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My Daughter's Footsteps Small Bird Bones L'Invitation au Voyage
The Misogynist Child with a Shell Invocation to the White Goddess
My teacher (for Minoru Kawabata) Manhattan, I've loved you Knocking on heaven's door
My friend tells me... The poet The Saint
The Humanitarians My Father 3 little poems
Warmth Enough Aunt Heather C'est à l'intérieur...
Lucky Penny Letting Go Life digs itself
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From Small Bird Bones
(Published by The New Press, December, 1993.)

My Daughter's Footsteps

Snowflake footsteps
drop at my door and fade.
I wonder, then know
what she wants to hear...
my daughter
who I've ignored
all day, again
(having other things
to do)
asks with her
snowflake footsteps
that I tell her I love her.

Small Bird Bones

My cat's eyes
shine with tenderness,
his tail furls
and curls with intention.
Soon he will meow long
and scratch the screen door
until he's too tired
to see the fallen sparrow.

I want to let him go,
see his black body fly
like an elegant arrow -
have it over with -
but hear my first cat
high in a tree,
small bird bones
caught in his throat.

à la Baudelaire

L'Invitation au Voyage

Allons en voyage, mon frère
mon amant

où ensemble nous nagerons
à travers les sauvages rayons

de la lune, à travers
les mers violettes, en fleur

où il n'importe que tu m'es menti
mon cher, où le soleil

brille quand nous voulons
et nous nous aimons.

J'aime que tu existe.

The Misogynist

for Jack Noyes, who hunted butterflies and black widow spiders

He told me what he did
to women and insects
was a matter of curiosity,
wanting to know them.

He said all men kill
the things they love
and find their joy there,
that I would understand,
being a woman.

Child with a Shell

He touches its teeth
fingers its inner ear, smoothly glazed
like a pink fish-belly.
As he feels further,
whiter, smoother,
echoing sounds from the center -

Broken open,
he holds the empty hull
wondering where the sound has gone
and looks for another shell.

Invocation to the White Goddess
(The Celtic Muse)

Isis of water, earth,
Fire and air,
Hear my prayer.
See with me,
Touch my tongue.
Let me speak to pierce the hearts
Of all who worship you.
Hold me as your child
That I may know
What is real.

(Ref. Robert Graves, The White Goddess)


My teacher
(for Minoru Kawabata)

He taught painting in Manhattan,
a wisp of a man, almost transparent,
who knew his world
and what he intended came about.
He didn't seem to know
or care he was famous.

He found living seeds of promise
on each student's canvas
and ways to coax forth their powers;
in his care we grew as artists.

Missing nothing, beyond wisdom,
he had exact words and gestures
to calm the space and lift our spirits.
Though he spoke little English,
he touched our hearts with such elegance
that we outdid ourselves.

Manhattan, I've loved you

from the moment I arrived,
I knew I'd been chosen.

I love your love, your savoire faire,
your wider skies,

your lights, theaters, fruitstands, harbors,
smells of perfume and salt water,

the magic of your ships and towers,
your tales of freedom and tomorrows,

the tongues and colors of your people,
all your styles,

your open eyes,
all that you make possible.

Knocking on heaven's door

Those who knock on heaven's door
know Who opens it,

playing, building in that space,
painting, weaving, singing, healing

In that place Spirit turns
words into wands,

water into wine, crosses oceans,
rockets to the moon and other universes

Some call their knocking change of heart
and what comes forth, amazing grace

Some drum up sacred sounds,
dance with them and grow a world

There is no end to what can be,
knocking on heaven's door

My friend tells me...

my short poems are my best.
I start with the wind at my back
and get scared,
shut and bolt the door,
ramble on
and on and on
as though the wind
is still there.

      (regarding “short vs. long” poems:
     The Poetic Principle by Edgar Allan Poe)

The poet

is a misfit
those who would disable her
she's trouble
like plato's escaped prisoner
delights in discovery
in seeing
and seeing further
though she may be
blind like homer
and when her faith
wiggles out of its cocoon
into a poem
it sometimes has wings

The Saint

Like a tree whipped by winds
a saint leads a twisted life,
turning time and again
towards light to straighten
until, beyond the pull of opposites,
she glows like a sun.

The Humanitarians
(prose poem)

We listened to WJC tell us
to teach our children that violence
is not a solution to conflict
while our bombs rained on Yugoslavia...
the Serbs, allies through two world wars,
had refused to kowtow to his ultimatum
and surrender sovereignty.

We listened to the soft, sexy voice
husky, pleading,
"we have to help those people
in Kosovo before it is too late"
and then the bombs, bought
with social security contributions,

fell day and night for weeks, months,
until animals went insane,
until homes, bridges, churches,
hospitals were rubble and
children, arms and legs torn off,
still unable to see their attackers,
longed for death

then the bombing stopped
and we heard the voice again:
"we are a humanitarian nation
and cannot stop now;
we have nothing against those people,
but their leader is monstrous...
they must not have food this winter,
or oil, or medicine."

We listened to the echoes from his staff,
the media, and other NATO leaders;
we listened to our military tell us it could do
little to stop the massacre of Serbs:

messages to all the world
not to defy the Humanitarians.

My Father

Compassionate warrior, philosopher, poet,
my father showed chivalry to women
and good will to all

I learned from him what is possible,
not what is common now;
he chose to be guided by honor

when I need to discover higher ground
within myself, and hold it,
he is my beckoning star.

3 little poems

soft and warm
reminds me of you
touching my arm.

Come to me in the night,
your body off, soul to soul;
we will fill the space,
move without moving, making love

3 Easter chicks
black and yellow peeps on pronged toothpicks
one with a wounded red thigh
is pecked non-stop by 2 needle beaks

moved out of reach
he screeches incessantly

The King of Siam

My betta fish is emerald blue
with a mouth wide as his head
and great thin billowy fins

When I come close
he darts to the top of his world to dance,
hungry or not

and expands like a haiku
far beyond his lines
in a space now named Siam

I turn into an ancient warrior
under his spell
– wild, cold, artful -

listening for the first sounds ever made
beyond ocean floors
and glittering stars

Warmth Enough

The blue spruce was white against the sky
and clumps of shadows frozen gray that March,
a pale year, our coldest month in many winters.
My uncle's beard glittered with crystals,
he said a mackinaw was not enough
or the fur-lined boots he wore;
the cold paralyzed his fingertips
through fur-lined gloves; still,
he was hunting because he liked to hunt,
and his fingers curled with warmth enough
to pull the trigger. A squirrel fell from a branch,
flickering crimson across the snow.
Then another. He said we had our dinner
and floundered through the drifts
to pick up the bodies.
He said he wasn't dependent for his meat
on any city's butcher.

Aunt Heather

A black and white snapshot shows
aunt Heather, six years old, seated at a piano
staring hopefully at a page of music.
Short sleeves puff against her pinafore straps,
plaid ribbons tie back her braids.
Her third, right finger is on a key,
those on each side point upward like a spatula.

Though Heather had a teacher,
she learned to read numbers instead of notes -
that seemed easiest, she said, but
only notes were in the second book.
(Her teacher said she lacked interest.)
Heather made me promise, on principle,
not to depend on teachers
and to keep to difficult paths.

C'est à l'intérieur...

Le soleil brille

sur tout le monde,

sans juger, mais

c'est à l'intérieur

que je suis heureuse,

ou non.

Où es Tu, mon Dieu?

Où suis-je? C'est moi-même

que je dois retrouver,

comme toujours,

pour sentir Ta chaleur.

Lucky Penny

Its head was bright and new
its tail stuck in a concrete wall.
When I gave up trying to pry it loose
the penny quickly faded
and its space expanded a thousand-fold
on to a lane of soft spring colors
in early 19th century France
where carriages rolled over cobblestones
and elegant ladies strolled
in high-waist gowns and bonnets.

All I had to do was take the step
but knew I might not have the power
to come back, being ambivalent
about changing habitat and habits.
Remembering the maxim
"better safe than sorry,"
made to order for such occasions,
I walked away, looking back to see
the wall close up without the penny
and another chance.

Letting Go

Out of the cave I called my home,
beyond the mere life of this body
the universe is disrobed.
There is no place now to fall,
no desire to shrink.

I can see myself burrow into earth,
hover over the sun
or walk down a street --
I can see everything I've done,
pretending many roles.
I can transform into a living cross
or a mummy wrapped in white
spiraling in space
if I choose,
as I've chosen before.

Beyond this mere life
I've traveled many roads
in the all-seeing eye
creating the world;
I was with Homer and Aesop,
in the water Christ walks on,
in hurricanes and harvests.

Don't say it cannot be,
that these and other things
don't or didn't happen;
I know what I know.

And here is my test for truth --
the exact consideration,
and what works:
beyond this body's walls
where I live
the machinery of bondage
in heaven and on earth
is vanishing.

Life digs itself

Following Ayn Rand, some critic claims
an avatar only has power
to the extent he is believed,
without considering this might be true of Ayn

And so the eternal game continues:
life digs itself

eggs hatch
bees make honey
thunder breaks

All of us have been in places
no sane person would choose;
mystics say life experiencing itself
is the purpose

And that the avatar is born,
or becomes, so empathetic
he is able to dig anything
and transform it, mind or matter,
bring forth life from death

Critics secretly believe he negates
their own discoveries
and protest, watching from a raft
at risk of flooding

From mist to shining river,
egg to feathers
flying with power,
seed to ancient stick:
life digs itself

The poet Rumi calls it creation dancing,
passionate for God