Saturday, November 15, 2014

Winter comes, with heat

I’m just home from an icy drive
and the first arctic blast has frozen
the floor through the crawl space.
I sit in the big old robe
with socked and blanketed
feet on the ottoman.
My husband is working late.
In the corner, the wood stove
reaches for me with aromatic heat
as if I am the one craved.
On top, the last of the chicken soup,
that final glow of chili and garlic,
tomatoes deep and bright, flickering
onions, all velvet on my tongue now.
Inside, flashes of mystery—
red finger-snapping oak  
erupting instantly
from crusty ash, flames
beating at the window
with lust. And something
else I cannot fathom
about desire: my hands
cradling this bowl,
just right not too hot,
and splayed in the soup
two thigh bones and a knuckle,
surrendered for me, to me,
and my pleasure in this death.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


We are at the cider mill, which has become a massive festival of blow-up toys and pay-as-you-go corrals, the sale of cider, doughnuts and apples apparently insufficient.

The two babies are happy to be outside on their mommies' bosoms in identical, identifiable Ergo carriers, blissfully unaware of economics. 

Distancing ourselves from the festival of apples and pumpkins, we go for a walk on a path along the woods. James, two and a half, straddles Grandpa's shoulders. Grandpa plucks a hickory nut from a tree. "Look, this is a hickory nut, James." 

James takes and throws it indignantly back into the woods. "That is not our own!"

Then Grandpa breaks a small dead branch off a tree and hands it to James, now on the ground, to walk with. Instantly James throws it back. "That is not our own!"

The grassy road undulates ahead, woods on the left, a field of corn on the right. Grandpa picks an ear of dry corn and hands it to James. "That is not our own!" and he throws it back. Grandpa goes and picks up the corn where it landed. "Maybe you can just carry it a while and throw it back later."

And so he begins to eat the dried, borrowed corn. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Arranging stones: poems and quilts

A tiny airliner
crosses the sky,
without sound.

I type one
more word
on the page
and the seam closes.

Indian muslin
sewn to
French toile
means that pale young boys
play with a dog
in a beautiful garden
of dark-leafed paisley.

We pry
stones apart
just wide enough
to let another thing

and with all
that is in our power
sew them

this scar
that is

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer clouds

With no apparent ferocity in their wildness,
shapes of white ash and beam

roll above and past the old house and barn,
which sag under them in rumpled pleats.

Bent peaks and gables finger the buoyant clouds
but seem too weak to hook, release

and catch them: armloads of damp laundry,
which through summer centuries stay daily fresh.

When I was a girl in a small town, one
summer night I dreamt that the moon came

close enough to touch. Clouds hover today,
almost brushing my head,

until something shakes them out.
Heavily they fall. For a while I stand.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe.
Jorge Luis Borges 

My grandson and I are out for a walk around his apartment complex of buildings. Along the edge of the asphalt, in the many cracks left by the creaks and heaves of winter, are anthills. Spring is turning to summer, truly, if the ants are rebuilding.

He is two and a half and the world belongs to him to do with as he pleases. When we play hide-and-seek around the big maples on the hill, he strips a sapling branch of its leaves before I can stop him. Now, as we walk the road, he swipes an anthill low, and in one small moment of horror I cry “no!” wanting him to obey and not run ahead and swipe as he does. “They took a long time to build the entrance to their home,” I say, but he is bent on swipe-swipe-swiping, though I grab his hand firmly against it.

I have just read about two-year-olds and the determination to do what it is they want to do until distracted. It does no good simply to fight, and there will be no spanking as there was of me, to break my will, to shape it into something not my own.

It will take time to build this boy, with the deliberateness of ants. In spite of my momentary horror, I whisk him up in feigned joy to play a new game. It works, and he is distracted from destruction.

But it was he who carried worms last summer off the asphalt into the grass to save them from cars, he who kissed ladybugs on the tree trunk and let them play along his small palms and shoulders. He who stared at the lake fly on the blue beach chair five minutes before it flew away. Were anthills an abstraction because he saw no ants, even from his small stature?

Someone taught me not to step on anthills by bending low to watch a worker cross the sidewalk carrying a single bit of earth in his mandibles. Close enough to see his mandibles! I transcended his ugliness (monster-like if movies are to be believed). I thought, how beautiful to have such mechanisms for industrious use.

In this memory I am relieved, seeing that I am not the teacher.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day off to sew the week of Mother’s Day

I wake up to the quiet alarm
of distant thunder, rain — Spring
offering diplomacy after a lethal winter.

It is a day to sew maternal gifts,
but it is for pleasure
that I stitch and miter
fabric the colors of robin’s eggs
and lilac leaves just starred.
It is for my pleasure the cotton
steams fragrant from under the iron
spread out open and flat
in the furrows I sew.

If only Spring found pleasure
wielding her power
like this, fingers flying
in grassy compassionate treaties
along the far passes of the blue planet.

I think pleasure would be enough
for her to mete out comfort equally.

* * *
I heard about the devastating landslide in Afghanistan, burying a village after days of rain. It was when I saw photographs here that something strange and wonderful happened. Aren't we constantly presented with wide-ranging emotions? I discovered the beautiful simplicity of this village only after it was partially destroyed. I did not know such places existed, never imagining the neat prettiness there nestled in the mountains of a part of the world decimated by war. Please go see those images and perhaps you will feel the connection I feel. There are no graphic images of people dead, only a village with part of it buried. (There is a photo of a dead donkey.) To imagine what these villagers are experiencing now, one boy losing his whole family. If only Nature could heal all our sins. Well perhaps she will, long after we're gone.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The hardest thing

with my two grown children,
each with new babies,

is letting them grow down
into themselves.

I had them
close to the bone

in two years and I survived
the feedings, washings,

readings to, puttings to bed,
keeping some things in order

on a shoestring
though the cost

to me was a barrenness
of long lonely days

until I was sure
nothing alive could sprout

from me ever again.
All things rub together

into nothing.
This is where we vibrate.

Slowly, invisibly
and then the tiny tendril flame.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy life

The sun’s yolk

neon pink
and orange

across the pan
of sky.

Broken to flow
it bleeds

like this

in one day

as needed

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Queen Anne's lace in April

After a winter of nearly
a full alphabet of storms,
from Atlas almost to Zephyr —
            conquering kings, hunters,
            warriors, destroyers —

prostrate stalks and grasses
like sickled wheat
layer the meadow,
unquestioning, submissive,
as if stepped on by gods,

except every few feet
where thin stems stand
stiff, unbent, lace collars
intact, rising like peaceful
purveyors of xenia,
the ancient obligatory gift
of hospitality and protection
to strangers, however
violently they might come.

* * *
Added at 10:08am:

I am excited by a one-on-one "workshopping" from a friend who suggests this edit. I think it is an improved, tightened version, and I appreciate it!

After a winter's alphabet of storms,
from Atlas almost to Zephyr —
            conquering kings, hunters,
            warriors, destroyers —

prostrate stalks and grasses
like sickled wheat
layer the meadow,
stepped on by gods

except where thin stems stand
lace collars whole,
rising like
purveyors of xenia,
the ancient obligatory gift
of hospitality and protection
to strangers, however
violently they might come.

You can read the list of names given to the storms of 2013-14, including Xenia, the most recent (I think).

Friday, March 28, 2014

"How shall I hold my soul that it may not be touching yours?"

I poke through an assortment of stuffed animals left after our grown children moved out. Among various bears, here is our son’s rhinoceros, two circles on its face like vertical eyes where velvet horns are now tattered nubs of cotton stuffing. Such abnormalities are birthmarks, in a way, marks of the emergence into adulthood after the long human development of a child. How necessary it was, all that wear and tear, the regular nightly embraces that softened and thinned the horns of a toy rhinoceros whose counterparts in Africa lie wasted from human greed.

There are stories of terror. And there are others of human magnificence. Our small granddaughter, three days old, lies sedated in an incubator, her face, chest, arms and legs relaxed open in surrender. She has been saved by magnificent humans, her own strength, the warm touch of her parents and grandparents, and the grace of God.

I wrap up "Rhiney" for my now 31-year-old son to hold while he cannot hold his first child. I wonder at this inanimate thing, the color of stone, able to vibrate with life and healing though it cannot heal itself, or feel me holding it. We shoot meaning into what we touch and attend to. What essence are we connecting with in these things, which are also somehow vibration, linking with our own pulsing souls?

And how much more then, between living beings?

“How shall I hold my soul that it may not
Be touching yours? How shall I lift it then
Above you to where other things are waiting?
Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all forgot,
With some lost thing the dark is isolating
On some remote and silent spot that, when
Your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating.
You and me – all that lights upon us though,
Brings us together like a fiddle bow
Drawing one voice from two strings, it glides along.
Across what instrument have we been spanned?
And what violinist holds us in his hand?
O sweetest song.” 

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Our granddaughter, Olive Rose, was born Monday night with a congenital abnormality called Tracheoesophageal Fistula, which means that her trachea and esophagus were connected in bad ways, and her esophagus did not connect with her stomach. She would not have survived if surgeons at the Children's Hospital had not operated Wednesday to reconstruct the trachea and esophagus for normal functioning, after a day of tests Tuesday. Gratefully, Olive does not seem to have the other abnormalities that can come with this one (and do for half the babies that do), and she underwent five hours of thoracoscopic surgery with four little incisions. She will stay in children's hospital 30 days to recover.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

spring equinox

My shoulders like
the ground are paralyzed
and rivers frozen thicker
than for a hundred years.
In a matter of days,
ice and snow melt will heave
in fabulous dark crowds
across roads, fast-fingered
roots creep into cellars.

I feel in my body the
frozen waiting for this
migration, the
fear and the hope
of spring upbraided,
the synapses of earth’s
unfathomable brain,

cords of living matter
bulked, tapered, floating
elongated across
low places in requisite
water, full of fault
without intent.

I want to stem this
movement, protest
on the streets, protect
vulnerable farmers, the poor
dilapidated houses in the low city!

I want to fall on the earth
with hands cupped
to the sun, like a primordial
woman before her altar,
like that almond sliver of light
that falls a few hours a year
between stone walls!

Friday, March 14, 2014

the art of fabric, the fabric of art

Besides work, my grandsons, and a granddaughter yet to be born (two days "late"), these days my daily light shines on creating art with quilts. I am full of energy and passion for painting with fabric this way. It feels odd to watch the shift of attention from words and poems to color and pattern.

Susan Sontag said
“Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
This is just what I feel! Eager!

When we write poems, we recycle words. With quilts, I am recycling fabric. Project scraps from the 1980s, clothes, dust ruffles, table cloths, sheets, whatever is salvageable and beautiful is fair game. My challenge to myself is to not purchase new fabric. There is a lot of gorgeous new fabric being designed out there, and I relish it when I see it in the creations of others. In another time I would have gobbled it up. But I find myself resisting buying anything new unless it is absolutely necessary. Besides, it is a sublime adventure to create something beautiful out of what would otherwise be discarded.

I am blogging about the quilts at birds of the air quilts. I'd love to share it with you if you are interested. I just opened an etsy shop with the first quilt, where one day someone may actually pay money for one of these.

I have only fiddled with art peripherally all my life. The media I've tried have not inspired me enough to put in the requisite work and practice. But coming back to fabric, sewing, and making quilts again, this time for my grandchildren, I discovered the wild and exhilarating world of modern improv art quilts. (Check out my Pinterst quilts board for my inspiration.)

If a poem comes, it will spill out here.

detail of my most recent quilt "Rose and her sisters"
created from a cabbage rose Ralph Lauren dust ruffle
my sister passed on to me that I never used,
vintage 1980s fabric from my stash
and linen toile leftover from a chair recovering project

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

chai winter

morning, the color
of wet stone
in winter’s china cup,
tepid, with a sweet
stirring finger
puddled in clay.
I part the trees to the road,
thus, through this white
sky. White!
Always white
and the trees
in varying degrees
of clarity, which to me
is all. The trees nothing
if not fingers
stirring white sky.
And what if it is
forever? What of that?
And I, boring
a hole through the bottom
of the cup?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

the close of winter

We fight against the close
of winter
with our drive to go
on, not to stop
and sleep or beautifully

With blades and spades
we further our path
though we don’t know where
we are going, or

and in our deepening desire
for meaning, the snow
also deepens
around our tired knees.

It would be so simple
to let it stop
us, if we could believe
the stopping would not
do us in

if the in were actually where
the living is. If being
alone was really enough.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


For weeks I have had pain in my front tooth, which is capped. It all began with a lunch hour nap in my office. Last week, I began to think I might need a root canal. Doesn't that procedure bring terror? Thankfully now root canals are quite benign compared to the pain, and so I was resigned to it when I went to the dentist Monday to check on the tooth. After an x-ray, Dr. Stone said I don't need a root canal. Joy, relief! He proceeded to file down the cap so that it wouldn't nip my lower teeth. I sleep at night with a bite plate because I clench my teeth (called bruxism), which has eased sensitivity in my teeth over the years almost completely. But, when I take a nap on my office couch, I don't have my bite plate. Perhaps that should change.


My teeth throb
after waking from a nap

on my office couch. I clench
my teeth in the forest

of sleep where mind-snakes
glissade across branches.

How many they are! Metallic,
white as chalk, mortally

virulent in the heel of my
spirit. Consciously, I try

to hold my jaw open
like the gate of my head

against the kilim pillow
where a tribe of stick men

armed with blue and red
woolen stitches hold firm

against embroidered beasts.
But as sleep moves its cloud

across my face, a small
warrior clamps shut my mouth.

Awake, I feel in the great walls
of my teeth that this fortress

held true against marauders,
quiet now, asleep

alas — inside the tower!

Monday, February 3, 2014


Peanuts, peanuts in a bowl,
floral blue and white,

old Chinese porcelain blue
like the sky today, an upturned

bowl on pedestal trees. You
remember two days ago

when it all dumped out — rice,
wet and sticky while we watched

disbelieving from these windows,
thinking the world could never

go hungry with so much falling.
But today grackles — naked, poor,

immaculate — prove the nothing
that I know under the tree,

peanuts disappearing
from the bottom of my bowl.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bed as world

My grandson’s pleasure
is to sit on the bed
under a sheet
teepeed by his head
while I lie next to him
and read. As if the sheet
has just fallen
from a high mountain,
the entire snow-cap
intact, and now he is
the mountain and I am
the foothills at his knee,
sending echoes up
to his head, the peak,
my voice a yodler’s calling
or a squirrel's clicking
or a bear's bellowing
or a train's chug-chugging
or a bell's ding-donging
across a deep valley
where children behind
gaping glassless windows
are falling asleep in the clean
cool down of their beds,
all around them
puffing complexities 
of another world.

Monday, January 27, 2014

nomadic days & nights - a new project

These are very intensely focused days for me as we get closer to the births of another grandson (due Feb. 20) and a granddaughter (due Mar. 12). It is hard to get my head around this, but my heart has been ready for a while. :)

But the world goes on. As you know if you've known me long, news of the world's great (and small!) collapses weigh heavily on me, as they do upon you, too, no doubt. I find that I must be inspired by something for it all not to pull me down.

So I decided to begin a study that would help me focus in on a particular area, to get the context of history, art, music, literature. Because I've lived in Istanbul, I chose that part of the world.

I have started a new writing space for reflecting on these investigations. I will be posting there occasionally to reflect and better understand the current state of worldwide collapse. I want to live neither optimistically nor pessimistically, but realistically toward a transformation of humanity. It is a silk road, washed in blood and beauty.

I will keep posting here too, when I feel I must write a poem or something.

If you are interested in the topic, I would love to welcome you to that space. But please, do not feel obligated. I understand how much there is to read, and not enough time. I do relish conversation about these important things, but I start nomadic days & nights primarily for myself. I need to write in order to reflect. This will help me keep at it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

21 crows

I understand Wallace Stevens’ need to write thirteen ways. A multiplication, an exponential transformation occurs when I see these shining birds on roads of snow.

They are black jack dealt on a white table,
fortune and misfortune as one.

A constellation of flying stars,
of beaks and wings on a white sky
in the world’s negative.

Hunger falling in waves
like wind from broken trees.

They are 21 nights of insomnia —
a new habit of wakefulness.

Glyphs of a new language,
shining blue.

A black coat
lifting when I pass
floating back down
to clothe its dying friend.

They are a bridge from
sky to tree

tree to possum

possum to me.

They are strangers
or lovers
depending on the light.

They are infinity
mile by mile

Really, this could go on and on. I wonder what you see in 21 crows?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Juniper night

Outside the small window,
the juniper where I first 
saw bluebird, so shy I
frightened him away a year
appearing at the back door.

The tree now winter-cloaked,
ermine collared, the afternoon 
darks to evening, wanes
to diamond night, hoary moon
half bitten, ragged edge
like the ice-blue berry.

Wind ferocious and quiet,
but the half-moonball does not
rock out of sight, its
brilliant light turns diffident 
edge into blue night.

Wind that bends
the fingers of earth,
blues them into moonblight,
points my hair at the light,
closes its eyes, softly
lifts and puts our rest to flight.