Letter to a friend

For Amy, an ocean away.

Across the Atlantic
We sit
Each in our own room
Typing frenetically
Updating one another
On news
Life events
Woes as experienced from the bathroom floor
Wonders which include enchanted encounters
We condense stories
Better told leisurely
Over coffee or tea
In each other’s actual
Physical company
Wherein a raised eyebrow
Or pause
Tells its own story.

In lieu.
We abbreviate
We abridge
We g-chat.

It is, perhaps,
For just this circumstance
That letter writing was meant.
So that we could tell stories fully,
Extravagantly fill pages with prose,
So as not to miss a detail,
In order to describe most vividly
Our lives at that particular moment.
Believing this action
Might somehow lessen
The inexorable ache of missing one so dear.

To hold your letter in hand,
Revel in the familiar swoop of your script.
(Do we know anyone’s handwriting anymore?)
To reread one’s favorite passages over toast,
To open and smooth out folded pages,
And hear your voice in my mind.
To imagine you in the scene you’ve described
So perfectly, with such intricacy
That Virginia Woolf now reads somehow vague.
To accept this painted scene meant for me alone
This is the gift of friendship.

I fear a future of
The Lost Emails of [Insert Author’s Name]
Or even
The Collected G-Chats.

Forget not the motion of your own hand
Across a page.
Forget not the letters you keep in boxes
Like secrets,
Like a child’s collected treasures:
Half a robin’s egg, a piece of beach glass, a bent penny
Hidden, sacred.

Say you’ll return to paper and pen.
Let flow the words you would say
Were it not for an ocean.
Transcribe the conversation
Of head and heart, magic and memory
And sign it
Not “With love,” or “Missing you,”
But “Always.”

After the storm

After the storm is like the world
After a fist fight.
And stumbling
Taking stock of wounds,
Fractured ribs, limbs
Thunder claps, like shouts
That recede into low rumbles,
Like ghosts of screams
That still ring ears,
Hang silent
In midair.
Candle flames lick
The walls of rooms
Light abandoned.
Steam disappears
In ascent from
The bending asphalt.
Rivulets of rain carve new paths
In Mars-red mud.



The first beat

Medical science, try as they might,
Cannot find the reason why
the human heart starts beating.
In fact, the heart is the first organ that forms,
then mysteriously, magically,
like a watch wound by the unseen,
it beats.
Before that, what?
Presumably, cells dividing
then congregating.
Is it the energy of that coming together,
that confluence,
that joining,
that merge of many
into one
to become something other,
something greater?
Is it that rush,
that pulsing movement and motion,
that, without reason,
becomes capable of sustaining itself?
That it, in fact,
beats of its own accord,
relentlessly, ceaselessly
gathering to it what it needs
by some primal instinct
extending its still-growing arteries
and veins like tree branches
inside the wall of a womb,
carving out its place in the universe,
its place among the stars,
its place deep within a body
of bloom, blood and bone.


I read the history of a nearby beach
Affectionately called “the Edge of America”
As it happens, in the 1700s, this sandy stretch of land
Was rather less affectionately called “Coffin Island”
Due to ships passing by from the harbor
To lay their cholera dead to rest
In shallow, sandy graves
And sail on

How easily graves become the foundations
Of something else
How coffins
Become towns

This is time’s gift
Softening grief’s jagged edges
Turning marrow and bone to dust
Calling our attention back
To the shimmering sunrise

Day 30: Like Milk in the Fridge

If you’ve been following along, this post is part of a (nearly) once-a-day-month-long-blogging-brouhaha with my pals Amanda Hollinger, Monica Wyche, and Ami Worthen.

Yes, my 30 days (and then some) are complete. But I’m not stopping. (Special thanks to the Accidental Cootchie Mama.)

As stressful as it’s been at times, it feels good to stick with something that in the end, always gives me pleasure and peace of mind.

Like Milk in the Fridge

Like milk in the fridge
That’s what she said
In response to my description
Of you sitting in your avocado chair
In a direct line with the front door

What I said exactly was
That image of you
Sitting there, watching the Yankees
Repacking your corn cob pipe
Reading the paper
Was certainty
Was safety
Was comfort itself

No matter that scores of times
I ran in and out of the house
Right by you in that chair
With little more than a “see ya”
Over my shoulder

The image of you in your chair remains
Even now
Walking into my house
After days spent away
I’m greeted by
The smell of still air
The vague chill of empty
A pile of mail in hand

I open curtains, turn on lights
Walk room to room
I am not searching for you
Any more than I would search
The fridge for milk I know is not there

Instead I imagine you hear me
Prattling on about my everyday
Asking your usual question
“Are you working hard?”

I want to lay my answer at your feet
Crawl into your lap
Lean every part of me into you
So I know one thing for sure

Flat refusal of reality

A poem I wrote years ago while channeling my inner angsty teen.

Flat refusal of reality
That’s what mothers are famous for, right?
Among other things
Don’t they know we’re not virgins?
I mean, they must know.
Maybe it’s more that they don’t want to know
That badly.
Like, enforced ignorance for survival purposes.

Molly’s mother never seemed like she knew
When Molly was drunk
Even when she reeked of Wild Turkey
Leaned on me so she wouldn’t fall on the linoleum floor
Mrs. Reese would just say, “goodnight, girls”
And watch me walk upstairs half-carrying her daughter.

It’s the same with the pill.
Or if they find condoms in your purse or something.



Found poem.

I saw him
Across the grocery store parking lot
White hair, aglow in sunlight
Glasses glinting, pushing a cart
I stopped mid step, staring
Trance-like, a bird dog losing itself in its task
Synapses firing, thoughts caught
But also, nothingness.

It’s him.
It’s not.
I should call out
A sob creeping up to close my throat.

It’s not him.
He’s too tall.
Keep walking.
Unlock car. Sit.

Recall the advice.
It’s a process.
Grief is a fickle bitch.
It’s not been long.

Question sanity.
A visitation?
In a parking lot?
Is denial having its way?
Did I see what I wanted to see?

In a minute’s time
The ghost drives away in his beige Camry.
I sit glassy-eyed gazing, still in sunlight,
Watching an empty parking space
For evidence of the hereafter.


No Answer

New poem.

The rain drumming down the roof has no answers.
Nor do the leaves, each bowing in deference to a specific raindrop.
Although there’s something in the stark, dark grey skies that leads one to believe it has solutions to speak of, in addition to its winds, precipitations and preoccupations.
But it remains quiet.
One could easily go turning over mottled brown bottle stones half stuck in soaked earth and silt in search of clarity, perhaps a kind word,
And come away with no more than drenched dungarees and question marks dangling from tree limbs.
The waves speak a language I do not yet understand, though I strain every sense and muscle to comprehend, as if want always led to get.
Birds offer little relief – their songs stop and start without warning, their arrivals and departures more riddle than reason.
Perhaps better to dwell here in parts unknown, questions unanswered.
Perhaps better still to become the rain, the skies, leaves, half-stuck stones and waves – and one day, even the bird.

We Who Want

New poem. With thanks to Kim Vollmer-Lawson.

We want the sunset back
The moment
Its crimson belly
Finds it hiding place
Children dirty kneed in dungarees. Painters. Poets.

We want another story to sleep by
As we rub burning eyes
Stretch. Sink toward dream.

We want heavy, elephant skies
Spirits with long memories. Early snows.
We wish. Will. Wonder.
Whisper. Into ears that hear.
We beg. Bless. Blunder.

We draw portraits as you draw breath
Unconscious of the beauty within them both.


Casey Avenue Bridge

Written for my big brother: a great writer, a dear friend and the brave soul who first tried to explain love to me when I was seven.

Set upon the cold steel
I could feel the rivets through my dungarees
Could see the river below
Midnight blue, swift, mysterious
Patches of ice scraping together the only noise
I sat with that sound
While you walked slowly back and forth
Gently explaining to me, your baby sister
That love takes many forms

I swung my legs to and fro to keep warm
To feel the satisfying thud of my sneakers against steel
The purpose of that night
The walk to the bridge
The reason for that conversation
Have no place in my memory
The sharp cold
The ice floes
The distinct, deep night
No match for the warmth of a brother’s love