Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just Another Thursday

I remember, if only barely, 
what feelings soaked the eyes
of the child I used to be when 
on that first Thanksgiving in America
I skittered to the kitchen and saw mother
stuffing cabbages with sticky clumps
 of ham and bread like Germans do.

In my mind's dimlit pantry, 
where memories cure
there stands a puzzled 5 year old 
blinking dully
at those leafy skulls.

So odd it seemed 
after weeks and weeks
of painting plump and fleecy 
fowl in school
that there in my Ohio home
Thanksgiving was just another Thursday.
Father fighting in Korea and mother
just shut the oven door 
on those lime-green cabbage heads
she fixed once a week.

Now be glad, she scolded--
nonplussed, noncomprehending--
today's the day one stuffs a thing
and that I did.


It’s a joyful convocation, the one I dream of—
a glimmering jubilee where jolly friends and family 
clasp hands around an altar all aglow with light and silver.

All are clapping, praising, toasting
laughing and embracing, spinning 
delicious tales that kindle cheering up and down the rows.

Steaming dishes spiced and tinted as prescribed by generations
hurry down the table rousing awe and clamor as the children 
suck on fruity brews and their elders swig the beer and wine—
spiking fancies all the more.

Not a soul declines to linger after every belly has been stuffed
to remember one more wise or zesty story, swallow one more spoon
of Harvest Torte—so delighted and so thankful seems each and every one
for this communion.

And when ochre shadows finally flush the hearth,
when burning timber snaps and glistening candles drip,
my old yearnings all have faded. I am happy here just being 
knowing time is melting, melting with the whipped cream on the torte.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


How old am I now?

My mother asks, her eyes do not open 

but she is awake under the lids.

Almost 79, I say. 

Soon you’ll be 79.

That’s enough. I’ve lived long enough.

Her voice bears the tone  

of one who’s just been told 

the fine coat on her arm

is not on sale, 

she must pay full price.

The tone of All right. I’ll take it.

She will not shame herself 

by asking for more or

making a scene 

when the policy 

seems so firm, 

so carved in stone.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My mother does all the talking

As I am growing up, my mother does all the talking.

She talks and talks and talks about the war. 

About the sirens and the bombs and mothers fleeing.

About children crawling out of hell and screaming. 

About the sick and old gone lost with hair on fire.

About the smell of skin and how it smolders.

About feeling crushed too tight to kneel to pray.

Nothing takes her mind off what she’s seen.

And so she must do all the talking 

and all I do is listen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Poetry Workshop

The lead poet says, write about autumn rain now.

I can’t think about autumn rain 
in this bone-dry room,
without air or breeze, 
roasting with poet bodies.

Ok. Wait.
I’m thinking of autumn rain. 

It’s the swelling scents and tastes 
of a rainy autumn day at
Lake Chabot that I so love. 

It's inhaling the wetness,
the taste on the tongue 
of soaked eucalyptus and pine, 
of drenched concrete
and soggy scat
and drowned leaves. 

And funny how noisy splashing geese 
make rain feel wetter, kinder 
and in this showery mist life itself
feels more real, more personal.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Living Room, Castro Valley

It is my favorite room, 
the biggest living room
I've ever had.
I walk it end to end, 
let my hand slide down the stone hearth, finger
the artful molding, 
pose before the grand windows. 
My father pushes a chair to the windows. 
For a whole day he eyes the hills 
yellow as lions
and the Bay polished as steel, 
and the etched skyline
of San Francisco, 
and left and right the bridges--
silver threads curling across the water--
and through the cloak of fog
a sword of light 
pierces the heart of Treasure Island.
He is dying and he knows it.
But he wants to buy my house.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Their Last Dinner

She wears a necklace of pearl onions
to the Bon Home Cafe
where he waits over steamed mussels, 
intensely green spinach,
and roasted pork belly.

She kisses his cheek, 
notes a scent of beef heart tartar, 
kisses him again--on his mouth, 
burning with jalapeno from,
she wonders, a duck carnitas taco?
Or crispy lamb’s tongue?

A pinot noir sits on the table,
two crystal glasses meet in the air,
the wine slides down their throats
like a cooled down rump pudding.

For you, darling, the pomegranet glazed quail? 
No, no, she asserts tartly.
The Brazilian lobster tail. 
It costs more.

Why not? He smiles wrly. 
It’s our last date.
I’ll toast to that, the tart dissolving
from her key lime voice.

Waiter! He calls.
A melon liquor as cold as this woman’s heart!

Better cold than pickled and twice-cooked! 
she retorts with a mix of raw honey 
And Korean mustard.

Ah, here they are, he smiles.
Espresso-soaked lady fingers dipped in rum.
Give me some, she demands.

He reaches between the butter
and the orange sugar biscuits, 
takes her lance-shaped fingers 
in his hands and licks them, 
One ladyfinger at a time.

Her blood thickens like creme fraiche,
her body glistens like half pears 
sunk in pools of warm bourbon.

Can we dine from time to time? he asks
with a breath of garlic 
on their walk to her car. 

No, she hisses. I’ve had enough 
of your bevy of warm beef and creamy coleslaw, 
your wild mushrooms and Ports, 
your tastings, your chilled bottles.

So be it, darling, 
his voice dripping, like butter
From skewered shrimp in lemon pepper.

She drives away vexed their hunger 
could so quickly be sated and vows
from now on to avoid cattle of any kind.