Friday, March 29, 2013

The Best Place to Write

Cafes with their deep sofas, 
electrical outlets and people communicating 
on keyboards, books, blank paper
(but not with each other) 
are pleasantly lonely places.
For as long as I’ve been writing
I've been drawn again and again 
by the cafe’s power to capture my focus
--and I wonder, do minds function
best amid noisy arrangements
of people preoccupied with devices?
Because distractions, whether mundane 
ones such as letting out the dog or big ones 
like depression, with its repetitive thinking,
Can only be conquered by sitting in a cafe, 
where the moment I stand in line 
to order a green tea latte
everything in my life waits at the door, 
dares not follow me in, knowing it will be ignored, 
will cease to exist, and so I wonder, 
Is the ability to focus
(if not to be happy) most possible 
in a realm one does not own, 
among strangers, where one is a guest, 
and nothing is asked of her 
and where she can do nothing at all
about anything except write?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Still Life (Published in Monterey Poetry Journal, October 2013)

It was night, cold and dry and still.
Ahead we see cars with red and yellow lights, pulsating
Like lighthouses on cliffs of a black sea.
Two girls sit in the back row of a car, one with her head
Leaning back on her seat, face turned to the window,
The skin mostly gone, but there was enough left
To see her expression--she looks stunned,
Her face says calmly oh no, look at me, 
I am dead. Her arms have fallen to her sides, the skin
is gone but the sleeves of her blouse hang in pieces,
The bones of her wrists with hands turned upwards lay in her lap--
This was all that was left of her after the fire.
This is what her mother will see when she comes
To the morgue. I don’t turn my head away, my own 
hands are holding my head, as if my head were so heavy
two hands are needed to hold it up, but my hands will not
release my head or turn it, and my eyes could not
Leave hers, that would have been cruel, to just
Look away from this incinerated girl, to drive away
Quickly and turn up the radio as my friend wants to do.
The other girl’s head has fallen face down onto her breast
so we could not make eye contact, therefore I focus my attention
On the girl I can see, on her white cheek bones covered
By ash, and her eyes, the holes where her eyes had been, 
turned to me but not into me, past me.
A man is sitting straight up in the driver’s seat, 
he too bone and ash, sprinkled with broken glass, 
and I wonder, was he sober when he drove them all
out of this world? Possibly the only world 
they would ever know?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Back Seat (Published in Monterey Poetry Journal, October 2013)

I see the two of them.

They lie on the back seat of his car.

It is night time, very late.

Soon he will have to take her home.

On the dashboard, a can of coke

Mixed with rum. Moonlight

Lifts his face out of darkness.

The man turns his whole body to her,

In a rush of need,

Covers her like a mountain,

pours himself into her

Once, twice, many times.

She feels an odd boredom

Being rocked and rolled about,

And turns her head to the window,

Wide open, filled with dark things, 

and nearby a large and silent cow, 

which she watches as she waits 

for the storm to pass through her.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I won’t visit the ward where she’s sitting 
beside others who stab themselves in their necks.
Who does that? Who? And why? 
(Is that icy tone mine on the phone?)

She didn’t want to die, 
Only make her lover stay.
Because I’m needy, mother!
One of her serial assertions.

I love you is another

Once upon a time she was a sunny child
(Wasn’t she?) Am I dreaming when I 
see a little girl with a soft red heart
flung open to everyone?

She loved hearts, on her headbands, 
on her socks, on her toothbrush, 
pillow hearts--everything she owned
wooed Be Mine.

Her beauty wasn't subtle. (Why didn’t it save her?)
People stopped us on the street, knelt down 
for a better look into those bluegreygreen eyes
(their color has no name, has never been seen before.)

Didn’t I bring her warm milk at night?
Didn’t I embolden her with dance, surround her with my
Kind, savvy friends? Give her new shoes
(covered in hearts) for summer camp?

Didn’t I make it clear she was not doomed
because language in all forms failed her?

She had dreams of driving a red convertible
with its top down, volume up, her blond hair blowing 
like yellow scarves but now almost 30, not even a permit, 
she feels stranded in a dream noir, 
on a long drive from somewhere to nowhere,
forever crashing into strangers’ lives.

It wearies me, repels me. I’m standing
too close to her desperate edges.
How deep is her doubt? Who knows?
What part of her is her, what part monkey?
How much deeper will her slow dive take her?
I don’t know when she’s lying and when she's not 
since all her words are stained with colors
unfamiliar as her eyes and from her mouth, 
strange sounds that scare me to death.

I should have watched her more closely. 
I should have watched her the way a sailor
watches the wind before setting out to sea.
Everything in the air must be important if
you want your boat to move to the right place
at the right time along the best route.

She cries, mom, mom, it’s not your fault.

If I could forgive, if I had a hero in my heart,
I wouldn’t sail backwards in my sleep, 
never reaching the shore, never coming to rest. 
I would not judge. Because who knows 
where the wind comes from?
Who knows where it goes?