Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
It’s hard to fit in this room,
he said, what with the elephant here.
Everyone stared at him like
sheep gaze while grazing.
He squeezed his way past
but when conversation turned
to inconsequential subjects
another pachyderm arrived.
As conversation increased both
in volume and vapidity,
another pachyderm packed in
and then another, until
eventually he was pressed into
a corner, hidden by the herd
where his cries went unheard
and everyone wondered where
he had disappeared to.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
He was a Buddhist,
riding his meditation,
the horses hooves his mantra.
He breathed in rhythm with the trees.
The princess was an illusion.
The kiss a metaphor
for what he did not know.
And he, like others before him,
knew that where the story ends
is actually its beginning.
She enrolled at a well-known liberal arts school.
Studied ethnology, folklore, myth
learned to decode symbols like wolf,
stepmother, wicked witch.
He chose culinary school.
Moved to the city.
Opened a bakery
specializing in gingerbread.
I know you want me to be black.
I am gray.
A mixture between dark and light.
It’s where I live, like the forest itself,
sunlight and shadow cohabitating.
Sometimes though you have to watch your step.
It can be difficult to live in a world
always hungry for a villain,
instinct versus intelligence.
My money is on instinct all the way.
While I may or may not have threatened some pigs,
chased a basket of goodies along a path,
I never broke any laws.
Consider my actions “food shopping”
like the old ladies at market.
My name is whispered late at night,
come take a walk and hear it,
if you’re not afraid of the dark ….
… in trying to heal the wound that never heals,
lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work.
-- Garcia Lorca
I know about the strip searches after our visits
as if our presence left you with a piece of humanity
that had to be removed.
I know how you kept to yourself reading,
praying, adrift in a sea of darkness,
to avoid answering difficult questions.
I know you were embarrassed by the number of letters
arriving daily, signs of those you loved, who missed you,
while those around you were often alone.
I know how on the nights you could not phone, you asked God
to send us a message so we would know you were safe
and we could sleep quietly and dreamlessly.
I know how you saved apples and crackers, stockpiled
them like treasure, to improvise pie and a slice
of home on a Sunday.
I know how you learned and unlearned trust every day.
What I don’t know is how you survived the unspeakable,
the fear, the loneliness, the despair and how you returned
to find the night sky, the open space nearly unbearable.
There’s a black spot in you, I don’t know how to reach,
deafening in its silence and every day it wrestles
for one more piece of your soul.
The words that cannot be said
bed down with things unspoken,
exchange a knowing wink,
an elbow nudge.
They live on the edge
slip in when we least expect
and then back out again.
The words that cannot be said
hang like ghosts, cobwebs,
the opposite of oases,
they add nothing,
take away all.
Friday, April 23, 2010
The Wicked Witch Reaches Steps 8 and 9
(wherein she must apologize and make amends to those she has harmed)
I hate to write a group letter; however,
I would hate to miss any transgressions.
I have reached a point in my rehabilitation
where I have acceded to my Higher Power and
I am ready to make amends.
To those whom I have caused physical or
emotional harm, I am sorry.
To the frogs, snakes and other creatures, I realize
what an insult it has been cursing humans
with your life form.
I am sorry.
To all small children, dogs, and small magical beings,
I should never have threatened or terrorized you, with either
my size or power.
I am sorry.
To stepmothers, crows, crones, old women,
people with warts, my actions have given you
a bad reputation.
I am sorry.
As a positive step, I have divested myself of flying monkeys.
I am now a vegetarian and no longer drink
potions. I avoid sweets. I grow my own vegetables.
I hired an image consultant, had my colors done.
I gave up the color black. Turns out, I’m a Spring.
I am taking voice lessons.
I am writing poetry instead of incantations.
I have gone to counseling for my self-esteem.
I can only hope that from this day forward you can forgive me
and we can live happily ever after.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
She and Baby Bear remained friends for many years.
They corresponded regularly in the warm months,
she in her nearly perfect script
he in his childish scrawl.
She never married,
never found anyone “just right,”
having grown accustomed to the coarseness
of winter fur tinged with the scent
of gristle and bone.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Every night the prince calls out to me
to return to bed and his dreams.
Insomnia is my friend now.
I have no use for sleep these days.
For those who criticize, I say
let me wander with Death
atop the walls of the night,
for only in that darkness
do I truly feel awake.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It isn’t the stories that trouble me,
it’s what you leave in the silence.
What you hold back is a team of wild
horses on the edge of a cliff
and I pray you are able to jump clear
when the wagon goes over.
Because that space is just too large
like the desert sky at night
and I am but a tiny star falling,
burning in the flash of an eye.
At night keep your nose in books,
by day put pen to paper.
Keep your head in a fog
of descriptive metaphors –
as red as a pimple on a teenager’s face.
Imagine a room full of editors exclaiming
over your works.
Exhale for good measure.
Walk down the street as if
you were writing with your footsteps --
leave an imprint wherever you go.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
1. My name is Rumplestiltskin.
I am an Enchanted Being.
My occupation is spinning straw into gold,
but I also garden, play banjo and raise chickens
2. I deny perpetrating fraud.
It was the girl’s father who boasted
of her skills. I actually do know
how to spin.
3. I am not a kidnapper.
It was never about the baby.
I felt sorry for her, but I needed collateral upfront --
you’re a businessman, you understand that.
4. I gave her every opportunity to guess my name.
Off the record, I had secretly hoped
she would escape. By that I mean
take the baby and run far away.
5. I would have told her to marry for love.
No one can spin that.
Friday, April 16, 2010
of the forest: Estate Sale
Everything must go!
Items include: one used hatchet,
one hooded woolen cape
(frayed near the edges),
one picnic basket, furniture,
assorted household items.
Grandmother was gone.
There was nothing
to tie her to the countryside.
So she sold her belongings,
changed her name; moved.
Walking the gray city sidewalks,
black rain coat, leather briefcase in hand,
her ears pricked
smell heightened by the iron scent
of her own blood.
This time when the wolves came,
she would be ready ...
seven shirts, seven pairs of socks,
seven pairs of pants, and
seven pairs of boxers,
then how much money does
Snow White have to pay
for laundry, so she
can hang out in the forest
with friends, smoking
and reading cheap magazines?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I’ve cut my hair.
Keep it short now.
I like the solitude.
I’ve also modernized the tower.
Installed a dumbwaiter.
The outside is overwhelming,
all that open space.
I prefer my tower,
where the sun enters my narrow
window in trickles and I get
my reality in small pieces.
Everyone likes a good tower,
the security it provides.
Only some prefer to call it
by another name, like career
The prince once told me,
You’ve made your tower
now live in it.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Cinderella notices the accent of crow’s feet,
silvery strands among the gold.
Turning the mirror over,
she braids her hair with a sigh.
She was not happy, one could even say lonely.
No one to talk to in the castle.
Servants (except her own maid)
were considered beneath her and
Charming too busy running his kingdom.
Cinderella glanced about the room.
She had never really fit in here
surrounded by luxuries -- jewelry, ball gowns, furs.
Perhaps she had merely substituted
one type of servitude for another.
Then there were the shoes --
colors and fabrics she could hardly imagine,
maybe a few she couldn’t.
She had never admitted to anyone,
even her personal maid,
how much she despised shoes,
how even the glass slippers had pinched
made her feel confined.
She preferred to be barefoot.
Feel the earth, the ground on her skin.
The ground never lies to you.
Just like late at night she preferred to sleep
near the fireplace, in solitude,
where her maid would find her
hands and feet dirty from stirring the ashes.
Monday, April 12, 2010
(with apologies to any fairy tale purists ...)
Prince – now King – Charming worried.
His once youthful princess seemed distracted.
Ella (liked calling her that, to remove
the Cinders from her name),
his Ella had been pining for her childhood
showing indifference, even
forgetfulness, toward the step-
sisters, -mother who had tortured her.
Ella had been discussing the issue of mice
with the servants in the castle,
although life had been rodent-free
for years. She called them “her liverymen.”
He worried that she had never truly
found happiness in this fairy tale world.
One day Ella disappeared.
When she did not join them at supper
Charming went to her room,
bits of fairy dust glittering in the corner,
he found both glass slippers under
her dressing table. Ball gowns hung in rows
awaiting the parties for which they were made.
After some time, tales came to the castle
of a wandering woodsman, who saw
a handsome woman, silvery blond hair
braided down her back,
walking barefoot in the pumpkin patch,
speaking softly in the vines, now where’s my carriage …
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Millions of mile away
A shiny pinpoint on
the velvet darkness of space.
Another number (G2V)
in a numbered galaxy.
But to us, not just some
luminescent ball of gas.
Morningstar, with many names
Sol, Helios, Surya, Ra
you blaze and scorch and shine and kiss
and melt your way into our lives
radiating through even the tiniest chinks.
We adore you.
Nay we worship you.
All the world’s flora crane their necks
to follow your gaze horizon to horizon.
We mourn your absence
even for a night
(our satellite purveying only
cold recycled light).
And when you hide for days on end
behind a curtain of clouds,
we wither disconsolate in disappointment.
One wink from you is the road to pure bliss.
We, the inhabitants of your blue
and green planet, one of your octet,
(unless you count Pluto)
know we are different.
Why else the water, trees, flowers,
grass, bees, bugs, pollen, bacteria,
landscapes teeming with life?
Your constancy is a mask
we see through, like the little ways
you show appreciation. Your tricks charm us
like the one where you bend your white rays
over our sky in an arch or two of color
showing us the full spectrum of your affection,
or when you blaze through the gases of atmosphere
bathing us in your glow before you depart.
You hide your feelings well
and if we could look behind
your splendidly brilliant corona
we know what we would find …
Passing yourself off as an herb.
I call you menace – spearmint.
There are not enough juleps or teas
to make up for the damage.
Oh, you’re a sly one!
Starting our innocently,
tiny purple flowers
but turn one’s back
and there you are
in bed with the Italian
oregano, warming your runners
until your next conquest.
Lavender pales with your tendrils
under her skirts,
and one can’t even imagine
what happened with the French
tarragon you silently crept up on.
There seems to be no end
to your evil.
Some day I expect you to take over
the entire world.
This afternoon you’ll start
with the neighbor’s yard.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Three bright blue eggs in pieces on the grass
the last strand of string sways,
tethered to the holly branch.
The nest, intact and abandoned,
must have blown sideways
attacked by gales of wind
a sudden spring storm.
He places the nest in a safe spot
just under a skirt of low branches.
He hopes the birds will find it
but in his heart he knows
the robins will not return.
He is saddened by the spring rain,
bringing life to so many,
and an end to these few.
Friday, April 9, 2010
He looked me in the eye
then he lied to me
his lips never sneered
eyes never flashed.
But he lied.
Then I could see it –
the lie – just beneath
his skin, moving around,
as if it were some parasite
burrowing, becoming part of him.
And when he smiled
it almost disappeared.
When I said I love you
all I could hear was the lie,
chewing away inside him,
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
This dust is alive.
Protons of pollen
a catch of breath, tears in our eyes
fingers drum hearts race
in time with primal rhythm.
life vibrating through us
we sing on the same frequency
the particle physics of Spring.
I want to write a poem
but I can’t.
It’s time, Dad says,
to move into a smaller place.
I need less stuff he says.
I want to write a poem
but I can’t
begin to fathom
selling the house where
we all grew up.
He sends me some boxes.
The attic is nearly empty,
he says, let me know …
he says, when they arrive…
I want to open them
but I can’t
Pandora’s box of memories
I may not be able to recover
what I unleash.
Everything hangs in this moment
like sunshine on that porch corner
where our bikes used to sit
gleaming turquoise and white streamers
ready to be ridden.
Exactly like that.
Monday, April 5, 2010
A plague of tourists,
nay a terror of tourists.
In pestilent parades down the Avenue.
Tired toddlers in Easter best,
drag cheap souvenirs (sure to break at home).
Screaming gaggles of teenage hormones
Metro trains vomit globs of strollers and backpacks.
Monuments groan under the girth of their numbers.
Camera lenses steal our souls
while we dodge mis-directed map readers.
This vernal plague has no cure.
There is no inoculation for the locals,
no tourist-icide spray to prevent
walking six abreast on sidewalks, or
hanging from statues like moss in a swamp.
All we can do is take refuge in our unknown quiet,
private gardens of delight.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
It’s too many word he says
reading over my shoulder.
I’m anxious to finish,
to walk in the sun.
Too many words? What does he know?
He’s a baker, not a poet.
The slap of dough on the counter
matches the scratching of my pen.
His strong hands massage the past
sugar, yeast, flour, water
into sinewy strands of gluten,
gently pushing this way and that
quietly rolling and shaping dough
as I shape word on paper.
His strands knit together
a perfect boule, Xs on top.
I smell yeast as the oven closes.
Easter dinner is a promise right now.
Spring taunts me through the window
no amount of leavening could
lighten my words.
In the end I cede to the baker
silence may be golden
golden as the crust on his steaming bread.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
His mother can’t read the sign, whose script letters
-- the only embellishment on the shabby corner –-
appear to spell “JEWPLE”
instead of “TEMPLE”.
This old bodega, made over into a home
for evangelical, baptist, Pentecostal
Christian practitioners, where the testifying
and singing of the congregation and its Sunday converts
weaves its way around the sirens,
thumping music, and voice of the city.
The building rocks with religion
and tonight of all nights he knows
that they will be singing and witnessing
and praising as if they alone were raising the dead.
He is secretly thankful for their presence
although he cannot explain why.
When his mother asks him if they celebrate
Easter at the Jewple,
he can only smile and say,
“I don’t know Ma.
Let’s open the windows and listen.”
Friday, April 2, 2010
See you soon I tell her
as I bend to kiss her cheek.
God willing she says at the door.
The ride in the convertible makes her hair stand
at attention so she looks taller.
But, framed in the window, she looks small,
fragile like old china.
She, who joined the army as a teen,
took up guns and ammo and bombs,
who watched walls and buildings disintegrate
and families disperse like seeds on the wind.
She came to us from a world of no tomorrows
with strength, faith, hope,
instincts of a hungry animal.
She no longer smells the sharpness
of gunpowder on her hands, but she sees
trails of tears left by those who disappeared.
Tonight we have come from her 80th birthday
a party where generations celebrated her,
ate, sang and danced like there was no tomorrow.
As she waves goodbye from the window,
I know that she knows
one day her tomorrow won’t come
-- perhaps unexpectedly like the heart attack
that stole her husband.
I watch for the light to go on
the curtains to close
god willing I whisper to myself.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Some days I feel like a mis-matched sock,
separated from it mate by a laundry mishap,
standing out of place, barely visible
between shoes and pants legs.
Other days I am the lost mitten in the cupboard,
catching pieces of sunlight in the curve
around the hinges as the door opens and shuts
and I am left alone.
Unless it’s the days I am a single shoe
on the road, reclining sideways
leaning into the windy wake of cars
propelled by high velocities.
I sit unmoved by time
while the world turns around me.
Tomorrow I want to be
the shoe on the other foot
and then I’ll spin around myself.