Monday, April 30, 2012

To Forget, to Remember

When my grandmother forgot how
to brush her hair and twist it into a bun
my grandfather combed her hair.

Once he said it was red like fire.

When my grandmother remembered
yesterday and lost today
my grandfather spread photos
on their claw footed dining room table.
They revisited the past,
a tableau of scenes.

Once he said we fished
for silver bream in the Don River.

For a year my grandmother forgot
and my grandfather remembered.
Day after day they returned
to Russian words.

Ya tebya lyublyu, he said.
I love you.

Poetic Asides prompt*

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Found on the Phrontistery

I admit to an addiction
to arcane words and
convoluted play on words.
Once I adopted the word obrumpent
and promised to use it once a day,
to cleanse it of tarnish and rust.
After two days of seeking where to
add an adjective meaning bursting
and thinking that balloons might work
and soap bubbles and bubble gum
I simply ran out of places without
losing a sense of decorum.

Poetic Asides prompt

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What to Eat

Do I want the lobster salad
or the broiled fish? How about the scallops
in olive oil and garlic, sopping, drenched
with the taste of Italy where I ate
fried calamari in an outdoor cafe
and drank chianti while discussing Dante
until dessert obliterated all talk.

Poetry Asides prompt

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Trouble With Nostalgia

Hang in the past and you miss the now
while hankering for what happened.
Recalling isn't the same as lamenting
for what went before, nostalgia is bittersweet--
makes one add layers to a memory,
a pastiche of sentiments, shadows.
Nostalgia can be a noose, a rope, a place
where warts disappear and store bought
glitter covers yesterday. Plaintive glances
behind close the blinds on today.

Poetic Asides prompt

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Forgot the Treat

Siamese cat
waits at my
front door for me to
return home, and then raises
his back and lets me know he's annoyed.

Poetic Asides prompt

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Ace Ball

My father wore a black glove to hit a black ball
against a concrete wall. Open handball where the ball
richocheted faster than the speed of light and the men
met on Saturday morning to continue the game
begun the week before when Gus and Phil
won for "the first time" my father said.
I watched them run back and forth
jockeying for position, for the right to be
the winners for a week.

"Old men, " the teen jocks yelled, " want a challenge?"
I remember my father and Gus
taking them up. They played the jocks

back and forth to win points- with slices, fist balls,
fly shots, killers, spikes. They put them away
with balls that hit the cracks and a roller and a slicey
so close to the ground that Gus yelled,

" That shot is called a sonic boom."

"Old men, " said my father, " have tricks and footwork."

Poetic Asides prompt

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Love Poem

It's fun doing the dishes,
even emptying the garbage
or discussing mysteries
or wrangling over eschatology
or whether the Red Sox pitching
will right itself before it's too late—

or succumbing to yet another frozen yogurt
or hiking in Maine and scanning the earth
for polypores, for sheep laurel

or saying love you
before sleep takes over

Poetic Asides prompt

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Morning

He flings the paper from the end of the walkway
with a a single movement the way he once
threw a discus. It lands in the grass. I put on a hat
to cover my sleep tossed hair and walk outside.
A sweatshirt, baggy pants and sandals
make me presentable for another neighbor
retrieving a paper. We nod. It's too early
to discuss the fate of the world or whether
the new crossword editor has resorted
to arcane words and convoluted play on words.
I glance at the front page and note that
later I'll read about bike couriers making a comeback.

It's a good morning.

Poetic Asides prompt

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Judgement

Art hurts. Art urges voyages -
and it is easier to stay at home.
—Gwendolyn Brooks

Remember painting a tree, grass and a sun?
Sun spikes surrounded a red-orange ball
twice the size of the tree top. I remember
painting purple leaves and yellow flowers
shaped like tulips, or teacups on sticks.
Later on I discovered that teacups have handles
and flowers have petals and it's hard to draw
a teacup that stays on the table and doesn't float
through the air or a flower that looks like itself.

Remember when only you knew what was on the paper
and adults said tell me about your picture.
That happened before you drew the fat trunk
and round tree top, before you knew about the round sun,
or the names of flowers and how to tell them apart.

Once I heard an adult say to a child who painted
the sky green and the grass a deep plum
that's not the way you see the sky or the grass
I still see magenta clouds and cerulean blue bushes,
sap green stars and imperial purple rivers.

Today I painted a path of orange and pink across
a page. I added a red line and a small square, stood
back and let my eye roam the landscape.
An adult said, don't be offended but it looks
like a pig on a leash
. No, it's a cycle, a hum,
a sequence repeating an endless pattern.
It's an interpretation of a Fibonacci number
gone awry, a line leading to the other side
of the paper where endless white terrain
obliterates pink pigs on leashes.

Poetic Asides prompt

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Visit

She sat talking to the social worker,
explaining how she first began
collecting hubcaps, then how she
visited junk yards where old cars
without tires rusted away. She brought home
fenders and bumpers, steering wheels
and shattered lights. At first, she said,
everything had a place. A collection
needs organization—hubcaps in the kitchen,
bumpers under the bed, steering wheels in the closet.
But you know, she said, when I began to
separate the foreign and domestic I ran out of space.
That's how the bathtub held shattered lights.
The social worker explained with the patience
of someone who couldn't understand
this penchant to collect—the house needed cleaning.

Do you know, she said, there's a man
who spent thirty years collecting Donald Duck items—
and someone who collected 80,000 Coca Cola objects?
They built shelves, glass cases, museums.

The social worker moved the fenders off the couch,
kicked aside a door, and moved a box of stick shifts
before saying, three days. You have three days.

Christ, she said, only needed three days.

Poetic asides prompt

Friday, April 20, 2012

Let's Pretend

Let's Pretend
to find the street vendor
where I once bought steaming hot chestnuts
on a winter afternoon

to find the coffee house
where I wore a black burlap skirt
and drank espresso in Greenwich Village

to find the street corners
where Allen Ginsberg read poetry,
the studios where abstract expressionists
pushed at the edges of art

Let's pretend to find the boundaries of memory.

Poetic Asides prompt

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It Isn't The Cake

It takes a long time to grow young.
—Pable Picasso

I liked pink frosted roses, sugar sweet,
on my birthday cake—raspberry
filling between layers, and a frosting
deep enough to reach a knuckle.
I liked to drink a glass of milk
with my slice of cake, not skim or 2%,
milk, but milk with the cream on top.

Later on when I no longer had frosted
cakes and the milkman stopped delivering
glass bottles of milk, I graduated to ice cream
birthday cakes— layers of coffee
ice cream sandwiched between vanilla.
Cakes frozen so frigid that only a knife
heated under hot water could make the first cut.

Years went by and I made lopsided cakes,
cakes from boxes, my own frosting, frosting
from a can. I bought figurines and candles,
crepe paper streamers, birthday horns, trinkets.
I set up Pin the Tail on the donkey, musical chairs,
scavenger hunts, and backyard games.

Once I had a surprise birthday party. No one had
a camera, no digital prints to post on Facebook.
The menu—lopsided cupcakes with pink coconut
frosting, hats made out of construction paper,
a poster with a misspelled birthday greeting.

Today I'd have a video to document the party,
to attest to its reality.

Poetic Asides prompt

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Peel zucchinis, cut into thin slices
the same way we parse sentences
into parts, each word carrying weight.
Quarter tomatoes, remove the seeds
the same way we throw away what
feels awkward, chafes against the skin.
Slice onions, cube an eggplant
the same way we mix together tears
and our stray fragments.
Brush clinging dirt off mushrooms
the same way we ask to be cleaned,
refined, unspotted, set free.

Poetic Asides prompt

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Changing the Ending

Fantasy is when you dream
of returning to the empty lot
where you hit a home run
and ran to the car mat
to the half-finished knitted scarf
to the empty cereal boxes
held down by rocks
and finally rounded third
and slid and touched the
corrugated cardboard box
flattened in the shape of home plate.
It moved and you were tagged out.
Fantasy is when you return and the
base stays put and you score the winning run.

Poetic Asides prompt

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yesterday Happens After Today

Who added salt to the cake mix?
Who hung Christmas lights on Memorial Day?
Who wore a down jacket when the outside
thermometer touched ninety-four degrees?
I'm guilty of turning life into surrealistic scenarios,
of wearing polka dot tops with striped pants,
of leaving my watch in its case
and carrying a sundial
of writing with a porcupine quill.
I'm inside out, turned about, mixed up,
baffled and bemused by realists.

Poetic Asides prompt

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Visit

To slash away at the masks we wear,
to splinter them apart,
to render them transparent
requires a steady hand.

To look beneath the outer layers,
to strap on thin veneers
and then peel back each stratum
laying bare what is hidden
demands grit.

And when it's done, when
the coverings are gone,
let's talk— without
ballooning up
the past.

Poetic Asides prompt

Saturday, April 14, 2012


The day of my dentist appointment
when I anticipate the world ending
with the annunciation—the enamel
eroded off your front teeth.

The day the Atomic Clock springs ahead,
counting off one minute closer to midnight ,
one minute closer to catastrophic destruction.

The day I hear the four horsemen
riding through town, I'll know
it's time to relocate.

Poetic asides

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

I meant to buy a scratch ticket
Someone else won the prize
I forgot to listen to the weather
and hail pellets the size of eggs
cascaded around me
I bought two pair of bell bottoms
just before skinny legs became the fashion
I won a black leather attaché case
the year I decided to carry a backpack.

Poetic Asides prompt

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Poetry Workshop

Holding a pencil
can be frightening, scary—
choosing to look back,
selecting what to recall,
what to write and what to hide.

Poetry Asides prompt

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Get out the tees, new glove,
the balls that promise to fly
on thermals,  practice putting
into a plastic ring, stretch
and swing, stretch and swing

Check clubs, polish last year's shoes 
and hope they're still water proof
This is the year
to birdie the three par hole
to par that hole that has a bunker
wider than the Sahara
to shave a few points off
a handicap you only whisper
to good friends and non-golfers

Poetic Asides prompt

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trees Then and Now

I am from fire escapes,
from sidewalks and alleyways.
I am from shoulder to shoulder buildings.
(Close enough to see
into someone's kitchen.)
I am from six trees planted
in dirt patches surrounded by concrete.

I'm from chicken soup and honey bread,
              from sweet potatoes sold from a cart
I'm from the front page of the newspaper,
              vocabulary games around the kitchen table,
from Larry and Minnie,
              from a pull out bed in the living room
  a sewing machine in the hallway,
              and plastic covers on the couch.

I'm from my grandfather losing 
his name at Ellis Island.
From my other grandfather 
having a mistress and a Teamster's card.

I collected theater stubs, matchbook covers,
quick ink sketches, letters, and postcards
in collage covered memory books.
I am from still life charcoal drawings,
pen and ink sketches of rocks,
doodles with lines that 
drew new landscapes
where trees elbowed
each other.

Poetic Asides prompt
form adapted from 
" Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon

Monday, April 09, 2012

Study of A Shady Character

Prejudice is a great time-saver.
You can form an opinion
without having to get the facts.
—E.B. WEhite

Someone who looks out of place
Has an eccentric way of dressing
Adheres to a different set of beliefs
Dares to hold unpopular opinions
Yearns to step off the beaten path

Not one of us
Not one of us

Poetic Asides prompt>

Sunday, April 08, 2012

On Easter Sunday

The stone which the builders rejected
is become the head of the corner
Psalm 118:22

I traveled on stilts,
avoiding cracks
and knotted places.
I told myself,
follow at a distance.
Then I paused
long enough
to listen
to the whole story
from once upon a time
to "where did he go?"
to "it can't be."
to Hallelujah

Saturday, April 07, 2012


The coffee barista spins around
on her toes, before pouring
steaming milk into a paper cup.
A girl wearing a Miss Phoebe's
School of Ballet tee shirt
holds her mother's hand
and lifts her heels off the wood floor.

Poetic Asides prompt

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hiding Isn't an Option

Who can hide in secret places
so that I shall not see them?
Declares the Lord.
Do I not fill heaven and earth?
Declares the Lord

Jeremiah 23:24

to create
an excuse, I lost
the sense of how seeds grow, extend roots
grow taller, produce leaves, flower.
Did I stop watering,
ignore the signs
or pretend,
and turn

Poetic Asides prompt

Thursday, April 05, 2012

In Poland

My great-great grandmother
kneaded dough on Thursday,
let it rise overnight
and on Friday twisted it into braids
for the Sabbath meal.

She knit the braids together
intertwined like lover's arms.

Today I dip communion bread in wine.

Poetic Asides prompt

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

100% Certain

My friend believes
every word,
"You can't" she says,
"take out a word you don't like
without diminishing the whole."
"Are you certain," I ask.

"One hundred percent certain."

"Literally," I ask.
"Verbatim," she said. "Word for word."

"Are you certain about being uncertain?" she asks.


"I believe in metaphors, allegories,
and parabolic renderings—"

Poetic Asides prompt

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

An Apology

I'm sorry I left the water running
and it overflowed, just like the river
after a spring rain and melting snow.

Lukewarm water traveled through
the ceiling and down the walls
past your Great Aunt Martha's tatted
Celtic Cross on the living room wall.

Remember how the road disappeared
when the Concord River spread over its banks?
Trees lost their footing, and
men stood knee deep in water fishing for carp.

If the bank called a half hour later
I'd have been in the tub bathing
with the water at a safe level.

Remember how we drove ahead of a flash flood
watching the water encroach on both
sides of the road? You drove like a NASCAR driver
at the Gatorade Duel, outrunning the water,
spinning tires, foot to the ground.

If I didn't go upstairs to find my
account information I'd have heard
the water pass through the Rya rug
we bought on sale before the stream
headed for the basement.

I'm really sorry for the damp spots,
for the buckled ceiling, for the floating books,
for the limp Celtic Cross and for the checks I bounced.

Poetic Asides Prompt

Monday, April 02, 2012


Don't be
a stranger
or a guest
I'm sending a hand-drawn map—
I'm posting signs along the way.

It's been twenty years
since you passed this way.
The path is swollen,
blocked by brambles,
nettles, burrs, and goosegrass.

Today I'm clearing the footpath.
I've flattened the scarred places
with my hands and cut away
dense underbrush. I'm rearranging
the furniture of time.

Poetic Asides prompt

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Learning a New Language

to the way the wind
carries my words,
spins them,
brushing away husks—
then unwraps,
lays bare, and
scrapes away
the dried up coverings
to what I want to say

Let's meet over coffee
or share a meal—
spread our words across the table
peel away their shells.
strip down,
prune, crop, pare
what remains
and talk

Poetic Asides prompt
PAD challenge

Put on Your Helmet We're Going for a Ride

April is National Poetry Month and I've signed up—

For the next thirty days I'll be posting a poem. Actually I think that writing a poem a day means that you're not spending enough time really thinking about the writing of a poem. Or as John Ciardi said in How Does a Poem Mean?

"The fact that a good poem will never wholly submit to explanation is not its deficiency but it"s very life. One lives every day what she cannot define. It is the feeling that is first. What one cannot help but sense in good poetry is a sense of the whole language stirring toward richer possibilities than one could have foreseen."

When I write a poem a day, language—the stretching for the best way to convey something, takes a backseat to expediency. But—perhaps some the poems will draw me back in May or June or beyond when there's more time.