Posts Tagged 'poem'

Name Day

Patch of skin, paste made of bone, bits of cartilage in a jar. Around me a spiral of blue scrubs, a gurney spins, mask floats mid air. Somewhere above, I hear an incantation from the wizard of anesthesia: count backward from one hundred . . .

morphine dreams of lions licking flowers, voices not mine say rest, lie back.
Inside these foggy walls I’m three years old again, fearful that someone
is changing my name.

Coming back, I wake holding tight to a starched skirt begging please hold me, push the button, send me back down. I can’t move, can’t speak, can’t rise beyond this fluorescent pain. A warm black hand unlocks my fingers, calls me milady in an island voice, pushes the hair off my forehead. I fall past the pain, past all dreaming as I watch the silent drip of comfort in a small plastic bag at my side.

I was silent for three years as a child, when the bones were cut from my face. Three years of no mouth, a name I couldn’t say, a name she tried
to change. I didn’t know how to answer when mom called me other names, so I didn’t answer at all, spent my days riding wishes like horses, chanting in my missing voice . . .

give me bones in my face I told stars, told wells, told dandelions, told apple stems, twisting not for true love like my sisters. My true love’s name starts with B, he is bones in my face. In dreams he calls my real name, and I answer in a clear, steady voice.

I go to sleep thirty years later, and wake with wishes granted. This face is stronger now, filled with skin bone cartilage where before was nothing but voiceless air and the battle to name an absence. I say my name with bruised lips; the force of new bone makes me ache. I didn’t know the hardware of wishes would batter me, burn me so deep.

Dad hated my cancer, he gave it my name. Mom hated my cancer, fought it and me with a rage that burned her dry, left nothing but bone she couldn’t give and new names for me she thought I would could should want to say.

But this is my name, don’t call me any other. I couldn’t speak, she couldn’t listen, and we became mute. We became mute.

In this room, with new bone and my name on the chart at my feet, I wish we could talk. I would say, if you could hear, that I know you were with me. I know you carried me to birth, then through that hospital with my blood soaking your dress. But I have built this face with bone and skin from my own body. I have earned this name, and it is mine.

Name Day was written many years ago. It has an interesting history as a performance piece, and has been used as text and conceptually in dance, music and theater works.

Spring scramble

Dark chocolate jumps from hand to mouth,
Crusty bread sings aioli not hymns.

On the rooftop our just washed sheets dance and flirt,
April wind sees them waving, so much like old friends.

I chew my pencil for juice and for comfort,
scramble my metaphors like lizards not eggs.

Lettuce opens like a rose, fork hovers full
at the first cool mouthful of spring.

I saw

I saw – I thought I saw – the outward flight of birds
rising up from the water, this watery tomb,
this sunken parish.

I saw – I thought I saw – the roots of a drowning oak
reaching out, gasping for air. The children dancing
in the mud had keys in their mouths.

I saw – I thought I saw – a bridge, broken down broken
down I thought I saw a white fox cry,
beautiful in the moonlight.

Conceit is not a disease. A monument is not a disease.
A plaque remembering another another
tragedy is not a disease.

I saw – I thought I saw – the birds circle home,
the moon rise on the silvery water.
Let it stop there. Let it stop there.

At nothing

At nothing – which so often led to nothing – I
stopped. And stopping, found self and sea still,
clear as glass. In the harbor that day, waves hung mid-
air in a moment of paralyzed force. Look, I said. Look.

Dog looked, questioning, hopeful, and so we walked.
Starting then, we walked all morning through
the frozen town – the black and oozy wharves, shop windows
filled with heads. So much to see, so much to smell.

Small walnuts in a pile near a motionless squirrel
made dog superstitious – this is not right, dog said –
this is not right. Look here, I said. Look.
Together we walked, together we looked until

the moment breaks, waves come crashing, squirrel skitters
away, dog chases squirrel, smiling and happy at last.


With stars *

Words are for those with promises to keep.

I have no promises. Shut the door, the stars
are not wanted just now, put out every one.

Everyone hates the bird with one wing. The bird
with one wing can’t fly, but man can she sing.

The sings she sings make me shell not stone,
I have no promises, make me blue and fragile,

I have no words. She is a spectacle, the angel
on top of the weeding cake. I have no promises,

I splatter my words, incoherent shards
that make a light nimbus against the wet

pavement on a night almost like this,
but with stars. With stars.


(found poem: take lines from existing poetry, recombine, make something new, voila! This is taken from Gertrude Stein, WH Auden, and Paula Gunn Allen, and was written in 15 minutes. It’s easy to go wild when Gertrude is there.)

I don’t remember

 I don’t remember

I don’t remember that particular poem. You know, the one that goes dah-dah-dah pebbles dah duh rain rain. The one that goes on about the us-ness of us, of you and me and me and you.

I don’t remember the smell of eggplant. I don’t remember when daylight savings changes. I don’t remember the password I use for websites that are not important to me. I don’t remember the name of my fifth grade teacher. Mrs. Alley. I do remember the name of my fifth grade teacher. I don’t remember where I put my earbuds, as I was unpacking from our trip to Catalunya. I don’t remember the name of the town where we had the gazpacho topped with cherry sorbet. I do remember the taste of cool cherry surprising my tongue. I don’t remember the name of our apples, but I think they are Braeburn. I don’t remember my grandfather’s first name. I don’t remember the recipe for a winter squash stuffed with nuts and wild rice for which I am famous, although I only made it once and remember vaguely that it was a great vegetarian entrée for Thanksgiving. I don’t remember how to knit. I never did remember how to knit. It was as if it was the first time every time I attempted to knit. I don’t remember what you call the device that raises and lowers the waters from Puget Sound so that ships can go out and in, in and out to open water.




I’m shaking my lazy cud-chewing ways.
That’s right. I’ve decided to become a predator.

So far, I’ve been a peace-loving, four-bellied ruminator.
All the time thinking things over. No more.

Now I am a predator. I growl, roar, shed; I am a heat-
seeking missile, yes I am. If you have feathers, I have

a yen for you. For dinner, with rice and cucumbers.
I am not a monster, just an omnivore roaming the pampas.

How refreshing, what a relief, to pounce because
instinct dictates the tightening of haunches,

the sharpening of eyes and teeth. I do not wander
sleepy, belly full of grass and happy, into the evening light.

Do your eyes glow red at night? You might want to
watch out, my slack-jawed friends. Mine do.


I watch the trout that spins in water clear and fast, green
pebbles, leaf shadows, me as dragonfly, a dance
that hovers and rushes in weedy water. Push, my heart, push

through darkness, darkness that is warm and smells of half-
opened lilies. If I could change one physical thing
about myself, it would be this:

The wings of moths that catch the sunlight,
the perfect fear that pinches my soul,
the elegant fans of scallops.

Perhaps we could start by speaking softly.
Comienza, mi amor. Begin by holding one movimiento
puro, the movement of one soul that lightens the night.

I got lost in that night, yo me perdi de esa noche.
Banal as doorknobs, I have dabbled in madness.
Chiaroscuro. Green pebbles, leaf shadows, clear water.


The flagstones in my
yard were warm and wet with rain;
sun-dried, are warm still.


There is a stream of consciousness running through my backyard. It runs fast in the spring and there is a green smell like grass or fresh-cut watermelon when the rain first comes. I saw the sky lowering, and the shadows of the cloud sat heavy over my house. I felt the first rain drop of the year just now; it landed on my forehead. I touched it with my finger. I tasted it. I wonder when another one will come.

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July 2020