Friday, June 30, 2006

"Coffee with Roxie"

Young enough to be my granddaughter,
you bow your dark-haired head
over your latté and push the highlighted
strand back from your eyes as you
tell me, shyly and hesitant,
how you've decided to commit
to a relationship with Anne,
acknowledging your own identity at last
as well as your need for another. Details,
then, tumble over themselves as you move
quickly beyond the hard words of admission
into the swirling excitement of consequence --
styles of curtains and sheets, patterns
of breakfast china and couch upholstery,
towel colors and the arrangements of furniture --
all that new thingness of union,
and easier than the still-unfamiliar
and slippery terrain of the heart you struggle
to negotiate in words. Then you pause,
raise your head, and, your eyes pure light,
tell me how her presence makes you want
to tear her clothes off, throw her on the bed,
and make her come again and again
with your hands and mouth and body
until she begs you to stop before
she dies.
And old enough to be
your grandfather, I want to be young
and female and to wrap my arms and legs
around you and clasp you tight until I die
of your eyes' light.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


On the surface of the old, slow river,
fragments of incandescence drift
across familiar green murk as birch
and hickory whittle morning to shavings.
A blue jay, lost in new foliage, tosses
splinters of song down through air
touched with the scent of tea olive
planted next to the kitchen window
up the slope of the hill.
You stand for a moment, then turn
to look past the cedar to the ripples
where a mate-hungry carp has just
slapped the river with its tail, ritual
announcement of spring's arrival.
A few steps away, the shed, long empty,
where the roan pony called every morning
and evening for its food and brushed
against you like a large collie, eager
to be stroked. Gone now as the daughter
is gone. You finger the moldering bridle,
then turn back to the dozen mudstone steps
cut and set in the hillside three decades
ago. The blades of arthritis stab knees
and hips as you climb back to the house
perched on the hillside for the final time.
The last truck waits to take you three miles
to the ground-floor apartment devoid of memories.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Bean Week"

That's what it was called, though it
was really just a weekend of rush and flurry
near the end of August when it was time
for the late-summer harvest in Aunt Lillian's
garden. Husbands and uncles dispatched
into the hot green corridors thumpingly filled
galvanized buckets my cousin and I ferried
to the three reigning sisters in folding lawn thrones
under the huge maple near the kitchen. They
strung and snapped variously-shaped and -hued pods
as quickly as thought. Once their large bowls
were filled, they disappeared inside the kitchen,
and their places were taken by the husbands and uncles
stringing and snapping, then returning to the alleyways
of green to pick more. To venture into the kitchen
was to enter a world of heat and steamclouds
like thunderheads struck through with the lightning
of the sisters' tempers. But the glistening lines
of empty Ball jars on the counter were gradually
transformed into sealed cylinders of green light
which was the bounty of beans -- bush beans,
pole peans, snap beans, wax beans, lima beans,
French and Italian and broad beans, beans
transmuted from soil and water and light
into the stuff of winter dinners such as would
sustain us through the months to follow
after. Hallelujah!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"Ceremony Without Words on St. John's Eve"

Let it take place
on a little hill,
gentle, not steep,
in the company of
a few tall hardwoods --
sycamores, tulip poplars,
cottonwoods -- such
as love nearby
running water. The time
is to be just before dusk
on St. John's Eve.
Each participant receives
a bee's wax taper tied
with fresh sprigs
of caraway thyme
and rosemary -- "that's for
remembrance." They form
a circle and join hands
silently for one minute,
after which all drink a cup
of wine, a vintage St. Julien,
and the fifty silver
balloons are released,
each bearing its small
linen packet on a red
silk string; all light
their tapers and descend
the hill as I
am scattered in fifty
directions through
the dusk of the shortest
night of the year.

(Revision: Draft II)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"Fish Camp"

There are some islands of memory
that drift unanchored through the sea
of the everyday and the known.
Fish camp -- on a wooded hilltop,
a large screened porch, dense heat
that powers the whine of mosquitos,
the abrasive smell of hot iron kettles
over fires, oil hisses with catfish
and hushpuppies, potato salad
cold and dill cuts the grease
coating the tongue, and ice
rattles in thick glasses heavy
with sweet tea. A rust hound
snaps tossed bits of fish in
flickering firelight. Adult voices
indistinct and uninteresting drift
in and out beyond a creased deck
of Old Maid cards yellowed by
the porch light. Who inhabited
this island, and when and where --
all these have fallen
off the edge of the world.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


(Jacob van Ruisdael's "Landscape with Oaks and Waterlilies")

Turning the page in the art book,
she's unexpectedly caught
by van Ruisdael's landscape.

The dark massed oaks
hold her motionless
with no room to breathe

between them, as the heavy
gray clouds press down
to drive air from her lungs.

Choked, she feels the chill
that has reddened the billows
of cloud-dimmed leaves.

One fingertip slowly traces
the sunbright arc of the dead oak
which curves like a scythe

across the living, then draws
it back, surprised
at the absence of blood.

Shrunken as the shepherd
almost lost against the forest,
she turns to the few waterlilies

almost lost against the darkened,
overgrown water; even these
move from green to cold-stunned red

as her eyes traverse from left
to right. And there, above
the only lily reflected in the water,

the trees spread apart,
open to the distant headland
indistinct but radiant in the sun.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress has announced the new U. S. Poet Laureate is Donald Hall.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Over Yonder

A new poet has arrived in The Jackdaw's Nest: Nijole Miliauskaite.

Monday, June 12, 2006


The first time we grew herbs,
we planted the whole back yard,
and the harvest took us by surprise;
we simply weren't prepared
for the burden of abundance
we found ourselves faced with.
Some herbs to be used fresh,
with others, just enough, to see
us through the winter with delicate
reminders of the warmth and motion
of summer gone -- that's all
we thought we'd have. We cut, bundled,
and tied stems -- rosemary, thyme,
marjoram -- and hung them from the cords
we'd stretched across the pantry. Without
making a noticeable dint in what still
flourished in the sun. We stretched
more cords across the kitchen, cut
and hung more herbs -- dill, mint, tarragon --
without reaching a conclusion. More
cords across the den, more herbs --
oregano, sage, rocket -- then into
the bedroom -- basil, chives, savory --
before arriving in the living room --
parsley, fennel, bay -- and the end.
Tsunamis of scent swept through
the house, swamping the day-to-day
with rich exuberance that tired
the nostrils. Neighbors complained
that we were using too much air
freshener. Bees lay siege well
into winter. Eventually, fragrance
faded, and we were left dodging
dangling bundles gathering dust,
lashed together with spiderwebs.
We gathered them -- wheelbarrow
loads -- hauled them out, and
burned them; it took much of the day,
and the scents returned, ascending
back to the sun.
Now we ask only
for the merest pinch, artfully deployed
by the sparest of hands.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Why is it for this man
that perfection's not enough?
What is it draws him back
each morning to the rocks
fronting the sea, turning
his back on the scents
of cedar and thyme
my island births, turning
his back on the grapes
heavy in the sun, turning
his back on me waiting
to be plucked and devoured?
Goddess, I draw him to my bed
each night but cannot hold him
past the dawn. She it is
who pulls him from my bed,
she who withers day by day,
aging like shriveled fruit,
unlike myself or what I
promise him. What is
this restlessness that draws
him only to what fails
with time, that which
I cannot understand
because I cannot change.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I love her, but I will let her go
back to the dark spaces underneath
the fields burdened with the weight of wheat
harvest-heavy, the olives' abundance
arching the branches almost to the ground,
the vineyard's grapes swollen to bursting.
But not because of pomegranate seeds
devoured in the dark nor elder brothers'
treachery, even if that of gods. No, I send
her back to that kingdom of the still
for my own sake.
For I am worn
to exhaustion with the act of mothering.
I have nurtured and nourished what sprang
from me with my own substance, cradled
to my chest and rocked in my arms what I bore
with love, with care, with healing, all freely given.
Now all has come to fruition, and though I
will joy eventually, now I am drained,
a vessel emptied of its wine, and seek
only repose that brings renewal. So it is
I send her back into the dark again
that I may love her like a mother once more.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Jackdaw's Updated

Finally, there's a new post and new poet in The Jackdaw's Nest .

Friday, June 02, 2006


What ages us is not the choices
that we acted on, but all those choices
we rejected which we won't

let go of. Sitting here in the sun,
I feel those trips to England
and to Italy not taken forming folds

under my eyes and weighing
down my cheeks, those nights
in anger or indifference I turned

from you opened pulling on
my abdomen, poems I never
wrote swelling my knuckles

and wrinkling the flesh
on the backs of my hands,
weekends not spent

with parents stiffening
my knees, while unanswered
letters and abandonments

blur my vision and draw
my eyelids and the rest
of me down.