A Gentle Reminder

Let us laugh at death until our throats get sore.

Let us row to Helgoland, an island

with seven stone gates and seven stone angels

blowing trumpets, or are they trombones,

the slide of God’s left shoulder

announcing the cessation of time,

the end of the known world, as he unhitches the cables

holding Earth in place and lets it drift off into space.

Hello/good-by. Quickly now

before our names drawn in the sand

are washed away. The sky, dying in your arms,

is threatening rain. Tiredness now

and breath with nowhere to climb, but up.

Seeking Home in Costa Rica

This forest sounds like crunch of broken open

underfoot, seed pods that stink like rotting meat

when they fall to the ground. In the Guanacaste trees

howler monkeys moan like wounded dogs.

And northwest of La Casona a road so dissected,

so rutted you have to rent a jeep

to drive the fifty miles from the parking lot

through tom bush, pigeon wood and quira

before you reach the beach access. From here

a poisonous trail slithers over an empty creek bed,

Path of the Burnt Man named for the gumbo-limbo tree

whose red bark hangs shredded like dead skin,

the trunk’s musculature and nerve endings raw

and exposed. Everything in this park feels sharp

and unwelcoming, but you’ve come to see

the Green Sea Turtles, the one percent that survive

long enough to return to their birth place

after a ten year ocean sojourn, the giants

who drag their unsupported weight

onto the beach and dig holes in the sand deep enough

to hold a hundred perfectly round white eggs,

then cover them over before they leave.

No mother, no father to lead their young to safety.

Just sun, sand and birds with their sharp beaks

and the waves with their fake promises.


Van Gogh’s Shoes

A room in Arles, walls painted yellow,

yellow for faith and love,

for a newly discovered self

stripped to the waist

in the torrid cicada heat,

the chatter of wings rubbing together

as Vincent with a brush dipped in mauve

fading to grey,

mauve for hope

and grey for intelligence, considers painting

a self-portrait, a grey undercoat for the way

it largesses the mind with jars of glistening fruit

and bridges x’d with sacrifice,

crossings he’d made near Antibes

where light slithers along brackish channels

winding south across les Salins,

the great salt plains where a man can disappear

overnight, just evaporate

like standing water. This story

told about Poseidon, earth shaker

and tamer of wild horses; how he rose

storm-faced from the sea in a chariot

pulled by brine-soaked steeds, grey and dappled

like the horses of the Camargue, the mythical ones

women ride in dreams. Perhaps

he should paint a woman dying a red cloth

dipped five times in madder root

and meadowsweet mixed with oak galls and graith

to set the color, the way red,

red for passion, burns when mixed

with chrome yellow

and he remembers a miner in the Borinage

caught in a fire that scarred his forehead

with a crown of thorns, mouth

fitted with a wooden tongue.

He will paint how worn misshapen shoes today

With a brush dipped in burnt umber,

brown the color of service to others.


White Spider or Tiny Angel

An unusual spider, pure white it was,

came to our garden this year

and spun a web, a cloud hung in a carrageenan hedge,

a late snow that fell during a night

when words weren’t enough. And as you paced alone

you recalled an offered bouquet of white roses,

white the color of forgiveness, he’d said, and you knew then

something precious was about to disappear

come morning.


Strange How Beautiful When We are Diaphanous

Strange how beautiful when we are diaphanous,

a bit of ripped muslin…”For the Woman Who Danced

With the Ashes of Her Son” from Washita by Patrick Lane


What makes us strange

is the how

and why of a beautiful

we counted on when

we were young and diaphanous

as first light, a bit

of sun enough to sustain us, a scrap of ripped


blowing in and out of an open bedroom window.

We sipped at each other’s breath

like air plants

and wondered at our nakedness,

how close to the gods

our perfect skin, our lithe limbs,

yet time makes liars of us.

We have grown old, my dear,

but there are times when I am a questing mole,

fierce in my love, loose as anything.[1]





[1] Lane, Patrick. Washita, p. 24.


Black Widow

Wherever I may go, for in my mind

I am always leaving to go somewhere, remember

it isn’t you I leave behind,

but myself,

Heiderose, rose of the Heide, the heath,

the name my father chose

against my mother’s wishes.

But what’s in a name? Don’t you see

how exhausted I’ve become by the world’s insistence on labels:

bi-polar, half-breed, addict, refugee, wife, mother, child.

I am all of these and more.

I am the forest Orpheus planted when he returned whetted

and alone from the underworld. I am the Thracian woman

who hacked off his head and hung it singing in a tree.

I am the robin who built a nest out of grass and hair

in its branches. Don’t you see

I never wanted to be born, my birth certificate

a yellowed piece of paper fraying along the folds

and stamped with a swastika, a black spider

spinning a web in my head. I’ve seen it

crawl across the bed, but am afraid to kill it,

to squash it with oppression’s heel.

Don’t you see?

Barred the Eye’s Seeing

Silence is an echo unable to find its way home, a name

dangling mid-stasis. A mother cradles a dead son in her lap.

She sits alone in an empty room, the walls cider blocks,

the high ceiling with an oculus built into it, an eye

open to the elements. Tonight it will rain for hours.


Grief is a lunar eclipse, the moon blocked

from shining. A soldier cups hands around a guttering candle.

It is dark everywhere, except for these lit fingers,

these glowing bones, a Sprachgitter, a cage for words

now made visible inside his body. Tomorrow

he will suffer a broken hip and cry out for his mother

before he drifts into the first stage of unconsciousness.


Death is an envelope bordered in black, a paper tongue

glued to the mouth’s roof. No need to ask

or tear the envelope open hurriedly. Inside

you will only find another made of tissue, a mourning shroud,

a second skin. A sigh escapes

when you slit the delicate undergarment open

and expose a plain white card, no flowery verses,

no grasping, just the finality of a yesterday

there’s no returning back to.

Nowy Dwor Gdanski Once Known as Tiegenhof

The scythed grass in the field has dried

and an old woman now rakes it into piles.

She smiles and calls, Gruess Gott, greet God, as I pass.

I stop to catch my breath beneath an ancient linden tree

its split trunk held together with wire mesh,

mesh grown to wood, wood grown to flesh,

this struggle to stand upright within oneself,

to staunch the heartwood’s weeping

here where my family lived for over two hundred years.

Tasseled blossoms dangle from pale yellow bracts,

their perfume the scent of honey stirred in tea,

the scent of home. Bee trees my mother called them.


Dedicate an hour each day to crying.

Cry as the sky cries, nor for yourself,

but for those who die hungry

and alone. Be the hand reaching toward

the old man who wraps a cardboard sheet

around himself each night when he settles

in a shop doorway to sleep.

He was once young like you.


Dedicate an hour each day to prayer.

Pray like the leaves when wind blows branches bare,

a scattering on the ground,

a dying season. Gently press the dahlias’ twisted limbs

into their sand beds and cover them over with dirt,

this hope the earth will love them for their bright colours

as you did and shelter them until spring.


Dedicate an hour each day to silence.

Be the wind when it falls still, the echo

returning home. Close doors softly behind you

and walk into the world as if you belong there.

Place your ear against the jigsaw puzzle trunk

of the two hundred year old pine in your back yard

and listen. It was once young like you.



Time Cut Short

Eternity cannot be known

the way life wants to know it, the way

wind with its eight voices speaks ghost, holy

and otherwise, as it blows through the Crow’s eye

in search of an abandoned farmhouse.

Eternity settles as dust in rooms

where wind lives, a dust that also accumulates in us

over time. A sheet of rain flaps

on a frayed laundry line. The front door dangles

on one hinge, the roof gone.

The birds stole it.