Saturday, June 29, 2013

small poems and a few dreams

May Moon
the way you kiss
each bud awake

my friend's garden
I sit and catch my breath
then let it go again

thank you
for filling my empty spaces

hurry —
it's tea time in the fairy garden —
all your friends are waiting

another orchid blossom falls —
my grey hairs
are also shedding

blue morning
a hole in the basket
where a cloud slipped through

first slow rain of summer
dear iris
there you are —
reveling in your 
luscious self —
making the most of all
your moments

a lifetime ago
fitting ourselves
around each other —
   lavender-scented bath
   oh how we laughed

along the back fence
mushrooms —
they weren't there this morning

"lost bird"
a sad sign firmly taped to the lamppost —
   around the corner
   in my friend's garden
   an empty bird house

a stranger's garden
three kinds of mint neatly labeled

the roses don't know
this house was abandoned
years ago

walking creekside —
a clutch of peonies 
gossip about their neighbors

stars rustling
in the still-grey silence —
the Post Office is closed —
I walk on

"Tell Me" "I'm Pretty" —
2 signs dress up
the sagging grey house

2 a.m.
my dream eyes
snap me awake

2 travelers find refuge
in a tea room —
soft bells and thunder claps —
the afternoon unfolds
slowly, sweetly

2 clouds
one looks like a cup
the other, a saucer —
   we stop the car at the side of the road
   and munch on dry crackers

brushing my fingers
over your laugh lines —
look at the moon!
it's laughing too

9 cups of tea
before the leaves reveal
the answer I am seeking

at the bottom of this small blue bowl:
a single grain of sand —
so many years
since I've been
to the sea


the way you stand
beside the tall marsh grasses
waiting to catch sight of the
great blue heron

(the one we call Rupert
because he reminds us of an English gent)

from a distance
I keep my eyes on

you are my
precious bird


sometimes you ask
did we do that last summer?

and I say
no, I think it was
eight years ago

you think about it

you're right, you say
eight, maybe even ten

all our long loose years
blowing in the wind


In the dream: a miniature horse, the size of a small dog, has come to live with me. She sleeps in a corner of the living room near the radiator but I sense she isn't warm enough and I go searching all over the house to find the perfect blanket for her.

In the dream: I am standing on a subway platform. A change in trains has been announced but I don't know what it means. Trains come and go but I don't get on; apparently none of them are the one I'm waiting for. My confusion and anxiety mount. As a new train pulls into the station I ask someone if this one is mine (though I don't know how to ask in a way that is understandable). A man says "You have to know if you're on the Inside Line or the Outside Line."

In the dream: I am driving up the hill toward Cornell — someone I don't know is actually doing the driving — a young man with a European accent. He's telling me about an essay he wrote for a class but I don't understand him very well. It starts to snow heavily. I realize I am wearing high heeled shoes with slippy soles. I am on my way to the first day of work at a new job at the university. Then I'm no longer in the car, but in a bus going along College Avenue. It's still snowing. I see that my stop is approaching but I'm not sure how to signal the driver so he'll know I want to get off. When I wake up I'm relieved to realize that: a) it's not snowing, b) I haven't worn high heeled shoes ever, c) I don't have to start a new job today, though I wonder if it would it be fun and exciting if I did), d) I don't ride the bus to work anymore, I just walk down the stairs from the second to the first floor of my house . . . and here I am.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire Hydrant / Artichoke

If it's so hot one day that you can hear the little hairs on your arms sizzling and your cousin Lynnie who lives around the corner from you comes over and knocks on your apartment door and says "come with me, I've got a great idea" don't go with her. Slam the door right in her face even if that's rude, listen to me, do it anyway, because the idea she has is a very bad one. 

Your cousin Lynnie wants to open up the fire hydrant in front of her building and run through the spray to cool off. Can you believe it? Okay, that's not even the worst part of her idea. This is the worst part — she wants to run through the water from the fire hydrant with no clothes on. You know what that's called? It's called being naked in public. It's illegal. And also it's a sin. Which is why I'm telling you to slam the door in her face. And later, when all the people in the neighborhood are talking about that wicked girl Lynnie you can just pretend you don't know who she is.

But if you have a friend that nobody likes, except you like her a little bit, you should be loyal and true and never pretend that you don't know her. 

When other kids make fun of her for bringing an artichoke for lunch, even though you think it's crazy to eat any food with the choke word in it, stand up for your friend, say something like "if Pauline wants to eat an artichoke what's it to you?" You don't have to be mean when you say this but you do have to say it.

And if she brings little packets of brown sugar and pours the sugar into her orange juice container and Eileen Krizzer says "yuck, now Pauline has bad breath" you can remind Eileen that sugar is sweet and what she's saying doesn't even make any sense. 

You should be a good friend to Pauline Marconi and never call her Pauline Macaroni (which is stupid) and here's why. 

Because one day soon Pauline's mother is going to make her go to St. Anthony's. That's a Catholic school. You didn't even know Pauline Marconi was Catholic and now you'll never see her again. 

When you think of her eating artichokes with the nuns it will make you sad. You hope the nuns don't make fun of her for putting brown sugar in her orange juice. But probably the nuns won't let her bring those packets of brown sugar to school, they probably have a rule called No Sweet Things. And maybe the nuns don't even believe in artichokes, maybe artichokes aren't Catholic. 

If you could sneak into St. Anthony's and put a little packet of brown sugar in Pauline Marconi's  brown lunch bag you would do it. If you knew she wouldn't get into trouble. And if you knew where to get a small packet of brown sugar. And if you weren't afraid that something unmentionable and horrible would happen to you if you walk through the doors of St. Anthony's. 

Something unmentionable and horrible might happen to you even if you walk on the same side of the street as St. Anthony's. So you don't do that. 

But every time you eat an artichoke (and yes, there will come a time when you are no longer afraid they will make you choke and then die) you will think of Pauline Marconi and you will be glad that you stood up for her when you had the chance.

You can just trust me about this.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pigeon Park

we call it Pigeon Park
wild boys everywhere
and pigeons, too

passing the basketball court
any hour, any day
I look down

this makes me invisible

my friend Lillian says
just because you can't see them
doesn't mean they can't see you

I don't believe her

black-eyed Susans
grow beside the jungle gym

it's bad luck to pick them

who cares about bad luck anyway?

I bring handfuls of flowers home
to my mother
but we don't have any vases
in our house

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


you surprised me this morning
and not in a good way
coming out of the cool shadows 
like you did

was I crossing your path 
or were you crossing mine?

I couldn't decide if I should
step over you
or walk around you

and if I walked around you
should I go left or right?

isn't there something about
good luck / bad luck?

isn't there always 
something about something?

I hate to admit it but
I am superstitious

my Grandma Sarah
(father's mother)
was known as the most superstitious woman
in the Bronx

this might not have been true

but I heard someone say it
when I shouldn't have been listening
from the other side of the door

and of course it wasn't meant as a compliment

it wasn't said in a 
"let's pin a medal to the front of
Mama's housecoat"
kind of way

it was said by one of the aunts
"we are all modern women here,
aren't we?"

and then another aunt spit
three times

because let's be honest
why would someone choose to take
unnecessary chances?

did you think it odd
when I stepped over you
then circled around
first left
then right?

are you still thinking about it?

I'm still thinking about you

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Still Arm-In-Arm

linking elbows in a town that is not ours
I ask Is this okay?
you pull my arm closer to your body

Where can I get a really good cookie? 
you ask
your mouth next to my ear

4 strangers (older than we are)
squeeze by on a narrow strip of sidewalk

we are blessedly anonymous here

I suggest the bakery we've been to before
And if that doesn't work out 
I tell you
I know of another place

we like to return to the familiar
but also (or so we tell ourselves)
we are open to the unexpected

we arrive
still arm-in-arm
at the bakery we know

they have exactly the kind of cookie you are craving

But next time we're here
you say
we could try the other place

Friday, June 14, 2013

How I Would Paint the Impossible Becoming Possible

How is it possible
with our girlfriends in the next room
talking about their dissertations
their committees
their students
the prospect of tenure down the line

How is it possible
that you and I
in that hot little kitchen
a chicken roasting in the oven
you making a salad
me cutting the tips off fresh green beans

How is it possible
the two of us
lean into each other
you pop a small tomato into my mouth
I put down the knife and reach for you

And all the while
we can still hear their voices
low and bossy
one makes a pronouncement
the other disputes it

How is it possible
we are careless, care-free
brazen hussies
tossing caution out the kitchen window

This is how 
I would paint
the moment before
our first kiss

This poem was inspired by "Imaginary Paintings," by Lisel Mueller

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Grandfather Step

My grandfather 
was a stern man —
absolutely no sense of humor —
something of a quiz master
suspicious and critical
certain that he was right about everything

I wasn't the only one 
who was afraid of him

But I'm glad
to have him living with me now
inhabiting my top step
just outside the front door

I noticed him the day we moved in
29 years ago next month

"Blue," I said, "meet Grandpa Joe"

we stood there
on that step
and pounded our feet
just so he would know
for sure
that we got it 

acknowledging his spirit
and oh yes
we understood he would 
be watching over us

not exactly approving

but protecting his own