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My Valentine

The following are all poems I have written to my husband who is still my Valentine after more than 35 years.  Not all of the poems I wrote to/for/about him, but just over a bakers dozen.  Happy Valentine’s Day to lovers everywhere.

VOWS

Your  lips
intoxicate mine
hands in my hair
I touch your face
love wells
fills  spills out fingers
hair   mouth
every pore
And I see your eyes
even with mine closed
so blue           blue
full of sunshine blue
a sky so deep I
could never reach
bottom
I dare not breathe
hear your heart
dance louder  harder  faster
pulse spins
dashes against my palms
Our skin
marries us    says
this moment is forever
happily ever after
the way I still feel
your hand
across our years
where it touched my shoulder
long before you said
the words   I love you
set them
in stone
to echo
out of each day’s room
our skin repeats
we do
we do

THE KING OF HEARTS TRUMPS ALL

We played bridge at lunch time
choosing each other
as card partners
drinking coffee, snacking
too occupied with our game
to really eat lunch.

All those years ago
in my secret hope
before you were mine
I imagined the perfect gift
I wanted to give you
for Valentine’s Day.

I looked for a cup
painted on it
the King of Hearts.
It would be from
your secret admirer.
Would you guess?

You were already
my King of Hearts:
a secret secret
no one knew except
for my heart
declaring your name.

Twenty some years later
I give you this pot
deep red tulips
to brighten your office
as I welcome you home
my Valentine
my King of Hearts.

ON HIS WAY HOME

There’s the day
closing the covers
on pluses      minuses
triumphs        trash
done   yet to be done

There’s the bay
beauty
in the dim ashy
smoke past twilight
monotones

There’s dinner
contemplation of
possibilities   aromas
love
spread across our table

There’s little feet
from the past pasted
into family photos
future plans
the next album
of memory building

There’s this moment
my arm sliding across
his torso   warm sumptuous skin
my fingers trailing

I ask him
what he thinks about
while he drives home
from work
This
he says
Oh
This

A LITTLE MORE MUSIC
the crystal strands of night
reverberate
with their own melody

weave us into their spell

if only
 we are quiet
attend

with the entirety of our flesh
here in the silence

I spell the refrain
on your body
with my singing fingers

listen to the tempo of

your heart’s contribution
to all this music

SONNET FOR OUR ANNIVERSARIES

When each to each our lover’s vows were sworn,
And we returned to living every day
Where ordinary times and things hold sway,
Where each day’s ending finds us tired and worn,
Sometimes with a grief that we must mourn,
Then as the years go by will we still say:
“Amazing how we always find a way
To keep our love continually reborn.”?
And with the passing of the months and years,
While love’s first passion fades, as it must do,
This deeper love will grow to fill its place
Withstanding worry, pride or caustic fears,
So you still turn to me, as I to you,
Strengthened, blessed by this greater love’s embrace.

TOUCHSTONE

The air that year
was distilled for lovers.
Cupped with softness
too early to be spring
it held a quality of light that
enhanced clarity of vision.

I called him from a nearby shopping center.
Looking back, perspective
shows the hill, February green,
a steep round shouldered mound
rising behind the stores
the neighborhood where I lived then.
I could not see that view
from the pay phone
where I talked, telling him
whatever it was I called to say.

At conversation’s end
he said
“I love you.”
Those words
solidified instantly
became basalt.
I knew they would remain
unbroken.

ANOTHER ENCHANTMENT

I always thought I was
a frog
or maybe a toad–
not that there’s anything
inherently wrong
with amphibians–
but would you want to be one?

It never occurred to me
that I was a princess under a spell–
except as a child
hoping I’d been given
to people who weren’t my parents
because we didn’t live in a palace
they weren’t rich
and we didn’t have maids–
nothing to do with pollywogs
enchanted or otherwise…

But you believed
I was a Princess
in spite of everything
and all the evidence to the contrary.
So, I became one.

INCANTATIONS

atoms dance
molecules become excited
and before your eyes
solids fade
become invisible
sometimes
in a flash of light

heat and cold
wind on the water
the sun shining
the earth turns
to view the moon
fog rising
obscures everything

I told you
I was a witch and you
believed me
your cells betrayed you
brewed chemicals
to bespell your brain
incantations
were never necessary

DREAMING MUSIC
We have fallen into the place
           where everything is music
                               Rumi

more than touch
this silken presence of your body
skin quietly against skin
an aching pleasure that breathes song

I am lost in notes like trees in mist
where we walk up the night hill
your heart taps a staccato beat
like fog drip on the forest floor

diminuendo as we glide down toward home
into darkness gathering
wrapping us into the softness
of sleep opening dreams

where music floats through
a bright ribbon of being
carries us along a stream
where air and water
are buoyant and breathable

where dark and light
pull us deeper into
velvet silences
between the notes

VALENTINE

Somehow
hearts and flowers
chocolate and candles
cards and kisses
lose their power

After thirty years
I am not moved
by anything less
than all the wild memories
of being lost in your smile
drowning in your eyes
the mystery
of becoming us
harmonies
of breath and blood

ANNIVERSARY WALTZ

Arms around arms around arms
we hold each other close
slow dance
sway to music
moving our feet
just a little
cheek to cheek
head on your shoulder
we drift to soft melodies

the world goes by
leaps and twirls
plays loud angry music
but I hear
your heart beat
sing softly
steady against
my ear

we celebrate life
quietly
from year to year
treasure each moment
wonder at the wealth
that builds this castle
about us
spun of love
bright waltzes which
weave us
into this dance.

YOUR KISS

hearts beat between our lips
strawberries dipped in chocolate
or cinnamon-red-hots explode
dazzle like sparklers
fireworks, shooting stars, still,
my every-day-Valentine
a dance of pinwheels whirling
a fountain of bright sun-flashes, or
simply the glow of coals
between two logs in the woodstove
a dream of home: safe, snug, warm

(published in Living Buddhism)

the following poem was written by my husband’s suggestion:

MY WIFE, COOKING

Tap, tap, tap.
Click, click, click.
The song of the knife
against the cutting board.
Home from work
I sit at the computer;
she’s at the kitchen table.
Soon a sizzle from the frying pan,
the aroma of onions and garlic
will permeate the house
as they soften.

Tap, tap, tap.
Click, click, click.
She embraces me from the other room,
kisses me with this sound.
Her love fills the air;
my mouth waters at the sweet scent
like the spice of her smile;
her eyes call me to the table;
her lips entice me
as they soften.

LOVE POEM

morning ritual
you depart for the office
leave a kiss to linger
with coffee
newspapers
the hunt for poetry–
your lips suggest
music lurking
spark daydreams
which run about writing
fantastic scenes
paste
posters on the walls
of the brain
summon words
to dance with the lady
who grows roses
or daisies or nasturtiums
who sings with the frogs
every rainstorm–
you know the one
that woman who’s led you
a merry chase all these
years and still lets
her hair down in your bed
every time you
manage to catch her–
then she banishes words
invites only
laughter and tears
only music and eyes
endless eyes
to spin the old spells
offers lips to steal
your breath
your heart –
she gives
your breath back
but keeps your heart

THANKSGIVING

Well it’s a little late.  I intended to have this up before the holiday, but life keeps intervening in my plans, mostly because everything always takes me longer than I expect. Well, also because things I didn’t plan for, but could have, also happen.  Not because any catastrophe happened.

Still, I think that considering gratitude, appreciation of whatever abundance life has brought to us, is an excellent topic to keep in mind, especially as the year we now inhabit rushes toward a new year.

So, some things about being or for which I am thankful:

I’m always thankful for the turkey. Mmmm, but how thankful would I be if I were a turkey?

TURKEY TIME

If I were a turkey this time of the year
I wouldn’t be thankful; I never would cheer;
I’d look for a hole in the fence round my yard–
If I couldn’t find one, I’d try really hard
to dig my way out, or I’d fake a malaise,
because this time of year I’d say that it pays,
if one is a turkey, to be crystal clear
about being wanted when Thanksgiving’s near:
it means you’ll be tabled as something to eat
you’ll be stuffed and roasted and wind up as meat.

It’s one thing for people stuffing their faces
to express heartfelt thanks with prayers and graces
but turkeys have reason to quiver in fear
and little to hope for this time of the year.

^^^    ***    ^^^    ***    ^^^

While on the subject of food:

CHOCOLATE

There’s a word
that rings us like a bell:
I can already feel
my atoms vibrate
in sympathetic tones
repeat the word
like a refrain
like a mantra
vow to trap chaos
in rhythms of order
for merely a morsel
or two…
(another?)
of luscious
dark–
it needn’t even be sweet–
chocolate.

^^^     ***   ^^^   ***   ^^^

I love where we are living; I am very thankful to be living in the coastal area of Humboldt County where the weather is so nearly perfect for me. I am also thankful to be living in a very nice home with a great yard.  This poem was written shortly after we moved here (15 years ago this month) and the idea of beads came from the thought that each year is like a necklace made up of days (the beads).

BEADS

This is the moment of sun after rain;
mist holds the trees
softens the blue morning sky.

The lawn is still brown
from the long dry of summer.
The house is quiet.
Birds fly past my windows.

It’s just an ordinary day;
another round bead
late on this string of days
fall moving us
toward the close of the year.

I revel in the serenity:
the predictable tick of the clock;
the perfume and warmth
of this second cup of coffee;
the bright joy of dazzled water drops
which burn in the sunlight;
the spangle of spider webs
stitching the maple tree
to our house.

^^^     ***   ^^^   ***   ^^^

The next two poems are about sleeping and dreams.  I have always been thankful for the opportunity to snuggle down in a warm comfortable bed and think of those things I hope to dream about, for the opportunity to rest, to pull myself into my own world.  And it’s even better when there is the warm presence of the beloved (snoring) next to me.   Abundant thankfulness.

DREAM ROADS

on the shores of night
clouds of stars
ebb and flood

time dances in blooms of color
stretches the possible
measuring

fragile realities
the flutter of a child’s heart
the whuffled dream of a dog
who runs across fields of memory

outside, rain sings
while your breath
brushes in measured beat
along my cheek

*****   *****

NIGHT SONG

Sleep
I long for your silver arms
moongleaming notes
round as a lullaby
rock me
across these waves of dreams
slide into
still green waters
Oblivion
caress me
while the night wears away
these stars
sifts them over the hills
dusts them out of the trees
Sleep
hold me in your silence
while night noises
pass under my window
I will be deep in the moss
under the earth
until the neigh of dawn horses
the thunder of their hooves
galloping across the fields of my dreams
calls me back into the wonder
of being and I rise
I rise
^^^    ***    ^^^    ***    ^^^

We have been fortunate to have lived with a number of excellent pets.  I am thankful for having shared my life with some remarkable dogs and cats.  The poem that follows is a portrait of one of them.

CAT DEVOTIONS

The cat purrs,
rubs his head against my chin,
gazes at me as if
I am
Mother-Goddess,
worships me,
purrs his prayers,
adoration shining
in his eyes,
as long as I heed
his every whiskered whim.

The cat tends to his ablutions
with the same intensity,
same careful attention
he provides his other devotions:
each paw, each leg,
the belly, shoulder, hip.
Lovingly, he tends his tail
then licks his wrist
to wash ears and head:
paw over cheek and ear,
paw over
paw over…

The cat purrs.
He has his own purposes.
That sweet paw
he pats against my face,
velvet,
like a kiss,
harbors claws
always honed
capable of hooking
some innocent bird
out of thin air.

^^^    ***    ^^^    ***    ^^^

I am thankful for my faith, my Buddhist practice.  Through this practice, I have learned to appreciate my own life, to glimpse the Buddha there and in other people, and to realize it is there even when I have difficulty seeing it.  As a Nichiren Buddhist, we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the title of the Lotus Sutra and recite two portions of the the Lotus Sutra each morning and evening.  We can think of this as attending the Ceremony in the Air, which is where part of the Lotus Sutra is taught.  Eagle Peak is the location where Shakyamuni or Guatama Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra.

THE TREASURE TOWER

at Eagle Peak
my eye is
sun
my eye is
night
my life opens
rises
becomes
this mandala
realm of stars
weaves
the silk of breath
into the mystery
between life and death
a dance with veils
of both
of neither
creates music
almost audible
notes
like gems
flow
into my lotus hands
every morning
every evening
at Eagle Peak

^^^    ***    ^^^    ***    ^^^

I treasure my friends, who have been so supportive and loving while I have been — still am — going through this ordeal of cancer treatment.  I’ve written a number of poems about one friend or another, this particular one is about my oldest, or perhaps I should say my longest friendship, but I am grateful for each and every one of them.

DOORWAYS
for Chris

In summer’s shadow
beneath the elm’s tall umbrella
cool damp earth against the roots
we sat and played with dolls
and dreams of endless future days.

The elms which child eyes saw
as portals of security, ancient, eternal,
are gone, destroyed by disease,
their graceful forms
cut from the skyline of time.

Childhood, too, seems but a whimsy of the mind,
except where the sudden scent of lilacs
crosses the shade
a sun drenched tree pushes across the lawn–

past and future mingle:
ghosts of little girls with dolls
play in my memory,  make promises,
pretend, imagine, bright eyed
with possibilities that might
even now
beyond some sheltered doorway
solidify into reality.

^^^    ***    ^^^    ***    ^^^

Lastly among those things i am thankful for, there is my family.  I pulled a number of poems, but this post would become a book of poetry, there are siblings and in-laws and parents, grandparents and children.  All of them have contributed to my continuing survival, even those who are no longer physically with us. So, all of you, who do not make an appearance in the following poem–which is for my husband, (but the kids are in it)–you are appreciated and loved beyond measure.

BETWEEN THE LINES
for Steve

Weekend
sun streams in the window
we sit at the morning table
stretch time into comfort
peruse the papers
savor coffee
you read aloud bits and pieces
interrupted by children’s voices
wanting our attention
intending to join conversations
that might exclude them…

My eyes repeat paragraphs
over and over, grinding irritation
the babble, confusion, profusion
of stimuli to grab at my attention…

I flashback to dawn birds
adding voices
turn melody into dissonance
while annoyance holds me
from desired sleep until
I weave a lullaby from the notes
of their full crescendo
draw your arms about me
drift into dreams…

I wonder now, as I scowl
over the article I have been reading
and re-reading for so long
if the children know
how bright they make the morning
how warm the sun becomes
when it shines into our home
if you can read between
the lines on my forehead
between the pages of this section
of the paper the words which dance
on my every heartbeat singing
you, I love, I love you, I love…

^^^     ***     ^^^     ***     ^^^

–  END  –

AUTUMN

I’m always struck by things that mark the passage of time, the cyclical nature of it.  Perhaps it is a universal human interest, built into us, and the changing seasons are a way of observing, of celebrating it.  The year turns, summer has been fulfilled, leaves begin to turn from thoughts of green.  Mostly the weather begins to cool.  Days grow shorter, so nights lengthen.

Halloween is almost here; we’re well into autumn.  Actually, while I always think fall begins after labor day, it’s about three weeks into September before the season is official.  In this first poem, written when I lived in Southern California in Simi Valley, the kids had gone back to school, and I’m thinking it’s fall. But…

CORRESPONDENCE

September days here mimic summer.
Heat steamrollers smog into sunburned hills.
Every evening the weatherman predicts
cooler temperatures are coming soon;
the day time highs will dip into the 90′s.
For now the heat continues, even the nights
are warm. I send the children off to school
in shorts, envy Steve his air conditioned office.
It is so bad some days I have to stop
writing in the early afternoon; I am afraid
it will damage my computer to leave it on.
I daydream, memory walking to school on
bright, cool mornings. You’d make sure
we were wearing a sweater, but we’d forget
to bring them home in the warm afternoons.

Here the afternoon light is too bright to do
the season justice, and days are still too long.
I can’t seem to get it in my mind that it really
is fall and the next letter you send will lace
the news of neighbors, kids I grew up with
asking after me in the supermarket,
with how the leaves are beginning to turn
and some friends of yours have offered to take
you on a long Sunday ride to see the colors.
Between the lines, I’ll read of frost, chilly nights,
your first sighting of cardinals at the feeder.

*****          *****          *****          *****

This is a poem that begs to be read aloud!  I enjoy reading it, I think the drama of it matches the autumn moon.  When is the moon more beautiful?  When does it seem closer, larger?

AUTUMN MOON

Kissing the eastern edge of Earth
You pumpkin Moon
big and round rising full
You copper coin
shining from the early velvet between
the blue and black of
night descending
stars somewhere above
cold and sharp
but You turning gold
soften night’s first thoughts
blur the edge of darkness
You charm Your way into minds
dive deeper into midnight oceans
frost dreams in thoughts of silver
oh You heart dancer
playing silvered shadows against
the fleshless bones of November trees
You Goddess of the hunt
riding the night skies
Goddess of the echo lit dark
You beckon tides to follow
even wolves are called to song
You drag me across your
reigning hours until Dawn spreads
freedom with her rosy hues
dissolves Your silver chains
snares cast of moonbeam spells

*****          *****          *****

So, days shorten and nights lengthen as autumn advances.  While that fact is not specifically mentioned in the following poem, I hope the feeling of it catches you softly.

GLOAMING

in this place of night falling
mist in the trees
gathering darkness
light diminishes
the arms of evening reach
across the fields
sing lullaby…hush…
all secrets are safe here
among the purple ashes
now sky-flames
are extinguished

only the soft warm glow
out from muted windows
murmurs a quiet, simple melody
a refrain of hearth, of home

*****    *****    *****

Here in Humboldt County, as in most of coastal California, rain is rare in the summer.  Usually it begins to rain in late September or in October, but sometimes most of October (or more) will go by before we have a rain storm.  Then we begin to worry, and I look for this poem, which I read aloud as a sort of a prayer for rain.  I love it when it works!

INVITATION
Rain! Come
dance your poetry upon my roof
water music
full of laughter bubbling.

I wait for your lullaby,
inhale the scent of damp earth,
air heavy with the hope of an impending storm,
note a hint of wood smoke
that lingers about the edges of the eaves
from the fire banked in the stove.
My love and I are wrapped together
in our bed
a cozy nest to pass the sleeping hours
drifting along the night stream
where dreams carry us across the dark.
But l linger in wakefulness
waiting for your company,
the accompaniment of your
water music, poetry
full of laughter
bubbling–
come,
Rain,
dance upon my roof.

***     ***    ***    ***

I love falling asleep to the rain.  In our house, the bedroom windows look out on the roof, the rain falling from the upper part of the roof onto the section below, makes a lovely, soporific effect.  And it can be even more enticing on a chilly gray morning.

OCTOBER RAIN

Rain on the roof,
soft stacato sounds
a background beat as
the phoebe calls
long sweet whistles
repeats it’s name

sings variations:
feee-be, fee-be-be
fee-be, fee-be, fee-be
in quick sucession.

So much morning music.
I want to stay in bed
pull the warm covers up
to ward off the encroaching
rainy-gray-day light;
let this symphony
lull me back into dreams.

But my love already has
left our cozy nest.
It is a weekday;
there are things to do;
always things to do.

I have no time
to lie here;
no time to listen,
no time for enchantment,
to enjoy
this early morning rain.

*****       *****       *****

Now that I’ve lulled you toward heavy lidded longing for a comfortable place to nap on a rainy day, here’s something careening off in another direction.

This poem came from a list the leader/moderator of our Wednesday night poetry group (workshop) sent out on a Tuesday, reminding us of the next evening.  I had been playing with the idea of a poetic self portrait, and looking at the list of words, everything fell into place.  I can’t say if I used all the words on her list, but most of them found their way into this poem.

SELF PORTRAIT

autumnal
here among the ruined vines
squash once grew prolifically
and beans bore scarlet blossom

curves suggest abundance
the remains of an opulent banquet
toothsome extravagance
indulged
on the canvas
the shadow of a crow
dark as the glaze of death
approaches
with its eerie caw
gravelly logic that rattles in the throat
maiden          mother           crone
a cycle that continues
no matter that the foolishness
of youth remains
a bright mirror in the heart
no matter that the memory holds
the joy of those precious
babes to breast
in the background
the winter woman beckons
whispering words which might
hold wisdom
what alternative is there
but to accept this harvest

*****      *****      *****

This poem came to me nearly complete one evening as the wood stove was beginning to give off heat.  It was no doubt farther into fall than October, and after I wrote it down, I thought that Virginia Anderson, who was publishing a small press magazine called Daybreak would enjoy it.  She did, and published it.

BONE TALK

The bones are restless.
They do not so much rattle
as complain,
twitch and groan
call for fire and wrappings:
It is the end of the year.
The days are short, nights long;
who knows if the sun will return.
The wind talks incessantly,
pokes at every slumbering form
prys about the edges
natters at odd fringes.

Listen, the bones say,
Do you hear that?

It gives us the willies,
they tell me, while goose flesh
pops along my arms.
Put another log on the fire.
Stoke it up.
Pull the shades and
fasten the shutters.
Lets have a bit of fat for supper;
we want to get warm.

*****       *****       *****
And this one is for Halloween, a bit of fun, I hope.  But even fun may hold a note of something darker.
JACK-O-LANTERN SPEAKS

black cats
specters
spooks
witches hats
are you scared yet?

moans
groans
rattle of bones
broomsticks across the moon
are you scared yet?

candle glow
lights the faces
of grinning empty pumpkin heads
no, you’re not scared yet
 
you whistle past the grinning skull
dress your children in costumes
send them down the street
begging for sweets or other treats
nothing to be scared of

you’ve made it a child’s game
a friendly night, a foolish night
nothing frightful in any of that!
why would you be scared now?

you’ve painted the opening door
in black and orange
shrouded it with spider webs
run about shouting BOO-O-O
so you won’t hear
the hinges creak
so much glitz, so much  noise
who could be scared now?
 
but nothing you do will banish death
the night is winning and
winter is coming
winter is coming
tell me you’re not afraid now.

*****        *****       ******

And finally, for my husband, a fall poem.  I might mention that oxytocin is a hormone that helps a mother and new baby bond, as it is released during childbirth and breast feeding.  But it is also sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because it plays a part in the pair bonding of two people.  Apparently it is why some little mammals mate for life.

ONE DAY’S INTOXICANTS

High on chocolate
devils food cake with
mocha frosting
On sunshine
fresh fall day
spent in the garden
On oxytocin
your skin
your lips
laughter
On time spent lingering
in bed
all morning
On memories we share
the future we plan
That first cup of coffee
books    poems
snuggling back into sleep
dreams of chocolate
Sunshine-lips-laughter
twining with plans   memories
arms/legs/yours/mine
starsmoons  morningmist
bright afternoon
brisk fall day.

^^^     ^^^     ^^^     ^^^     ^^^

 

SOMEWHERE OUT THERE

Or perhaps it’s actually inside the walls of the skull…

Sometimes an image just springs out into the mind full blown with at least one sentence or phrase.  I am not always sure what these poems are really about, unless writing it out brings me further clarity.

I believe the following poem is the first one where I let such a phrase “create” the poem:
LIGHT VISIONS
You don feathers of light
sink into the sun
where it melts on the horizon,
draw colors out of the night
become the rainbow
that halos the moon.

I have seen you dance
along the flaming hem
of the Northern Lights
singing the songs of eagles.

Your magic owns the sky;
you pull the stars down
to decorate your raiment,
pile the clouds into mountains
like a child playing
sacred games in a field
of new fallen snow.

I reach for you
but discover only
tricks of light and shadow
nothing substantial
not even a shred of feather
to hold in my hand.

I think this poem came  from a song stuck in my head, and as the phrase went turning around up there, it spun a shimmering trail of, well, star dust I guess… I’m not completely satisfied with the ending yet, so that may change.
A POCKET FULL OF STAR DUST

science still dabble
s
in alchemy
probes every crevice
for the Midas key

seeks to measure the soul
weigh the spirit
ponder the gravity of love

or it may be
love is the first moment
of time
over and over
exploding outward

transcendant mysteries
flutter before us
shimmering butterflies
that vanish
as we lift the net

mind may be the interface
between matter and existence
more beautiful than the speed of light
staging the past
with the sighting of every star

so we participate even
while we seek to confine

 

And where did this idea come from?  I have absolutely no idea.
NOTES FROM THE CENTER OF THE EARTH

breathing is not necessary
so far underground

without the need for oxygen
rock burns
liquefies
flows in circles

pushes against the roots of mountains
flicks tongues of magma to worry
the cheek of the world
stretch the skin outward
probe
seek the softest places
a crack   a cavity
a locus for a vent
spew fountains
of flame into the birth of mountains

here gravity descends
the universe weighs upon us
squeezes this core of purpose
into an ever tighter ball

it is bright enough
within the soul of fire
to read the animus of stars
their desire for birth
the significance
of their enduring radiance
the exchange of matter for energy
while they burn into a state of ku
write across the face
of visibility nothing is ever lost

to seek the limits of eternity
only these expressions
measure time
the origins of breath
the extinction of fire

This one is fairly obvious, I think.  It’s a subject I’ve written about often enough, and it certainly has been covered by so many other writers in one way or another.  How did so much time get past us?  And what happened to all the plans we made?  I included it because I thought it was expressed from “out there.”

YOU ARE HERE
never where you intended
to be
you had other plans
maps
to other places

there are no familiar landmarks
yesterday
you took the springtime road
a froth of blossoms
above your head
while bright cups of color danced
about your feet

today you walk this maze
amid buttery summershine
the alder’s October leaves
holding tightly
to a season already past

you cannot fathom
what trick of space or time
delivered you
to this unexpected place

if only you could
retrace your route

the marker before you
s
hows nothing
but a path ahead
seems to hurry you along
with a chill wind
that swirls a clatter of leaves
to the ground

Oh the wonder of space travel.  At least as I read about it.  What a universe we live in! I want to see it, but at the moment, the only way is going within, and then…

TRAVEL BY WAY OF STRINGS, WORMHOLES,
EVENT HORIZIONS, BLACK HOLES
AND/OR BIG OR MINI BANGS

Instantaneous.

The mind’s arms
make no sound as they
escape this mundane universe.

You can walk along some trail
where one world is so close
to another
visions of both
simultaneous
become
ordinary.

I have spent hours sliding
into the pages of some book
devouring parsecs
suns, planets,
entire galaxies, a hundred times.
At least a hundred times.

Where do we go when we dream?
That place, those places,
can you pull them with you
into the waking world?

Mostly, we dress
these vast rooms in our minds
in our favorite colors.
We put pictures on the walls
that show the happy ending
of every adventure.

Unless
we are too terrified
to find comfort
in creating peace.

Unless
we are too angry,
too unloved,
too hungry.

Unless
our curiosity
keeps changing
the lenses
the filters
the sounds.

Unless
there is too much darkness
or too much light.

Perhaps this one doesn’t fit, except that it collects ideas that don’t really belong together –except for cluttering up the brain–that express themselves when I have another idea I want to write about (spring) and the words aren’t flowing.
RANDOM THOUGHTS WHILE
WAITING FOR SPRING

Make extravagant promises

Expect nothing

Forecast rain may not fall

Keep your eyes open
both of them

Unless you are about
to enter darkness after light
in that case close one

It won’t work the other way

Pennies cost
more than they are worth

Save them anyway
good habits
become treasure

Change, of course, is constant

Trains do not grow smaller
as they move away

The sun does not really set

No one has fallen
over the edge of the world

Nor have any returned from the grave

Once again daffodils
prepare to bloom

This last poem is for my husband.  It has no title, although it was published using either “Come” or “Welcome” as a title in Living Buddhism (ten or so years ago), which is the study magazine for the Nichiren Buddhist group, SGI-USA, to which I belong.  The idea that sparked this was a PBS ad that had people exuding stars as they were inspired by something on a PBS station.
(untitled)
come,
my arms are wide, welcome,
well come, embrace infinity
enter this universe
where songs of light
stream through your mind
time and space weave
colors of eternity
build atoms
into beings

We choreograph a love story
a life story
as worlds create
stages for us to dance across
juggle stars
toss them into the dark
sparks which twinkle joyful hues
possibilities
to claim order from chaos
hope repeats, forms reality
a mantra of becoming
again
again
again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A SPATTERING OF PUBLISHED POEMS

Here are a few poems that found a home with one or another small press magazine.  The subject matter varies widely, I just picked out some of the ones I like best.  

This one is the first or second poem that was published after I began to write seriously.  It was published in Verve, in 1992 or 1993.

EDUCATION

The wide eyed questing

finding treasures

in moments, wondering

at the magic of breath,

amazed by the wizardry

of dandelions

is schooled now.

We have learned to yawn

at the ticking away

of minutes by the clock on the wall.

We have learned boredom:

how to whine “There’s nothing to do-o-o-o!”

We have learned

dandelions are weeds

which must be eradicated

from every lawn.

***    ***    ***    ***    ***
From youngsters to feeling young.  This one was also published in Verve.  

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS

In my dreams

I am always young

swim with dolphins

ride under a sun

which never burns

We slide into dances

double spirals

leaps and dives

twist in and out, over and under

slice the water into arcs of light

When sudden darkness descends

hidden reefs rise far from the sight of land

reach out to catch me on jagged hooks

sharp protrusions, malicious intent which

floods me with nightmare visions of

towering storm waves, inky fathoms

where I will fall forever

But the sea here lifts, enfolds

rocks me into crystal blue

green glass waters where

dolphins share the art of breathing

under water, teach songs to call

ships into safe voyages

banish the fear of drowning

It is only when the distant

world of waking calls me

out of this ocean of sleep

I am flung onto the shore of day

gasping for breath

***    ***    ***    ***    ***
This poem was a natural kind of a list poem.  Making a list about something is a good way to inspire yourself to write and sometimes in stead of giving one idea that will have  more depth because of the other ideas the list dredged up, or an outline for a poem with   several connected topics it becomes a poem itself.  So, I was writing with a red pen and
here we are.  This poem was published as part of a local project, which combined a poem with art work mostly done by students at HSU, to put poems on our buses.  As far as I know the various poems are still riding around Humboldt County.  The lines of the published version are longer, as there was a line limit.

WRITING IN RED INK
You can say things

unexpected

Your words will shout

danger !         dance

on every curve

Minus signs

spring up

drag figures

down to drown

in a sea of brilliant

negativity

The color pulls

eyes around

the page:

this is Special

this means

  Something

Look Sharp

Watch Out

We have made

a red letter day

***    ***    ***    ***    ***
One of my proudest moments as a poet was when another poet whose work and advice I respected, Virginia Anderson, asked me to submit a poem to a magazine she was creating.  I believe she published 4 volumes in two years, and I managed to have two poems appear in the magazines, this one in vol. 4 March 2001, the name of the magazine was Daybreak.  The poem was written almost immediately after a conversation with my youngest who was in high school at the time.

MY SON TELLS ME WHY THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WAR

He says: It’s always been this way.
We love the hot smell of life bursting through the skin.
We dreamed the sound of stones hitting skulls,
the thrill of the bone club reverberating up our arms singing of
  the hit.
We dreamed of new weapons: flakes of stone with cutting edges,
  worked bone, fashioned metal, metal molten, molded, hardened,
  honed, keen edges with a lust to slice through living flesh.
We dreamed of projectiles, faster, sharper, larger, missiles, bombs to
  explode and pay us with casualties in numbers we could not dream.
We dreamed of being King of the Hill.
We love our games–
and this is such an exciting game–
why would we want to give it up.

***    ***    ***    ***    ***

Here is one of my most recently published poems.  It appeared in the HSU literary magazine maybe in 2009.  I wrote it after seeing a program about Amelia Earhart and at the end of the piece the narrator expressed the expectation that she and/or her plane would soon be found.  For some reason, I objected.  

INTO THE MORNING

Amelia Earhart,

may you never be found.

May the pieces of your plane

remain missing,

a mystery.

Women everywhere whisper your name

weave prayers for you, folded airplanes of thought

tossed into the wind of their dreams at dawn.

Someday we, too,

may fly off into the morning

wing our way forever

into the light.

***    ***    ***    ***    ***
This poem appeared in 51% and later won 2nd place in a local contest.  As a result I was able to read it on a local radio station, and talk about it a bit.  I took a creative writing course in my early 20’s, most of the students were my age or a little older,  but one was a middle aged woman, and I suppose she must have been quite a good writer, because her piece stuck in my mind, so that in my 50’s I had not forgotten her sad tale.

WHY I DROPPED THE CLASS

At night the buses only run
out Western Avenue, then I
have to walk past the park, cross
Madison Avenue, and it’s still two
more blocks to get home.  Each treacherous
step on a winter night freezes my mind;
thoughts numb with darkness,
the bitter wind grabbing at me
hurrying me with warnings of
ice underfoot.
                       That, and the woman
who writes about her husband:
how he has become an iron weight
pressing the air out of her, squeezing
her life flat beneath him in their
conjugal bed night after night, she remembering
how light he once felt, when love
uplifted him.
                    Thirty years later I’m still not sure
which was the real reason, which more terrifying:
that long cold walk full of echoing footsteps
always watching the shadows where
lurking nightmares might run ice through my veins;
or the thought that love could seep away
beneath some man’s eternal weight–
fears of freezing or gasping for breath
becoming locked in ice or stone.

***    ***    ***    ***    ****

While I had chosen another six poems that have been published, and left at least as many from the files I went through for another time–and still others–but never mind.  Enough.  And so, here’s one for my husband.  This one was published in the 2002, Vol 4 issue of CQ, the magazine of the California Poetry Society.  I wrote this, felt it was complete, worked on it a bit for a couple of days and sent it out.  Most poems don’t get finished that quickly.

TWO NIGHT POEMS
 
I
Too late.
Too tired.
Goodnight. Goodnight!
Words become swords:

cut my eyes.
My ears melt shut;
I sink into the page,
disappear between the lines:
my breath vanishes
syllable by
            syllable–
Shhhh–
finger to my lips:
blind
            deaf
                        dumb
I will pass this night
in sleep like death
with no dreams.
 
II
only the rise and fall
of your chest against my back
the wonder of your warmth
how my skin melts
and yours
until
we merge, floating together
dreams intertwined
 
only the soft percussion
of the rain over our head
a staccato dance
to strike sparks
through the night
against this consuming dark
 
anchor me to this world
 

^^^     ^^^     ^^^      ^^^

 

SOME STORIES FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT

Hopefully, you will find these poems amusing.  I don’t think they are fall on the ground funny, maybe not even laugh out loud, but they might make you smile.  

I’m never quite sure what to say about the poems, poetry, the writing process, but at this point, I’m leaning toward less is better, and if a reader wishes more information, please feel free to ask.  Feedback of any kind is welcome. I think these particular poems pretty much speak for themselves; the first three, which are persona poems, are longer than my usual because they tell a story–one, very likely, you already know. But,… I have always loved the idea of taking on the identity of a supposed villain or maligned character and giving the tale a twist.  

    ***    ***    ***    ***    ***

BEANS
First of all, you realize

the beans were magic;

the cow was sold on false pretenses

too tough for meat–which I don’t eat–

too old for milk–at most,

worth a pittance for glue and leather

but do they ever tell you that?

Oh, no.  I’ve been made the villain

and I suppose you’re satisfied.

Still, the beans

the beans were magic.

Second, the harp was mine.

The boy padded the story with hens–

but as I’m sure you recall, golden eggs

belong to the goose.  In some versions

of the tale, Jack alleges his father

traveled to my country, laden with gold,

the harp and other treasures which I stole

and then ate the man for dinner.

False accusations! I deny them all and will

refute them one by one:

No one ever came here until Jack–

a fluke of that cursed beanstalk which

only grew that way because his mother

dumped those beans out the window

and they landed all together.

And the beans were magic

that much of the story is true.

Well.  I don’t eat men–no meat at all–

despite my size–meat is too heavy

a food for one who walks about on clouds.

And treasures: I’ve enough in the scenery:

the play of light and shadow, sunrises, sunsets

the grandeur of the storm.  The stars at night

so bright so close–I could pick

a handful any time.  No, I’ve no desire
for gold and such,
no business down-below and

it’s only there I might have a need for coin.


But the harp, tuned to the wind,

the harp was mine.

I don’t know why Giants are always

cast as the villains of the piece. 

We have such bad PR.  Perhaps it comes

from being a minority, or the natural

shyness we have around your kind.

Or it could be our loud voices; the thunder thing,

habits we’ve acquired with our reclusive

wandering about on clouds all day.

But, in this event the wrong must be

attributed to Jack: 

he climbed that damn beanstalk


invaded my home, messed up my oven,

which had never held a thing except souffles–

vegetarian souffles–


Not unlike many another Englishman,

off adventuring claiming all the eye beheld

for self, for king, for that mirror image god

you profess belief in–conveniently

blind to those already there– But Jack

was in and out, as nice a second story job

as you’ll ever see, removing

the only thing of value I own:

the harp, my harp, if you recall.  

Then zip down the beanstalk,

at which point afraid of my thunder,

he took an axe and cut the stalk out

from under me.  Therefore,

he got to tell the tale.

Still, on one point we do agree:

The beans:    they were magic.

    ^^^    ^^^    ^^^    

HENNY PENNY REMEMBERS
On retrospect, I may have been too hasty:

it appears the sky was not

in imminent danger of collapsing

on our heads that day.

Malthus was also mistaken, he spoke too soon.

Taken to a logical conclusion,

the views of those who ridiculed both him and me

favor the continuation of things as they are  

do what you want, have as many babies as you please:

somehow, somewhere food and a place

for them to stand will be found.

Naturally, the sky will remain.

And it will be good for the economy.

Alarmists are heard crying

about the destruction of the rainforests.

However, my detractors want you to know,

that after cutting and burning

for thousands of years, we still

have trees.  We should, I suppose

be especially sensitive to the need for loggers

in the USA to have jobs; the economy requires

us to recall that the sky has not yet fallen and

there are still miles and miles of trees.

The timber companies tell us since they plant

more than they harvest, the forests

will go on forever.  Certainly,

they will last our lifetime, but in the event,

unlikely as that now appears, we do run out

of commercial lumber, we may expect

science will have discovered how

to grow cornstalks that can double for trees

and require the services of loggers for

the harvest every year.

In the meantime, we can subsidize those

endangered family farmers who will

some day be needed to grow our wood,
by
making California add corn alcohol

to their gasoline.  Have to keep that oil

flowing.  Not only is it good for the economy,

but it will clean our air, too.

Yes, the wonders of science:

whatever the problem, we can count on it

to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat 

and provide us with some miraculous solution: 

synthetic salmon, artificial trees

feed the worlds billions with algae and yeast–

Scientists have assured us that the sky

is not expected to fall.  And although some of them

worry about the ozone layer, global warming

the effects of pollution, others will flatly respond

those environmentalists and their fellow extremists

are just a bunch of Henny-Pennys,

and bad for the economy.

I resent the imprecation, the deprecation. 

While I will admit the sky seems

to have remained mostly intact,

there have been warnings, indeed,

holes in the ozone, and, I submit,

that if no one pays attention we are likely

to one day find ourselves up to our eyebrows

in large chunks of sky-blue rubble.

    ^^^    ^^^    ^^^

WORDS FROM THE WOLF
 
So, I’m sittin’ there
in the middle of the afternoon
just huffin’
and, I hate to admit, puffin’
but no matter how much
air I inhale,
                        I can’t seem
to bloooow their house down.
 
Darnation, carnation!
I bust my chops
splinter the insides of my lungs
and all my effort seems
to go up in, like,
                smoke.
 
Now don’t you go making me out
to be a villain here.
Heck, I’d be a regular hero
if you didn’t keep fillin’ little kids
heads with all those silly stories.
 
See, you got me all wrong:
I’m just tryin’ to make me a livin’ here,
keepin’ this place smellin’ sweet, too.
Three little pigs–kinda cute–
but get a big bunch of ‘em together–
    Hoo–eee!     
                See, hero,
keepin’ our space clean.
 
And if you haven’t gone all
vegetarian on me, your mouth waters
at the thought of spare-ribs
    slabs of bacon,
            well smoked ham–
 
Hey, any cool cat will tell you the same:
we’re carnivores, got them canine teeth
fangs, maybe, but they’re meant for meat
        and I mean to get me some.
 
Right now, I’m plum out o’ breath.
Just let me think on this a bit.
Tried the chimney bit, cross that one off.
            Salesman, no,
            sheep’s skin, didn’t work.
 
Think I’ll just lay here on their door step
            a while ‘n nap
    one of em’s bound to come out
                sooner                        or later.
 
I hear tell
lean meat’s better for you anyway.

    ***    ***    ***    ***    ***

The last two poems, both much shorter, which could be considered persona poems, too,   are for my husband.  The first happened more than once, in fact, it happened most every night for a few weeks.  I can’t recall if the gun-slinger finally realized supposed heroes don’t shoot someone who has their hands up, or Daddy refused to continue playing.

The second, of course, is for love.  I hope they will also make you smile.

    ***    ***    ***    ***    ***

 
THE RITES OF DYING VIII
“Stick ‘em up, Daddy,” our youngest

at three uses his finger

to pretend a weapon.

Daddy obliges, raises his hands.

            “Bang! Bang!

            You’re dead!”

The dead guy attempts reason,

“I had my hands up…”

The gun-slinger hero won’t hear it,

            “I shot you. You’re dead.

            You can’t talk.  Fall over.”

Daddy gets cross.

Logic is being ignored.

There are rules to this game.

The handy little shooter

becomes hysterical.

Rules belong to the one with the gun.

Logic has nothing to do with it.

    ^^^    ^^^    ^^^

ANOTHER ENCHANTMENT

I always thought I was

a frog

or maybe a toad–

not that there’s anything

inherently wrong

with amphibians–

but would you want to be one?

It never occurred to me

that I was a princess under a spell–

except as a child

hoping I’d been given

to people who weren’t my parents

because we didn’t live in a palace

they weren’t rich 

and we didn’t have any maids–

nothing to do with pollywogs,

enchanted or otherwise…

But you believed

I was a Princess

in spite of everything

and all the evidence to the contrary.

So, I became one.

PARENT POETRY

While my daughter was here visiting with her youngest, we would often sit together on the sofa talking to the baby. Since my daughter is my baby–well, one of them, I would say I am her Mama, she is your Mama. I am your Mama’s Mama.  I started to think about parents and decided to use that as a topic.

I have too many poems about parents to put in one post so the following are a few of my poems that are in some way about parents, a parent, or parenting.

I’ll begin with one I wrote for my daughter when she first became a mother.

LULLABY FOR A NEW MOTHER

falling over the edge
out of this world
time stopping clocks
tips you into forever
the not quite fractiled
mass of stars sliding
slipping from glitter
into auroras
until
you lose yourself
can’t find where you are

listen
the babe whimpers
tugs you down a line
pulls you back
until you find a way
to open your eyes to your own bed

she is there
lying in your arms
content
moving her petalled mouth
and you hear her murmur
she  is  sure
your heart   beat
never  stopped
your heart   beat
is the world
she is certain only of that
she has held you tightly
all the time you
were falling over
the edge of the world
and brought you back safely
to cradle
her against your breast

 

I came across the following poem as I was going through my files, and I thought creating a home is an important aspect of parenting, so I decided to include it.  I wrote it shortly after we made our move to beautiful Humboldt County; if I could live anywhere I wished, it would be here among the lofty coastal redwoods.

HOME
These walls
are not flat, geometric planes
do not, with their right angled
joints, create a box
a simple maze of
rectangles

These walls
are spelled with prayer
have fed on laughter
drunk tears of every vintage
breathe in and out, the up and down
of family, the push and pull
dynamic quest for balance
the lessons of hello, good-by.

These walls
are arms around us
steady us, embrace us
as we grow, begin to glow
with the patina of our years together.
These walls welcome friends
who walk through our door
say: join our song
share our prayers
there is comfort here
rest and shelter
be welcome.
These walls
are not so much a place
as a presence
something we take with us
wherever we move,
hang it with our pictures,
set it by our altar,
where it weaves every note of love
into these walls
fashions them again
into our home.

The next poem could be argued to be more about children than their parent(s).  The punctuation on this is somewhat eclectic. I have belonged to a poetry group where we critique each other’s work, (I highly recommend a group if you write and want to improve your work) and that group has generally taken the position that something should either be fully punctuated or not at all. I often write without any, but there were so many questions in this poem…  Perhaps it would benefit from more consistency in the punctuation, and I may yet do it, but not now.
IMAGINE THEY HAVE GROWN
Where did he go
bright eyed tot
restless explorer
turning curiosity
into why incessant
why, why, yes, but why?
until our ears grew numb–
captured by the possibility
of stars
incipient astronaut
wandering fields
where imagination grew
higher than the tallest grass
what has he become?
Where is she now
baby doll princess
calling to attend her:
friends, relatives
especially Daddy
wound around her fingers
charming her way to center stage
Miss Make-Believe
in pigtails and freckles
held in my heart
as littlest fisherwoman
does she still hold up
diminutive prizes
for applause and photographs?

Where is my baby?
sweet manchild, youngest,
teething on Lego’s, flying
model planes with sound effects
all stolen from brother’s space
tagging after chagrined sister
reporting home
daily from kindergarten:
“Mom, I didn’t get the chair!”
“Rad Reader” drawn by words
to pictures of the mind
creating portraits of his family
as heart people
with smiles as wide as the world

 

Finally, another that is about parents watching (and worrying) about their kids as they try   to become independent.  It’s been a favorite when I’ve read it at poetry readings.

 

BALANCING ACTS
Someone will walk on the edge of the moon
holding arms out away from the body
stepping one foot carefully
in front
of the other
intent on balance while walking
that precarious sky high line…

No matter how many
helmets we strap on their heads
elbow pads
knee pads
shin guards
sometimes we wish we could wrap them completely
in thick sheets of foam rubber…

Life was never safe–
Girls still bat their eyelashes with laughter
igniting flames near high explosives,
boys dance
amid the highest branches of trees…
They each play at counting coup
seek adventure
a way to test
some measure of themselves
searching for the path that will lead
to walking on the edge of the moon…

 

 

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