Thursday, December 31, 2009


When the baby rolled

out of the bleachers

in his little stroller

he had not far to fall

and was not hurt.

And the stranger insisted

she had made things

secure as possible,

what with the missing anchor.

But the father insisted

she was wrong, and they argued

late into the restless moonlit night

while cats prowled,

and visions of nutcookies

spun around the edges

of her dream.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The future predictive invocable

calls forth something for which I hope,

but roundabout, so unrecognized:

when my son will have had a child.

The past remedial imperative

fixes old things on command:

he will not have been drunk

on my sixteenth birthday.

And now, especially,

there is the continuative declarative imperfect:

I have been being myself all this time.

I have been being this changing woman,

this irrevocable unremedial woman.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Who can tell about angels?

They pass over sleeping cities scattering death,

make appalling announcements,

play ominous music on brass instruments.

Who can tell?

She beckoned with her tiny index finger,

looked around to see if anyone would hear.

I leaned down so she could whisper in my ear:

Angels. Angels came to visit me in the night.

She’s been here only four years,

what can she know?

“Were they friendly?” I asked.

NO! she shouted, alarmed,

looked around again, whispered again,

They were VERY BIG.

They said “Shhhhh.”

They said



I wrote this several years ago, inspired by a story told me by a friend. The incident is real!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Christmas Eve caught me rummaging through cupboards, looking for the tin

we got full of French biscuits twenty years ago from Reneé.

The kitten followed me everywhere, chasing the odd bits falling in my wake.

Outside, snow fell on the frozen grass--lazy snow, not enough snow.

I was caught searching the Christmas trunk for a spool of red ribbon

I thought I knew I had, for one white angelabra candle,

for the bunch of dented tin bells inherited from my husband’s mom.

I wake Christmas morning in the dark,

after a long sound grownup sleep.

The short Advent is ended; things are done,

presents for the family all wrapped up.

The tin is found, and full.

Last night among lighted candles

we sang Come! Hark! Nowell!

ate the Christmas Bread, passed the Cup.

We drove home talking of Betelgeuse, of the Moon.

Under such a moon, my father once

saw Santa Claus flying through the sky,

his nine galloping deer puffing breaths of cloud.

When our son was small, once,

he saw an angel.

I arise in the quiet house,

light the tree,

dig through myself,

still searching.

MFCP, Christmas Day, 1999

(An old one!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I stood under pine trees in the snow

to feed chickadees from my hand,

weeping for the will of God:

shabby woman clothed,

hungry woman fed,

the alabaster flask snapped,

oil gleaming on glorious hair.

All the shadows shifted

while I wasn’t looking,

and the furniture rearranged.

Who are those people in my kitchen,

and what is the language they speak?

Easy to say I won’t.

This is not a manipulation,

a twist of things due to prayer,

but all its own, and mine together:

singular and held in being

by my being, my choice,

the love we can make

of one another.

So I will bear the gift,

consent to carry it in time--

this moment of deepest darkness,

astonishing grace.

MFCP, January 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009


Santa Claus might still come,

to children as old as me.

I might awaken on Christmas morning

and feel the old magic left

by his twinkling presence.

There might be, next to the packages

I myself put under the tree, a small inlaid table

with a silver English tray or a brass Indian tray,

perfect Ethiopian coffee in a cup of blue pottery

or bone china flowered blue and white,

and hot crisp croissants or toast and blackberry jam.

And maybe I’d look away from the exquisite food

and see the floor polished, pillows plumped,

every book and shelf dusted, each ornament

gleaming, the curtains crisp, magazines fanned

gracefully on the shining coffee table.

And the dishes might be washed and put away,

sink scoured; the spices (neatly labeled) arrayed

in alphabetical rows. Refrigerator as clean

as the day it was born, cabinets--even the mysterious

corner one, all tidied to perfection.

Bathrooms done with a toothbrush, ironing finished.

Cobwebs vacuumed from cellar rafters

and the cement floor all painted a gleaming green.

I might sit in the rocking chair (with no cat hair on the cushions)

and sip my coffee in the stillness of the morning,

amazed again that someone so remote in time

could descend, bells all a-jingle,

to make my most material dream come true.

MFCP December 23, 2002

Thursday, December 17, 2009


for the Spring Street Poets

We did not bring poems on papers.

We brought instead little crystal bowls,

arranged them in patterns around our feet.

Leaning down, we poured

olive oil into the bowls,

added fragrances drop by drop.

After Karla had poured her oil,

we said Stop.

The smell of green

is enough.


--I wrote this in 1998, after the first reading I did with the Spring St. Poets. It was a real dream.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887)

additional verse by Mary Pratt

Seven men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

"God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, -"Ho! what have we here

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me 'tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant

Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,

And felt about the knee.

"What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain," quoth he,

"'Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: "E'en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Then, seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant

Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

The seventh did an MRI

and checked the DNA.

“Now I can analyze each part,”

quoth he, “in every way.

I know I’ll fully comprehend

This Elephant one day.”


So oft in theologic wars,

The disputants, I ween,

Rail on in utter ignorance

Of what each other mean,

And prate about an Elephant

Not one of them has seen!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I waited a long time.

I came first, got a job in this hotel

down by the river. Folks stay here

before they go on the riverboats.

Mostly they’re nice folks,

but things can get rough sometimes.

I’m glad I’m in the kitchen.

He said he’d come

right after he helped the old folks

with the butchering and the beans,

but that time was well past,

and I hadn’t even had a letter.

“It’s a long way,” Cook kept telling me,

“a long walk. But he’ll come,

I can feel it in my bones.”

Cook caught me crying this morning

while I was stirring up the buckwheat cakes.

“How long since you’ve eaten, child?”

she wanted to know. “You’re getting

mighty thin.” I told her I guessed

I hadn’t had anything for a day or so,

I’d been that worried.

“That man of yours, he’ll get here,”

she said. “Only a fool wouldn’t come

for a woman like you.”

She made me sit down and eat

a plate of cakes, all buttered up.

While I was eating them,

I looked out the kitchen window,

and there he was,

coming down the street in the rain.


(Backstory for an old song. . . )

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


It was the goddesses she wanted:

sheets and sheets of crayoned portraits

the summer before she started to bleed.

And in the Christmas pageant a red-haired soprano

who sang Magnificat while the angel

spread her wings. The wind, too,

little brook through the old meadow,

and at night Artemis and all the rest.

Her lover those days was a crabapple tree;

their roots went together deep as their crown.

Later, of course, it all came apart.

The gods took over, pavements and towers,

languages she learned in order to get along.

She grew small and modest,

stopped drawing them;

there were no apples in her dreams.

And later yet--her own fruit ripened and falling--

she learned how trees want

nothing more than life:

nesting finches, five-pointed stars

in their immortal hair. She learned

how the broken trunks sucker,

the small brush of coppice bears blossom.

MFCP, 2003

Monday, December 7, 2009


Without a magic cloak, invisible am I.

Childbed did not claim me, nor spoiléd milk, nor plague.

My tough-nailed fingers are knobbly and dry;

My gait grows slow and stooped from all the heavy years.

Childbed did not claim me, nor spoiléd milk nor plague.

Black suits me now, flat boots and unshed tears.

My gait grows slow and stooped from all the heavy years.

I gaze out fly-specked windows at the falling snow.

Black suits me now, flat boots and unshed tears.

My garden sleeps agrestic in the frozen ground.

I gaze out fly-specked windows at the falling snow,

brown birds a-shelter in the shrubberies around.

My garden sleeps agrestic in the frozen ground:

garlic bulb and herb, onion, daffodil.

Brown birds a-shelter in the shrubberies around,

one cardinal passes red across the gray stone hill.

Asleep: garlic bulb and herb, onion, daffodil.

Cats sleep in chairs, in cupboards, upon my narrow bed.

One cardinal passes red across the gray stone hill;

at night outside thin walls I hear the brown owl call.

Cats sleep in chairs, in cupboards, upon my narrow bed.

Without ointment, without broom, across the moon I fly.

At night, without these walls, I hear the brown owl call.

Without a magic cloak, invisible am I.


(This is a pantoum, one of the more enjoyable forms to play around with.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


What if the angel

had said to Mary,

Hail. You’re no more blessed

than anyone. You will bear a child

and he will be

an ordinary man.

What if the angel

in that dark garden

had taken the cup away

and said, Don’t be a fool.

Why would your Father in Heaven

want you to die?

What if all the angels

were to say

Be afraid.

The only possible

peace is already come.