Monday, February 19, 2018

Driving on I-40 to Eugene

Driving on I-40, somewhere

between Nashville and Jackson,

pillows of dark smoke folding

snag our road-weary eyes

from rain-smeared windshield,

from fog-obscured pavement,

to orange-red streaks of heat,

a truck’s cab, its metal frame melting.

As we move past, the gas tank explodes,

loud, it vibrates across the highway,

east to west,

reverberates within.

I remember my friend Eugene,

fascinated by fire,

the beauty of the dance.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


I review Katie's file, thin for almost 40 years,
as thin as the reason for commitment at 17:
her mother's complaints of aggression lead
to a cursory evaluation 
to a state hospital.
No family, 
no friends, 
no place to go.

Treated with ECT,
she learns to strip off her clothing,
dreading the Before,
biting down on rubber, restrained,  
awaiting the After,
And many-colored pills slide down her throat,
easing her agitation, rearranging her mind.

On the wave of releases into the community,

she is swept from familiar inside to outside,
only glimpsed through glass since her teens.
Taken to a group home, given three meals&a bed.

Katie appears older than her stated years,

her clothing somewhat disheveled, 
her hair white, 
her face seized by grimaces, 
too many psychotropics over too many years.
She steps slowly, no shift of weight,
she speaks, a mix of salad greens,
her eyes shuttered.

Complicit, one in a long procession

who enters Katie's life 
only to disappear.
Too late
to push against the muscular arms of time,
to retrieve a piece of her life,
her stolen life.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dedicated to Yola Mascia Melchiorre, 1913-1995

A pianist, an artist, a linguist, a professor,
so many talents, like her younger brothers,
but she lacked the XY chromosome,
when few women worked outside of home,
few women envisioned another path,
few women stepped away.
Her father treated her differently,
replied to her differently,
“you don’t really want to”, 
his catch-all phrase,
repeated till she believed it, too,
believed she couldn't, shouldn't.
She pushed aside her ambitions,
molded herself into a new, narrow shape,
that of wife and mother,
she made those roles her whole life.

There was nothing left of the other woman,
unable to even imagine
what might have been.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Visuals in the night without corrective lenses

I startle into awake,
the room dark, yet in the shadows
three figures gather by my bed,
three figures unmoving, unspeaking,
hands together, hands uplifted,
in prayer, in blessing, in admonishment?

Fog heavy in my head,
fear looms, patience thins,
I reach toward the nearest light.
A floor lamp with its wide shade,
one of the trio, a momentary comfort,
but what of the other two?
Angels, aliens, two Weird Sisters
with a Macbethian prediction?

Cocooned into sleep,
caught by a vague whisper
of a tangible
somewhere within.

Friday, December 15, 2017


photo by author

this quiet
with an edge,
a vibration,
an echo still
in air and ear,
an energy,

an electricity,
a current,
a nerve stretched like cat gut across a fret
the way I hold my breath
and wait
for the slap
the words
the threat 
to be sent back,
as if back is a place,
wherever the fuck the damaged come from

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

To count all the stars in the night sky*

Based on Our Little Roses, an all-girl orphanage in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The priest envisions his arms splay wide open,

the children welcome him; he hugs them,

lifts them toward heaven for god's blessings.

But these girls stand back, they hesitate,

their trust broken, unprotected,

they bond with one another, sisters, 

not by blood, but by survival.

Fearful their feelings may slip

beneath smiles and laughter,

they hold them close, 

fistfuls of pain--

abuse, abandonment and lies.

Father Reece brings them poetry, 

believing in transformation,

he pushes, they pull, see-sawing.

He shares poems from his memory,

they listen, they repeat,

they recite in a Latin rhythm,

they write lines, 

own their words,

stronger than weapons,

entwining anger, hurt, hope.

Father Reece readies to leave,

secrets spoken, acceptance hard-won.

Serendipity, a higher power 

leads them to one another,

the hands of the girls opening

to count all the stars in the night sky.

*Title inspired by
Aylin, “Counting”, from Counting Time like People Count Stars, edited by Spencer Reece,
 Tia Chucha Press, 2017.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

present tense

A minor fender-bender,
scrapes and scratches,
but something is off,
something else,
days slipping away,
like motion propelling
my car into another’s bumper,
despite brakes, not stopping.

The river’s surface unbroken,
not a breath,
the current speaks,
“I will take you,
every stroke, every muscle,
every sip of air,
breaking you across my rocks,
depositing what’s left
far from the bank.”

Tragedy arrives

in bundles, stacks,
the sound of the word
wearing out,
the meaning thinning, 
again, again,
we need less tragedy,
needless tragedy