Sunday, October 27, 2013

Old Poems ReFound

Two toothbrushes sit in a mason jar
on the bathroom counter. One falls,
pulled by gravity, head first into the other.
Their bristled bodies rest
against each other

and I do not understand
how such rigid objects can wrap themselves
around each other so softly-

I am longing for your nearness and wonder,
as I search my own flourescent reflection
in the bathroom mirror,

how is it that the insides of our pink lips can
lean into each other like this-
when our jaws are set against
a single, small word?

November 6, 2010

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Poem for Memorization

“In the evening we shall be examined on love.”
-St. John of the Cross

 And it won’t be multiple choice,
though some of us would prefer it that way.
Neither will it be essay, which tempts us to run on
when we should be sticking to the point, if not together.
In the evening there shall be implications
our fear will change to complications. No cheating,
we’ll be told, and we’ll try to figure out the cost of being true
to ourselves. In the evening when the sky has turned
that certain blue, blue of exam books, blue of no more
daily evasions, we shall climb the hill as the light empties
and park our tired bodies on a bench above the city
and try to fill in the blanks. And we won’t be tested
like defendants on trial, cross-examined
till one of us breaks down, guilty as charged. No,
in the evening, after the day has refused to testify,
we shall be examined on love like students
who don’t even recall signing up for the course
and now must take their orals, forced to speak for once
from the heart and not off the top of their heads.
And when the evening is over and it’s late,
the student body asleep, even the great teachers
retired for the night, we shall stay up
and run back over the questions, each in our own way:
what’s true, what’s false, what unknown quantity
will balance the equation, what it would mean years from now
to look back and know
we did not fail.

Thomas Centolella, Lights and Mysteries, Port Townsend, WA: Cooper Canyon Press, 1995, p. 114

Summer Farming Art

Friday, August 16, 2013

Poem of Thanksgiving

How lovely and strange
to wake up to a man
in my bed this morning.
What bodies can do in the dark
can be displaced in the light
But not here, not now.
I am enveloped in a stupor of comfort
and the humble realization
that I understand so very little
about myself, yet
I increasingly know
the prayer of gratitude
the beauty of being seen
the courage of stepping into the river of love
when it bends towards you.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hot Nights

Hot nights make me think of you
wrestling in bed to find no sleep, but lips and hips
and foreign familiarness that fits.
On hot nights I smell your smell
in the crook of your neck when we are
ninety-nine and never dying
but when we do, it is from so much loving,
drinking deep pleasure,
dining on the hours of this precious life.
Hot nights soothe me
into the restless slumber of a small child
forehead wet with sweat, face pressed against hand, lips
pursed in angelic anesthesia of not knowing what cannot be.
Hot nights do not fall heavy often,
until recently, suddenly-
I am wholly unable to resist the heartbreaking heat.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

For Florentino: Saint of Desperate Lovers

 “My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.”
                                -Florentino Ariza, Love in the Time of Cholera

And in each chamber is a lover
that I do not want or do not need
but cannot extract and sometimes
these phantoms of passion and history that never
truly belonged to me bring condolences
and more frequently a searing nostalgia that provokes
old men to throw themselves from old bridges
so that my heart, like the old wrinkled matron of the house
who no longer takes money in exchange for the offering
of her body, resigns herself to everything the way it is
and lays awake at night with a prayer of thanksgiving on her lips
for the good fortune of too much loving.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

i you, ee cummings, do love

Somewhere I Have Never Traveled
e. e. cummings

somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which I cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, I and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(I do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands


Each year I am lead back
to this tree
that gave birth to me
I crouch under its branches
and tend the embers of a long ago fire
I have worked so stubbornly to keep alive
The spark is imperceptible
but my eye of knowing
knows what it knows, what can't be
spoken, but only wished for-
I fan forgotten flames
and stir cold hard ash with unshakable fixation

Years peal away and life calls
me to crawl out
from the den of the brooding tree
and stop trying
to breathe breath back into a body blue
and rigid, whether right or wrong,
there is no one to blame- only blind longing-
has kept me tethered to the same spot
year after year, turning over the same
stones and asking the same questions
desperate and hungry
Until, at last, a new question plays at the edge
of my mind: Do I have the courage
to let the fire extinguish fully and finally
and, after so long,
sit in cold, hard darkness?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

snapshots of a year

For as long as I can remember writing I have always kept some sort of journal or diary.  In elementary school I had a Lion King journal with a heart shaped lock; now I write in much more austere black and white composition notebooks, anything that can be procured cheaply or re-purposed.
I journeyed from Wichita, Kansas and back to Seattle in a whirlwind wedding weekend.  In the hours lingering between layovers, I found myself writing and reading passages I wrote the last ten months.  Here are some thoughts over the course of an-almost-year.

Omnis cellula e cellula.
All cells come from cells.
Life begets life.

Of teacher, English

no more brain
room        no room--
     nothing           more                                     stop.
stop feeling --                    feeling?
NO time; NO words
NO language; NO first
two                        too         to   many papers
white winged birds
shit on your desk
try to clean it up-
eleven hour days…
debate the industrial revolution & wage

It’s always ironic.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath

I grew up in Steinbeck land and was forced to read all of his shorter works in middle school: The Pearl, The Red Pony, and a few longer works like Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.  I remember feeling sucked in an inescapable vortex of despair when I read his writing (really just compounding my maladjustment thanks to raging pre-teen hormones) and overall despising such morose indoctrination.  For heavens sake, the red pony dies in the first few chapters, the strange boy spends the rest of the novel torturing small animals, and a dead baby is tossed into sea.  These were my middle school takeaways and enough to deter me from further Steinbeck reading. That is, until The Grapes of Wrath. 

I am teaching American Studies this year and felt like I have a teacherly duty to say something about  Great Depression and this iconic work.  So, I  tentatively picked up The Grapes of Wrath for the first time and have been radically surprised by my new love affair.  Steinbeck has created such rich, complex characters, superbly uses dialect, and manages to maintain a strong poetic essence throughout the narration.  There is such a lovely sense of humanist spirituality and deep ecology.  I can't help but be pulled into the story, to be enamored by the goodhearted decency of the Joad family, and to stand in allegiance with displaced migrant families gathered around their rusty cars on the side of route 66.

Thanks Steinbeck.

"Before I knowed it, I was sayin' out loud, 'The hell with it! There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's all part of the same thing.'... I says, 'What's this call, this sperit?' An' I says, 'It's love. I love people so much I'm fit to bust, sometimes.'... I figgered, 'Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all women we love; maybe that's the Holy Sperit-the human sperit-the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of.' Now I sat there thinkin' it, an' all of a suddent-I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it."

"I ain't gonna preach...I ain't gonna baptize. I'm gonna work i the fiel's, in the green fiel's, an I'm gonna be near to folks. I ain's gonna try to teach 'em nothin, I'm gonna try to lear. Gonna learn why
the folks walks in the grass, gonna hear 'em talk, gonna hear 'em sing. Gonna listen to kids
eatin mush. Gonna hear husban an wife a-poundin'the mattress in the night. Gonna eat with 'em an
learn. Gonna lay in the grass, open an' honest with anybody that'll have me. Gonna cuss an' swear
an' hear the peotry of folks talkin. All that's holy, all that's what I didn understan. All them things is the good things."

- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Sunday, February 17, 2013


the scales have fallen
from my eyes and I can see
clearly, once again, the trees.
I can almost inhale fully
and feel the pulse of my body
moving through space
and taste the great vibrations
of life.

For a flickering moment,
I almost
owned myself.

I Don't Know

I don't know if I pray anymore,
if I believe, of it I even need to.
Still, I sometimes think you're useful
in the case of death and divorce,
heartbreak and panic attacks,
after running a red light and frustration
of lost keys. I confess:
I only want the magic and the comfort
the way I look to my horoscope
and catch-phrases on the thin paper tab
of a tea bag. After all,
if I can't find the stars in this city's sky
what do I look for?

God, I don't know how to pray anymore.
But love, I still want you,
ache for you, hope and despair for you.
Love, I don't know if I believe
or if I just need you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird- Wallace Stevens

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendos,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

Funeral In Chico

The sun is red this morning
and the smoke hangs heavy in the sky.
The grasslands are burning
and there is nothing to do, but inhale.
My hands and feet are swollen
and the stiffness makes me wonder
is this what it feels like to die, and dry up,
then burn in blue flame and be no more?

The day of the funeral we pack boxes of mementos:
high school yearbook, Navy flags, work overalls-
and carry the things that wont fit- a rod iron bench
lifted from the front yard- and try to reconstruct the story
of a dead man from the hallow remnants.
All day I sweat in my red dress,
perspiration rings my underarms like ripe melons
and the heavy curtain of fabric sticks to my thighs
when I stand and approach the podium.
The microphone is adjusted and readjusted
and all the flat words sound like they come from another mouth.

Do you know the cost of dying?
More than marriage or birth.
Fifty sleepless nights and thousands spent
to eulogize the dead to death.
I cringe at half truths about suffering and salvation
and barely force myself to exchange
pleasantries with the strangers of family.
Even when it's over
it's not over.
All day and night the telephone rings
and the stream of visitors beat against the front door.
I want to crawl into a borrowed grave
and ask for borrowed peace.

I lay in the backroom, under the ceiling fan and listen
to the meaningless ebb and flow of sounds from a distant world.
Sweat soaks through my underwear as I stare,
glassy eyed at the world

hummingbirds dip their delicate beaks
into the nose of blooming flowers,
ripe figs are ready to explode, their purple skin
pulled taught over sweet pink flesh,
and the fertile ground, which so easily yields up
sun ripened tomatoes and sweet basil,
is ready to give itself over and over,
without apology, to the cycle of things.
I wish, more than anything, to forsake
taxing human contrivances,
to rise and fall like the hummingbird,
to be as beautiful and fully consumed
as the grass that was
and is no more.

Finally, I understand, if nothing else,
that all nature desperately years for consolation.
Even these lines are part of the striving.
There is no right way to be helpless
or to try to understand what it all means:
a funeral in Chico, California,
the red sun in the sky,
figs and hummingbirds,
a poem I do not know how to end.

If I Was To Write

If I was to write a poem
I wouldn't start here
or now or ever
because I don't know how
to feel my way through
all the unspeakable territory that is
too near and too far
too dangerous to feel in my mouth
and hear in my ears.

If I was to write a poem
I would feign ignorance, I would
tear it up, burn it
in blue flame
and scatter each hanging letter on the air
kiss the memory into oblivion
and refuse to believe there is any way
to immortality.

If I was to write a poem
I wouldn't start
because I couldn't possibly find
an end.