Sunday, September 27, 2009

FAMIGLIA



My hayfever had never been so bad,

messy, out of control even with the medicine.

I wouldn’t have gone, but he wanted me to.

His family was all there, where they work,

at his Zia Rosa’s restaurant. They were

very quiet when we came in. They gave us

a table by the kitchen, where they could watch.

We didn’t order, they just brought us the food:

antipasto with perfect vegetables and cheeses,

bread that crackled when I bit into it

but soft and melting inside,

the best chianti. And then the pasta--

homemade spaghetti with sauce rich

and thick as blood.

Three perfect meatballs, Rosa’s specialty.


Then it happened--with all that beautiful food

in front of me. I sneezed so hard I blew a meatball

from the pile of pasta, off the tablecloth

and down onto the terra cotta floor.

And since the floor wasn’t level,

that meatball rolled across and out the open door.

If that were to happen at my mother’s club,

no one would notice. Not even me.

But suddenly they were there,

the whole lot of them, laughing,

and hugging him and me,

saying loud happy things to him

that back then I couldn’t understand.

Then they were all quiet

while shyly he pulled a box from his pocket

and offered me his nonna’s diamond ring.

When I said yes, they all laughed

and cheered again, and kissed us both.

Zio Antonio went out into the street

and retrieved the meatball,

put it on a little plate next to the cash register

with a sign on it that I couldn’t yet read.


So that’s how it all began.


MFCP, 2008


This is one of a series of poems that I wrote as a backstory to kids' songs. This one is pretty easy to guess.

Friday, September 25, 2009

IN THE CAFÉ, WANTING EARPHONES

IN THE CAFÉ, WANTING EARPHONES



This is where I need the earphones

that magnify sound: that couple

on the sofa, somewhat entangled,

occasionally laughing, is talking a little

too quietly for me to overhear.

The help are talking, too,

as they clear the noon-rush clutter.

I catch one lover saying three quarters,

a customer at the counter the wrong time.


like the sixties

North America

they all crashed into the rocks

day old bagels

so it’s just you


Always I want to know

the business of strangers,

their urgent lives nothing to do

with me.


any latté cups

rain. And the kittens

too far to row

haircut, and pink handtowels

invited her to speak


I imagine they

want to know my business too:

who is that woman drinking coffee alone

and what is she writing in that book,

and why does she stop, stare

out the window at the river,

and why does she smile?


kept talking and talking

more fish except tuna

day she died

understood the agenda

expensive to fly


But on my porch, with the earphones,

in the evening, in the rain,

everything is simple, clear.

I hear a hundred robins singing,

and the peepers in the pond

three-quarters of a mile down the road.


MFCP May 2006

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Comments

I changed my settings so that readers should be able to make comments. I hope it works!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CATHEDRAL WINDOWS


CATHEDRAL WINDOWS



I take the same walk every morning down a town road

past fields in various stages of decay,

old barns full of junk,

a tilting silo, its rusty hoops barely holding the grey slats together.

I pass long white driveways leading to new houses

built in old woodlots or sugarbushes or pastures.

Now and then something catches me up:

a mother otter swimming circles in a pond

whistling to her capering brood,

a long milksnake basking on the blacktop,

two jade frogs crouching in a ditch--

they squeak and plop into the water when I pass,

leaving hollows in the soft mud like the imprints of fists.


One morning, it was a piece of blue

set in the wall of a barn--

the color of cold winter skies--

blue like the best stained glass,

offerings to Our Lady.

The Virgin Mary’s Jewel Box--

Henry Adams’ name for the cathedral at Chartres--

was filled to the vaulting with gems;

the darkest corners made beautiful

because that was the way She wanted it.

It was what She liked.


For a heartbeat I believed that someone

had set such a window high in the old wooden wall,

the barn a cathedral!

So, passing on a hot day, one could slip into

that deep blue shade scented with cows and hay,

sit a minute in the stillness, ask a question,

leave a scrap of something--

a fistful of red clover, a pigeon feather--

to seal a promise, keep a vow.

But it was plastic, after all,

a blue tarp stapled there

to keep out the wind and rain.


Once in a magazine, I read about

the restoration of the windows at Chartres.

People were complaining, missing the patina of dirt

that made the glass look like slides on a dark screen

instead of jewels letting in the light.


MFCP


This poem was published in Penwood Review, 2008, and the barn in the photo is the barn I wrote about. The milking parlor was destroyed by a heavy snow two years ago, and the young farmer is currently rebuilding the barn--quite nicely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

APPLES FOR THE NEIGHBOR'S HORSE





APPLES FOR THE NEIGHBOR’S HORSE

~remembering Shadow



The neighbor’s muddy burr-maned horse

cropped the short September grass

close to the rusty fence. One morning,

I offered an apple on my open palm.


She took it gently,

broke it with her yellow teeth.

Every morning all that fall

she waited for me,


came to me, plodded

toward the fence, whickered

her greeting. Every morning

I gave her an apple.


My neighbor believes in God,

every marvelous and contradictory word:

repent and be saved, subdue the Earth,

wives submit, spare the rod.


The horse is buried in the meadow.

She was old, and lame.

He shot her early in the spring,

my neighbor who knows God’s name.




MFCP, November 24, 1999--Jan, 2009


Friday, September 18, 2009

BESIDES BEING HANDY

BESIDES BEING HANDY




You have read about the Wars

against the Red Indians,

of the gallantry of your soldiers

against the cunning of the Red Man

and what is more, of the pluck

of your women on those dangerous frontiers.


Well, we have had much the same sort of thing

in South Africa.

Over and over again I have seen

the wonderful bravery of the women

when the tribes of Zulu or Matabeles

have been out on the war path against the white settlers.

They were full of pluck and energy,

but unfortunately they had never

been trained to do anything,

and so they were of no use.


So I gave them a smart blue uniform

and the names of “Guides.”

The pick of our frontier forces in India

is the Corps of Guides.

The term cavalry or infantry

hardly describes it

since it is composed of all-round handy men

ready to take on any job.

Then, too, a woman who can be a good

and helpful comrade to her brother or husband

or son along the path of life is really a guide to him.


The name Guide therefore just describes

the members of our sisterhood

who besides being handy

and ready for any kind of duty

are also a jolly happy family

and likely to be good, cheery comrades

to their mankind.


If the women of the different nations

are to a large extent members of the same society,

they will make a real bond between the Peoples

and they will see to it that it means Peace

and that we have no more of War.


(This is a "Found" poem--an existing text arranged by me in poetry form. I found this one in “How Scouting Began,” Robert Baden-Powell's Forward to the 1920 edition of The Girl Scout Handbook.

Monday, September 14, 2009

WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME

WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME



Went to New Orleans,

walked alone in the early morning.

They were opening windows,

washing down the streets.

Are you ready, M’am?

An old man stood on the cobblestones,

beaming in the steaming light.

He held reins in one crinkled hand,

extended the other to me.

His brown horse shook its head, bells rang.

Ready? For what?


Are you ready for a buggy ride?

I had not planned to act like a tourist,

but how could I do otherwise

in this unexpected land, this place I’ve never seen?

The people sitting above the tall red wheels

were talking and laughing together

like people in a painting, or a play.

The driver cocked his head, waiting for my answer.

I asked the cost.

There was no reason to refuse.


I placed my damp white hand in his,

my hand with the split lifeline,

the single crack foretelling a single child.

Twenty years ago a sibyl read my palm:

You’ll live long, but two lives, different.

You’re a musician. And try not to be so stingy.

Yes of course I’m ready, I told him.

Boost me up.


You, I’m afraid, would have been

disdainful, cool. You would not

have approved of me,

sweating in my purple dress,

gawking, singing along,

leaning out behind the horse’s bobbing feathered head

above the spinning wheels

in that impressionistic light.


I felt a city dawn that day,

saw men in stiletto heels and black stockings

prancing down the shining sidewalks,

artists reaching for long moist shadows,

women like statues, painted gold.

The city smelled like fresh coffee,

sour beer, things frying in lard.

On every bright wet corner

were little children, dancing.



This was published in a chapbook: Sing in me, Muse, published by "Quatrain" in Feb. 2005

Friday, September 11, 2009

THE YEAR THE APPLES FELL

THE YEAR THE APPLES FELL



That was the year the apples fell into my bag

no matter what I did.

I would bump up against a limb

and they’d shake loose,

roll down my brown-sweatered arm,

glance off my shoulder

and into the turquoise canvas.

The bag filled, and filled.


The year before--most years--

those loosened apples hit the ground

and I left them to wasps, mice,

possums, the foraging deer.

Some of those years--the one

my sister died, or the one my folks left

the old house for the condo and we salvaged

perennials from my mother’s garden

and tried not to cry--it seemed

all the apples were wasted like that,

every last one. But this year,

for a change, something different.


I stood under each tree looking up,

bemused, as one by one the globules fell

red and ready, like blessings,

like easy autumn dreams.


MFCP Nov. 21, 2002

This was published in Connecticut River Review, July/August 2004

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

STILL LIFE WITH APPLE AND SPIDER WEB

STILL LIFE WITH APPLE AND SPIDER WEB



I used to wait to hear God speak.


Reaching up for the yellow apple,

I saw a black and yellow garden spider

silent in her web between two small trees.

She saw me a hundred times at once.


What does this mean: I believe. One God.

Face shattered in a thousand shards,

yellow apple gnawed down to the core.



MFCP 2002

Sunday, September 6, 2009

GATHERING





GATHERING


“Enough!” they said, but we said “No!”

There were more elderberries on the bushes,

the bags we brought were not full,

so we picked and picked, stripping the thin branches

of their burden of shiny blueblack fruit,

while our husbands leaned against the car and talked of life.


Our sons remind us every year

that two flats of strawberries are enough,

that two buckets of blueberries are enough,

and we never listen. How could we listen

with the fruit singing its scent over those fields?


Now there are apples. All of them.

We pick until our fingers are swollen,

until we see apples in our dreams:

enormous pink spheres hanging

from the misty trees of that primeval orchard,

apples like the breasts of God.


Our barns are full, our freezers are full,

our shelves are full, our attics are full,

our basements are full, and it is not yet

enough. From somewhere down inside

the grandmothers are poking at us:

Pick them, they hiss, pick everything you can.

Winter is on the way. You never know; you can never

have enough. And we will never have enough,

not until all the apple trees of Earth are bare

and all the hoarding places of Earth are filled.

Not until all the bellies are filled

and the children dance laughing

down the clean-picked rows.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Craft Fair

CRAFT FAIR



Here:


glass dragons on strings

eggs in ancient patterns like things on the walls of caves

bracelets of beads, leather and bone

golden bowls like Midas-touched baths

castles and apples on boxes and stools

amphibians with golden crowns and sapphire eyes

silken scarves twisting blue as the sea


You have come to this hall

as you suppose, to purchase beauty:

take it home in a paper bag

to put in a cupboard or hang on a wall.

But things here shift and hatch and grow,

peck out of their crackled wax-dyed shells.

Some things will never belong

Look:

this retired art teacher in a long orange dress

has painted appletrees on boxes,

cottages and castles on chairs.

Her shoes are silver slippers

the color of her curling hair.

She drinks water from a blue bottle

as two whistling peasants pick ripe apples for the Queen.


Here all around you

dolls with curious eyes peer out

from behind their maker’s skirts,

velvet frogs croak silently while above

a giantess binds dragonflies with gossamer thread.

And all along the pathways, echoing between the trees,

voices fall and rise, accompanied

by high thin whistles of small clay beasts and birds.


Here

where the potter sits

bowls and teapots sprout like weeds.

His brown eyes vanish when he smiles at you.

Earth is under his nails

and in the patterns of his hands;

as he turns the wheel

the universe expands.



Free Poems

This morning while on my walk, I decided that since

1. It's really hard to get poems published
2. Not many people, including me, read many poetry journals
3. My friends occasionally ask me to share poems with them

it's time for me to start posting poems.

I've also decided that whoever comes upon these may copy them and share them with anyone they want. I realize that this limits my "publishing" options, but hey, the whole point is to share words. So--here goes.