before your children go.
They fall away like leaves,
Lost lottery tickets
You forgot to cash in.


Magnetic Poem Four

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

We haunt
Clean farm scent
Winter-soon stars
Little nests
Sky bound animals
Familiar pumpkin
Love bird inside
My kind of castle


Growing Legs

Monday, October 31st, 2016

You lost what you called freedom in the lightning strike
Of conception. Cells split for months until you split,
Pushing the fleshy proof of interdependence out
From between streaked legs that could not
Walk away nor deny the tiny mouths of otherness,
The need to pour yourself into helplessness
Personified in bodies that broke off, broke out
Of yours, freed into air. Despite the erroneous belief
You nurtured in your early twenties—everyone
Is responsible for only themselves—you let your body
Teach you something new about love. This is what
Happens when you have grown six legs inside. Freedom
Returns when they, in turn, walk away from you
For good, and you can’t stop shedding. One day you do.
You almost start believing you have only one heart.



Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
“They All Slept Here” by Ilenia Pezzaniti

“They All Slept Here” by Ilenia Pezzaniti

Our bed is not stained with droplets
of old blood. There is no chair on which
to prop an Impressionist print
of two ladies walking away with parasols,
nor antique TV pixels jealous of their stillness.
We have no faux wood headboard.
Our room is no hotel or photo.

A blue, white and green
painting hangs over our heads,
large with trying to be water and air
and the space between,
as though three elements could be
simple color and their memory enough
to soothe me in the dark on clean sheets.

Startled awake, my pulse believes
you are the man on screen
stranded in the middle of a road
walking away from death,
helicopter hovering overhead,
disembodied voice seeing just enough
of size and skin to summarize you.

Any move you make to reach for phone,
I.D., risks your body’s claim
to blue, white and green.
No last text I’m on my way.
From above, at dusk, we don’t know
if the pixelated bloom on your shirt
is black or red.

I blink in the dark.
I can’t see you.
You breathe, refuse screens.
Pressed against your heat,
I let you sleep.

for the family of Terence Crutcher

Renku with Plums

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Five plums on three tables,
Six poets hunch over pens
To start their renku

My pen shakes with fear
The silence calms these thorns

My voice echoes in harmony
But the words are garbled
And confusion reigns

A storm blows in from the west
Thunder and wind shake us

Shatter of tree trunk
Now even the breath is old
The end comes too soon

But the middle blooms hyacinth and rose
Aspen embrace and feed each other

Their roots hold hands deep in the earth
Send up new-barked bodies
That bears mark with claws

That laces eyes with scars
Steadily willing to see

Seeing is overrated
Sometimes it is good
To close eyes and be

Ears bring in the news
Delicate and slender or wide and wild

If good news, beware,
As bad news is hiding somewhere
If bad news, cheer, good news is near

Your dear hide and tan
Hide beneath life’s skin

The skin of this plum
Is already dreaming of teeth
It wants to know its inner color


(Made at Ziggies Poetry Festival, July 2016, with Jimi Bernath, Valerie Szarek, James Steele, Cathy Casper, and a woman whose name escapes me, my apologies. Learn more about the Renku form here.)

Poem for Wilma Mankiller

Monday, October 10th, 2016

A found poem from her biography,
Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, pages 226-229

The entire family rolled chaos
To have a pure prayer.

I tried death, felt its gift
As the woman who lived before,
The woman who lives afterward.


To the mailbox, onto the ground,
Grapefruit, pencil, hairbrush,
Toothbrush, vision of fingers,
Hands, arms, throat, water,
Forty pounds, nose, eyes.

Closed, my existence.

I broke, breathing death,
Absolutely still.

My God! That is what I have!
A good mind.