i write because your skies are filled with smoke
& you need a piece of this blue sky
i write because autumn’s leaves danced
with me to the empty mailbox
because fire licks your distant horizons
while one, contained & of purpose, warms my crisp night
i write because my hand, not yours, brushes
hair from my forehead
i write because the poem i finished last week
longs to touch you
because i know no other way
to be with you this night
• • • •
Published in Waymark Voices of the Valley, #16 2021
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash
i have learned the language
of phlebotomy —
about butterfly needles,
how many breaths will take me
through a 14-vial collection & the art of waiting.
i have come to expect
the dispassionate demeanor
of specialists, the sound of starched
white coats, the chill of exam rooms.
sterile interpretations of antigens,
antinuclear antibodies & sed rates
have expanded my vocabulary
if not my horizons.
weather forecasts have become meaningless,
the shortest day of the year too long,
yet somehow days continue to begin
& end in rush-hour traffic outside my window.
absent reason, i travel hope.
• • • •
Published in Stirring, Spring 2021 (Volume 23, Edition 2)
Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash
night and day i speak to the sky
crows line telephone wires
as if witness to this,
this reaching past cumulus clouds
this wish to be carried past pain
past the past pressed upon each day
at the shore of my pacific
sand shifts under my feet like fickle hearts
ever moving toward something new
like you lost to me now
mere ripples of sound and motion
like question marks
punctuate the air
cleave the mystery of
paths harder to forge this
despair falls upon me like rain
• • • •
Published in San Diego Poetry Anthology, 2019-20
Photo by Chris Stenger on Unsplash
across night i travel to sterile rooms
where crises play out under harsh fluorescence.
where the aftermath of a single moment
is a staccato of scissors
cutting clothes from torsos,
medics working in orchestrated chaos —
the stuff of late-night news.
a clock on the wall ticks
each moment a lifetime.
i pretend to read yesterday’s headlines
set my shallow breath to sounds around me:
knitting needles coin-fed phones
street traffic dissected by automatic doors
a doctor’s footsteps…
i look up to read your fate on his face.
• • • •
Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology, 2017
Photo by milan degraeve on Unsplash
the past keeps sending me inscribed invitations;
i read them but never RSVP. it’s rude of me, i know,
but between the lines i find irony in formica, linen & good china,
women who wear heels to garden parties,
heels that sink in soft summer grass.
i was a child of university: grammar in my cereal bowl,
syntax on the barbeque publish-or-perish professors
smoking pot in the back room while we splashed in the pool.
behind the smiles & cigarettes tomes of transgression
tucked away like drafts of unfinished novels
they thought i’d never see
there was a cottage on the beach
where arguments might drown in the swells,
where night’s high tide would sweep
under the deck as if to return treasures taken
or wash away those charming 50s façades.
now there’s just sandpipers,
the lagoon with its darting insects
& memories in every tidepool
brine is a fine preservative.
• • • •
Published in Waymark Voices of the Valley #5, 2015
Photo by Raquel Moss on Unsplash
for joan simmons
we shared a Southern California sky from opposite sides of the city
the lies of our lives hidden beneath play
i wonder now if our reverie didn’t meet
in that place no one dare name
if you saw my wicked dance with death
took his seduction as your own
i ask myself
what did we talk about how did we meet why did we drift apart
how did i come to learn of your fate so long past?
we splashed about in the same fickle currents
yet i emerged and you went under
i imagine you like Woolf, slowly and with purpose
walking into the water
but i know you chose a gun instead
leaving others to pick up the pieces
no doubt about their trigger fingers
• • • •
Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology, 2015
Family snapshot of Cheryl and Joan
come spring, you abandon the garden
cling to reasons for moving past this breath.
my gaze wanders to a cobweb in the corner —
i can’t say how long it has been there.
outside, the wind is a frantic heart.
inside, the air, still as death.
• • • •
Published in So Luminous the Wildflowers, An Anthology of California Poets 2003
Photo by Jene Yeo on Unsplash
cruel memory’s stubborn resolve rises & falls
like incantations you ride the pitch & tone
through nameless days.
i could tell you the course of a river can’t be changed
but you’ve seen his face in its quiet reflection
felt the pull of shifting streams.
some days you are the strength of those currents
others lost in their fickle eddy knots in your hair
too long uncombed.
it matters not if it’s water or song this swell of chants
unlikely visitations only that it brooks your sorrow
of those last days when even your love could not save him.
you tell me you’ve been where the river once flowed
banks alive now with black-eyed susans how it’s their spring
not yours how their hollow eyes hold your gaze.
innocence long buried in unmarked graves, you ride the rapids
of an uncertain future. as for love there is less of it now
but more need; even the poets have lost their way.
• • • •
Published in Spillway #13 2007
Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash
quiet as the dawning sky, i sit
anticipating birdsong, unsure about the sun.
this stillness, my pilgrimage.
at memory’s pool
i kneel, drink in your visage
mindful not to disturb the surface,
alter the spell with even a ripple of need.
you leave gifts at my door —
bits of song;
slightly faded photographs;
pages torn from an unfinished manuscript;
i cannot decipher them without you.
i have caught you like rain on my tongue
released you in beads of sweat
returned to the quiet again and again
to light candles, burn sandalwood
remember what i know.
in pools of light i hold your words, a rosary,
feel your desire in the smooth roundness
of each bead, cast prayers of strength,
wait for a sign.
• • • •
Published in Magee Park Poets Anthology 2009
Photo by Marco Ceschi on Unsplash
past & future tango through the hours
of a father who soon won’t know my name,
mother in stage-four reprieve.
this cadence of crises plays
in the background
like an old 45 on repeat.
in the quietude of morning, foghorns hold me
like bowed notes of violin & cello;
i stand mute within an opus
of memories; past & future tango by.
coda looms in the wings.
this year finds spring pushed aside
by an aging winter’s arias of snow & ice.
these long nights at a cold window
evoke years syncopated by estrangement,
tempo of anger & silence, rest & repeat,
past & future’s blithe tango through our lives.
soon the seasons will settle,
as did life between us.
i will say the things i need to say,
those things i’ve told myself will lure songbirds
back to the garden.
those things that will let me
place an LP on the old turntable
& tango effortlessly into tomorrow.
• • • •
Published in A Year in Ink Anthology 2013
Photo by Rafaela Biazi on Unsplash