Lobster Massacre Christmas (prompt 18)

The girls may have been 4 and 7; their mamie was in town,

winter, Christmas Eve, 2003.

We had live lobsters swimming in a pot most of the day.

Jordyn watched the claws open and close slowly.

“What does a lobster eat?”

I had to look it up.

And when 7 o’clock rolled, my mother in law filled a great big pot with water,

turned up the flame high, and salted the water.

I kept the children entertained with decorating dessert.

At lightening speed, before we could recover, she tosses the lobsters in,

quickly takes them out and slams them onto a platter, stabs them

down the middle, with a butcher’s knife, one, two, three, four,

crack, split, crack, split, crack, split, crack split, her hair tossed back.

I turned my head to look at them, their little mouths agape, eyes

wide open in disbelief and dismay, stilled by the violence

they had never seen before; a Christmas they always remember.

Add a few more dollars to the therapy jar–and more.

Flipping Flip Phone (prompt 17)

His hands shake so badly he can’t tap a smart phone.

That didn’t matter until last year.

Every college kid I’ve taught in the last ten years

writes about their first phone, but this one will be his last.

He’s 86 with familial tremens, the least of his old age ills,

and first we had to get a phone with big keyboard letters.

And that served him many years, just pressing a big

letter “A” programmed to speed dial his sister, son, me

his bridge buddies, his poker buddies, and his old buddies.

He’s older now, though; they don’t make them any more.

In his creeping demented brain, he asks a hundred times

a week, “Why can’t we just get the same phone we had?”

“They don’t make ’em any more, Dad.” And he sighs.

The smart phone rings and he taps, taps, taps, nothing,

the caller gives up, and I have to call them back for him.

The missed phone calls, voice mails, all he can retrieve,

He misses his wife, his card games, and his flip phone.

A Poem by Any Other Name (Poem 16)

When I wake up to a clean sink, I feel its fullness.

A quick phone call on the way home from work, “Did you eat?”

My daughter’s knock and muffled offering, “I made soup, There’s plenty.”

The last one out the studio door, “Thank you. I can’t tell you how I needed that.”

A Starbucks gift card at semester’s end with a note, “I learned so much from you.”

Taking a time out during the busy day to close my eyes, breathe and chant.

Asking for advice from my mentor, “Who is my client avatar? What can I offer?”

She says, “You are deeply humble, non-judgmental and compassionate.”

He always emails a good morning with a wish for a wonderful day–every day–

and he says he digs my hair, a hodgepodge of incoming gray and outgoing brown.

She winks from afar, a giggle on Instagram, a blue, violet, yellow, or blue heart.

My 9 year old great niece’s FaceTime every week, just because.

My sister’s generous gifts, her texts and memes of beautiful, powerful women,

saying, “These remind me of you and your daughters.”

My other sister’s cakes, soft voice, and tears, she never forgets to say the words.

Like the senile song on repeat he is, my father intones, “I’m so lucky to be with this family.”

My brother’s responsibility, a loan when I was down and out; it’s his way.

The wag of the tail, the light stroke on the cheek, the giant grin, fist bump, and kiss.

This is where I live–in the house of the heart–cracked, shattered, scored, and <3’d.

The Plane! (prompt 15)

At 16, I flew to California, leaving for good,

a first for me, as I had never traveled by plane.

It was one of the coldest days of winter,

the windchill bringing the temps down to single digits,

and Long Island’s wet winters freeze your bones.

January 17, 1977, I boarded a 747 to LAX from JFK,

with a box of mementos, a suitcase of flannels and 501’s.

 

I sat in the way back, the last seat, nothing behind

when I felt the wave, the suffocating notion,

“I’m in a tube, oh my god it’s a tube!” and

there was nowhere to go, no place to catch air.

I stripped off my flannel, only a thermal undershirt,

and cooled off, popped a white or blue or red,

I don’t remember but the thermal shirt was white.

 

And when I opened my eyes, I saw the guy looking

My row mate, only two of us, was watching me,

well, maybe my white undershirt, my bra peeking

through the thick cotton, like my head, light and warm

And when I next opened my eyes, I heard a faint voice

announcing, “Welcome to Los Angeles.” I was home.

I flew. I panicked. I slept, I awoke. The world blinked.

 

And she knows me still (prompt 14)

I’ve head it’s important to know the lay of the land, how things work, where to go,

and the arrangements of all that lies on the terrain.

When you set out on a new journey, you want to know

what the distant, foreign earth offers to a stranger,

convenience stores, gas stations, rest stops, restaurants, hotels, visitor centers,

and the habits of the people inhabiting the new land.

In a forest, the land sprawls at will, its own patterns and logic.

The denizens of the trees, owls, woodpeckers, aphids, and bark beetles,

fauna of the forest floor, deer, slugs, frogs, salamanders, and hares,

inhabitants beneath the soil, earthworms, moles, nematodes, mites and rotifers,

they know how the land lies, but does the land know me?

Mother earth swallows me just as she devours the sky; she harbors my scent,

tastes my fear, sweats my nightly dread, sees the heart beating underneath,

her brown arms’ embrace taking me home, the cellular root, where we began.

Yoga Teacher (Prompt 13)

I breathe for a living.

Not your ordinary breathing.

Inhalation and exhalation IS life

literally and figuratively, we all respire

modulating between the inhalation uptick

adrenaline unleashed in measured drippings

and the exhalation down cycle release and renewal.

We live between excitation and relaxation, rising and falling,

sympathetic and parasympathetic, flight or flight, rest and digest.

Breath to movement, breath in stillness, breath in slumber, breath til death.

I breathe to live, live to breathe, living breath, I breathe for a living, and so do you.

The worst of the best (prompt 12)

It was the best

You were the best

But the worst was that time

You broke the cat’s back,

When you rushed off,

Tires screeching, to leave me,

You didn’t see the cat in the wheel well,

Nor felt the crunch I heard,

All remaining, bones, blood and tears,

That was the worst.

Time heals some things.

 

me beije português (prompt 11)

I’ve never been to the Azores but they beckon me.

Small, gracious, resplendent, Atlantic archipelago,

fiercely independent, tiny islands of breath-taking

hydrangea-bordering, green meadow, mountain

lacunae, cloud-filled, like hookah puffs adrift, I

breathe your lyrical language in my sleep, ever

since your letter, 38 years ago, when you wrote

“I’m in the Azores, now, telecommunications unit.

 

Driving the Aston Martin through the Alps would

have to wait until the next furlough, which never

did come. You disappeared–for 35 years–with the

words, “the Azores,” embedded in my loneliness,

a magical place that holds your shadow, my dreams

and our youth, captive on volcanic Terceira, in-

caved in Gruta do natal, where dark secrets glow.

Lembro-me dos açores que nunca vi.

 

Moon Shadows over Miami (Prompt 10)

You held my hand, leaned your head on my shoulder as we strolled,

a warm Miami summer evening breeze caressing our teenage limbs.

I was 15; just my acoustic guitar, faded coveralls and I hopped on that plane

to meet you, my cousin’s cousin, the kid who blew up frogs at his father’s

hippy wedding in the field, where I first learned the term “cow pie.”

 

Five years later, you lost your baby lean and mean, grown taut with muscle,

cut waist cool and long hair, the way we tagged ourselves in 1975.

When my father drove the Rambler upstate, up Taghkonic Parkway to

German Town, the five of us lived the farm life a few days, meeting our dinner,

brown bunnies in the hutch by day, roasted “chicken” by night.

 

It was there I re-met you for the fourth but first time, my father’s friend’s son,

his sister’s husband’s sister’s son; were we related? I hoped not. And we

toked and joked, even my father sat on the porch and smoked a jay, the first

and last time, tobacco his lung poisoning of choice at the time. Your sister,

just returned from the army, lay in the arms of another woman as I passed her room.

 

It was the first time I knew what it was like to be free, though I believed I was

in the new suburban neighborhood my father planted us in, his $1.50 an hour

for 72 hours a week job, affording him the move from the city to the burbs. But the

farm was cool, fresh garden greens, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, and weed.

We stayed for the weekend, and I left with a pulsing heart and a new pen pal.

 

You wrote to me in French, using the word “chat” for pussy, and even I knew that

was wrong, and how did we manage to pull that off with both our families around?

But we did, and I loved your letters but not as much as when you sang to me, the

next summer, under a full Miami moon, amid the pink and blue summer homes,

“Oh, I’m being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.”

Yoda in the House (Prompt 9)

At the last family zoom meeting, I asked my 8 year old great niece,

“Why are you wearing a mask?”

She flitted about the family furniture, jumping over her 11 year old brother,

prone, propped chin in his palms, in deep lethargy, staring at the television screen, as she cooed,

“I’m protecting my family.”

I glanced quizzically at her mother in the background, who shrugged her shoulders.

“Why are you protecting your family?”

“Because of the corona!”

She continued to hop around the circle of the room, sometimes vanishing off camera to the perimeters,

each round jumping over her catatonic brother.

I tried a different tact.

“Did your teacher tell you to wear a mask at home?

Suddenly her face filled the entire screen as she furrowed her brows, pursed her lips, and

snapped, “No! My teacher is dumb. She doesn’t know anything about the corona. The man with the white hair in the video said to wear a mask to protect your family, so I am.” And her face was gone.

She gets it.

In a dark room, curtains drawn, she, like a firefly in a bottle, lit up my questing heart.

She totally gets it.

She has no fear, no denial, no panic, no past, no selfish idols, no unhinged conspiracy-driven anger drawn from the depths of a harried suburban life fixated on the next cocktail, next workout, next paycheck,

wear the mask

to protect the family.

We are all family.

 

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