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Reading the News at Midnight

As published in Resist Much/Obey Little @ spuytenduyvil.net

Wet streets glisten
under the streetlights
and I lie awake

listening to thunder
and the murmur of my husband’s
dreams. Elsewhere,

men and women with dark circles
under their eyes
are feeding oversized ballots

into the machines that will count
their fears; and farther still,
others run into the sea,

carrying their children.
We are living again
the years our parents and grandparents

lived before us: dark shaggy forms
crouch in the dusty corners,
and war is coming.


Romance
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

After all these years, the violin
is still in love with the piano,
the kind of love that shakes your hair
from its pins, insists on discord,                   
follows a weedy path
to the clotted pond at the end.
Water bugs and unseen mouths
dimpling its surface, and the piano
percussive as a woodpecker, somewhere
among the trees, sure of itself
beneath the leaps and turns of the melody
until it reaches the last few notes, almost
too low to be heard.
This summer
I find myself listening to the piano
the way the violin listens, reaching
to touch, my hands aching
with memories that don’t belong to me. 
The composer hadn’t yet
written her Romance when I took lessons
from my mother, stumbling
through my practices, hating the mistakes,
the need to do it over.
I remember a pond
among the trees, green
with what dropped in the water,
a large flat stone at the edge where we sat
in the sun, a boy from my class and me.  And now,
my fingers think they know, they can’t stop
reaching.

as published in Prime Number Magazine


 

Kitchen, Donetsk

Photograph by Sergei Ilnitsky, with this note: Damaged goods lie in a damaged kitchen in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 26 August 2014. Residential areas in several districts of Donetsk, including the central part of the city, suffered from artillery fire, three people [were] killed and 10 wounded, the press centre of Donetsk city Council reported. Retrieved from ilnitsky-photography.com

She had planned to offer peaches with the tea.

August was warm; the fruit had ripened to perfection.

She’d placed two paring knives on the cutting board,
set out the teapot with nasturtiums painted on the side.

Two cups.  A shard from the cup that shattered
nestles inside the bowl of fruit.

And the lace curtain, stained the color of nasturtiums or ripe peaches

as published in Split This Rock


 

Union Station, Palm Sunday

Two levels below the empty echoing hall
where no one waits anymore, a man
in a hard hat sings as he heaves
cardboard boxes onto the back of a truck

that will take them through a half-seen opening
to the trains. There used to be more baggage
and more men; now yellow light pools
around the desk, stays out of the corners.

He sings, I’m a train man,
I’m an Amtrak train man—

and another truck pulls up to be loaded.
More boxes, heavy paper bags
he tapes shut, labels with a handwritten tag
(no more Minneapolis in the drawer),

lifts onto the truck. Sings
I’m a train man
as another man comes in, wide-brimmed black hat
over his black dress coat, no work clothes today.

He still has hymns in his ears, this man.
Hums the final benediction, and carries
a bouquet of palms that he gives one by one
to the brothers who’d pulled the Sunday morning
shift.

as published in About Place


 

Night Letters

I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.
Anna Akhmatova

Written on the undersides of leaves, along their veins;

written on the thin sheet of water laid over stones in the creek;

laid down with the saxophone track on the album
Sonny named for those telegrams with the special
night rate, 50 words for the price of 10—

the news you waited all night to read, or the news
you dreaded each time you answered the door.

Written on the back of an envelope returned as undeliverable
and then folded and forgotten in a pocket, sent to the wash.

Nailed to the door, for you to find in the morning,
when you finally understand what woke you in the night
and what could come pounding at your door another night.

What he wrote in response, what she revised and copied herself,
what anyone left in the mailboxes of those who would know
what to do with it, who would know to recopy what had been written
and pass it on, mailbox to mailbox through an unbroken series of nights:

I’ve written down the words that I’ve not dared to speak.

Left as a clue to the location of what was buried
decades ago, so that someone else can brush the light crumbly soil
from these bones, reconstructing what happened at the very end,
what was nearly disappeared.

as published in Little Star


 

Even Now

Even diplomats are required to pay the tax, said the mayor.
Shopkeepers have disappeared in full daylight and the daylight disappeared as well.
The eclipse could be seen from Brazil to Mongolia, but not here;
we did not even bother to look.

Even the flowing river has been blocked;
they had tape of the official announcement on the radio.
A cemetery has been buried and another relocated,
the graves dug up one by one to make room for an airport.
The developers arranged for a 120 year old oak to be moved,
its rootball exposed and trimmed before it was lifted onto the flatbed.

Even the government knows where the earth will quake and split,
removing entire sections of the city as if they were never there
except that we will remember them, the streets and houses shaded by trees;
but no one knows when.

Even our parents have lost their way home.
The streets turn right where they used to turn left,
the lights blink red, the bridge is permanently raised, the freight train stops at the
crossing.
It may not move again until tomorrow.

Even you have misplaced your keys, your wallet, the reason you were leaving the house,
and I can’t find that paper I just had in my hands
or the story I used to know by heart.

We have all lost so many things, perhaps all we had,
perhaps not