Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stunned



I’ve come to this sense of being


lopsided


and it’s only the end of autumn,


but already


nothing stuns, nothing astonishes


anymore


now that brilliant sunny October and all its


pattypan squash and copper and tangerine


are gone.


Now I am sunk and sinking deeper


into the gloom of winter; the rain which


I longed for is here but it is also damp


and cold and gray, and while I'm happy


for my olive trees-- for all trees--


I'm sad for me--this atmospheric pressure, this


holiday light


and song to get out and buy and do


and meet,


and in the midst of all, their dialysis


and chemo,


the daily cleansing and curing.


It makes me dizzy, at times I feel


I may


lose consciousness.


And then I stroll on the bay trail late


afternoon and there--


a deep red blush of sunset,


a crescent of silver moon,


and the San Mateo bridge crossing


the bay like a thin, golden hair.


And a rejoicing stirs again in me.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sleep

When the leaf falls in the collapsing din 
of summer light, it doesn’t crawl along 
the ground, lame in heavy breathing for months. 
The leaf lets go of mother’s hand and floats
gently to her grave. Not my old sweet Lab 
who teeters into hers, bowels and backside--
all her senses--in disarray.  I wonder. 
Is it kind to let her find her own end? 
To let her sleep all her days, 
to crawl crippled to her water bowl? 
This loyal friend who trusts 
herself to me as to her own mother. 
She'd follow me unflinching to the vet, 
her eyes allegiant as she slips into that other sleep.
And what would she be missing? 
Sleep is sleep. 
Only her dreams would end.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Loud

It’s like waking up to the short wild scream of the horn
of a distant train blowing and you know that great big
black iron horse is charging this way though still unseen
behind the hill. No need to rush, but it’s coming now, 
the horn is blowing for you to hear--a shrill wheeze in 
the wind, the sound not yet piercing your skull but you know
it’s time to stand up, gather your things, prepare for boarding. 
And the sound keeps getting louder,
like the high groan of yard dogs pulling on their chains
and yet there is a pleasantness there, a kind of promise
when your heart dares to listen. But still, how can you
ever be at ease, how can you ever rest with that horn 
groaning louder in your ear?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Making ends meet


On the playground, the Sisters of the Holy Cross sell little bags
of chips and boxes of chocolate milk. 
Not expensive but more than I ever have in my pocket, 
which is almost always nothing. 
But sometimes I am the owner of dimes, 
stolen from my father’s dresser or given by a fairy, 
so I can purchase a box of ice cold milk, 
maybe even a bag of chips. 
As I write about it now, a half century later, 
I am overcome by the same lightness of spirit 
that follows those first sips,
that satisfying sweetness assaulting my mouth. 
My pleasure seems extreme 
because it isn’t just the flavors of the loot that brings 
exhilaration, it is that the power to buy 
is the ticket into the universe. It makes me part of it, 
no longer she who stands outside it, on the edge 
of the Black Hole horizon, observing the brilliant stars 
around her. Now I have what it takes to belong 
to the beautiful world swirling around that playground. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Between

Awake another night I am, your news 
sitting on my bedside--obese, ulcered, stinking 
until the wee hours, the first light of another
day of fright, pressing down on this 
mattress like a four-wheeler--tossing me 
from my own bed. Your news cloaks the
room, my limbs, my dreams, all day
my eyeballs burn as if they'd been soaked 
all night in vinegar and it’s not over yet, 
your news will trap for sure more nights 
between my sight and thought, 
between the dusk and dusk again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What a character

When I wake up, my grandson begins to draw a picture of my head. 
He says, “Your hair is stumbling all around” and, feeling pity, adds, 
“That’s ok, everybody makes mistakes.” 
My husband the musician attends our grandson’s choral concert 
and says, “I want you to learn to play an instrument,” and my grandson answers, 
“I have an instrument already. It’s my mouth. I sing.” 
Last week we saw the slimy track of a snail across the rug 
and my grandson says, “We have a pet snail now, don’t we?”  
He climbs out of the car at school and says, “My teacher told me 
she has eyes in the back of her head, but I think she’s just kidding, don’t you?” 
My grandson pretends to be Iron Man but drops his shield and hammer
to kiss a bolweevel.  At dinner my grandson asks, “What is romantic love?” 
I tell him, “It’s love that grownups can feel for each other,” 
and he says, “But I have romantic love for you.”  
My grandson sees a moth in his room and wants to know, 
“Will it eat my underpants?” 
Moths prefer cotton, I explain, and he shrieks, 
“My underpants are safe because they’re polytheist!” 
He tells me, “You are the cutest member of our family” and I reply, 
“No, you are the cutest” and then he frowns and tells me, “You should 
respect yourself more.” I leave the Birth of a Planet playing on TV 
while I use the bathroom. Thinking it’s the news, my grandson pounds 
with loud force on the bathroom door. “Quick! Quick! Come out! The earth
is being bombed by giant rocks!” He reads my poems and asks, “How come 
your poems never rhyme?” We walk by the lake with his friend. I listen to them 
talk about destroying ships and catching crocodiles and ask, 
“What do little girls your age talk about?” and my grandson answers, 
“I don’t know, we don’t listen to what girls say.”  
The hairdresser tells him, “You’re such a goodlooking guy. I bet you hear 
that a lot.” My grandson nods, “Yup, but I can handle it.”  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

From the top

I read the email twice and twice again.
I read again and two more times then once again.
They found the cancer on her tongue and in her lung.
She makes a joke that she won’t croak. I have to stop.
I read her email two more times right from the top.

I read her email two more times right form the top.
She makes a joke that she won’t croak. I have to stop.
They found the cancer on her tongue and in her lung.
I read again and two more times then once again.

I read the email twice and twice again.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cancer

Every day she reckons sugar, gluten--she’s so careful.
Every night she mixes seeds and petals, blends
the blood of pomegranates--the taste is sour.
Every noon she comes down on her knees 
and palms and 33 bones of spine--
from skull to coccyx--curl then straighten 
like a ladder up into lastingness--
life loves her body, 
ferments in her seeds, her tailbone, 
her sour juice. 
And would have grown day by day, 
sip by sip, 
downward-face by downward face 
had not the virus, 
that dead and living stalker, 
enraged every spore of her diligently examined 
breast.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What I hear

In the quickening twilight that gilds the lake 
water, the trail curves along the shore, 
my old lab toddling in my shade, 
I sleepwalking for a time and then
consciousness snaps its fingers 
and the plainsong of crickets thrums 
against my ear bone,  
against each blade of mustard grass, 
each dark bending Manzanita.
An ancient music made with teeth 
on wings opening and closing 
like sails, the same preening concert 
that pierced the ears of
old tyrannosaurs
as they bedded down 
for the night.  





As if...

A morning walk on the shoulders 
of Lake Chabot toward the creek,
the young redwoods and the old oaks 
and the tall tender pines 
as if for the first time 
and as if for the first time
I circle the large trunks, 
roots tangled like boas,
stare at them and they stare back 
as if mutual understanding could 
be possible by looking and waiting. 
On this warm morning, I wear sandals. 
On cooler days my lace-ups get their turn. 
My old dog greets both with wild shaking 
of her bushy tail and in the woods she sniffs 
as if never before, as if never again.
There is the scent of freshly washed bark 
and the fragrance of something brand new 
as if these trees had been pulled up by their
crowns through the muck and moss
in the deep of night.  Oh, but what is 
that strange sound beyond the creek?
A creature, yes, honking in pain.
I look to my breath, to the scent of oak,  
to the flavor of pine, to the sweet perfume
of life which I may never understand, must love
without armor, without holding back
as if never before and never again.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A hole

Death is what I hate 
to think about 
but always do--
my beloved self 
sprinkled to
the bottom 
of a shaft--
moonless pit
of everlasting 
night, 
my flesh no longer 
flesh but chimney 
grime.
A hole with no decor 
or time, devoid 
of all accord, 
of wonder,
where nothing will 
or can be done, 
where everyone 
sleeps
with everyone



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Prickly

I have decided he can’t help it. The sickness brings it. 

The prickliness corrals inside the mouth, along the rows 
of teeth--a bitter saliva he must spit out.  
It is his voice, his mouth, yes but misery makes 
a good impersonator.  It stalks, it thins, it frays,
it twists the soul from muscle and bone. 
It moves without heart through its long dogged 
digging in the bowels, both claws soaked with
what flows there, until the nerves, until
the soul itself pulls away from that entire 
sagging beast. 
All this to add a bit more time to life. 

And all the while the evil sickness waits. 

You can hear it swallow with anticipation.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mornings

Mornings I like to wander among 
a lovely jam of sturdy trees--
oak and redwood, Eucalyptus, others, 
so many forms--anything goes
here at Lake Chabot--the ground’s paved 
with dead leaves, browned from hunger and thirst.
I and my old dog step on their skins 
curled and crisp as fried bacon cooled, 
their juice leached, 
piles of them in mass graves, 
some in single plots, 
all of them bitten and freckled, 
all freely giving back the life they won
returning it to the forrest as if loaned to them, 
the life never asked for, with no memory of it.
For them there’s simply a season to shine 
in bright sun and for the rest of time
to wither in deep shade, 
without sap and membrane, 
gone forever without a trace or complaint.
This comes to mind as I step across 
this gorgeous graveyard. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Asking for help

When he's gone I will stare at the left side of our bed
for days, weeks, maybe longer, and his absence 
will astonish me each time I open his closet door 
and see the orphaned shoes shined and lined
with a two-way stretcher and I will admire once 
again his tidy ways
when he's gone I will forget his grumblings 
and inward leanings, 
the pelican legs slathered and festooned to the bed, 
the anxiety and tears as mettle and firmness 
flow out of him.
I will forget these scraps of the man, 
the lips that curl in fury, 
all will be forgotten 
and in their place there will be silence and air, 
swollen and still. There will be strangeness.
When he’s gone I will only remember the laughter 
and pillow fights, his 40th birthday, his cummerbund flashing. 
All things I have trouble remembering now during 
this long endurance, this slow annihilation, 
these long days of our misfortune.
But when he’s gone, I will be asking for help--the coming
desolation can’t be lived alone.  
When he is gone, I will think of his confiding eyes,
they were my heart's oasis.

Friday, September 5, 2014

It's illogical

A machine keeps him alive now that his kidneys
will not and he endures it all without a mother 
(she would have nursed him like no
other) but he has me and he has the machine, 
both second best but we keep him going,
all by the force which has a way of pushing 
life through the odds, the cracks, just look 
at the flowers shooting up from the patio fissures 
(I tell him that on his bad days), 
just look at those blind bats that catch a meal 
in the pitch of night deep in the distance,
how they follow the echo, or the mushroom 
that explodes overnight in the junkyard. 
How life abides, goes on by the grace of that
generous force, how it stages its comebacks, 
how it abandons reason and just drags on 
stubbornly, flying in the teeth of it all.
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, 
day and night, shall not cease.




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The movie

There is a pointlessness to it: walking 
past your old bedroom each morning
--I don’t want to make too much of it,
the young are designed to fly the nest--
but every morning the sun lifts over 
the hill outside your window and casts 
the shade into a silver screen of sorts 
and so I lean against your door 
to catch the flick--a trailer really, 
content to play in this room only-- 
of everyday moments, nothing too dramatic, 
jumbled days all, but what a movie.
It always knocks my socks off.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An act of kindness

Let's say you are the widow's middle child
still in Heide braids when you first hear 
goose steps in your town.
Let’s say fresh out of school the Luftwaffe 
offers you a good job, they mention travel. 
Let's say you ride in the back of the Mercedes-Benz
Transformable Torpedo, behind your boss
and his driver when the gates open
and transparent beings pour through the camp 
like rushing water, drenched as if they had risen
from the ocean floor.
Let's say sleep comes and goes that night and 
the next morning you place your breakfast
on the window sill and turn your back 
and when you look again the plate is gone 
and you feel relief that a ghost has eaten 
and you are not arrested, your 
giving hand not cut off. 
Let’s say the next day you repeat this act
of kindness and later when all is over, 
in the dark of night you grieve because
you did not do more. 
And let’s say what was not done 
becomes the story in your life
and your life is a protracted mourning 
for it, for what was not done. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sailing

Yes that's what life is like, isn't it?
Like sailing alone in a little boat, 
in fits and starts on a landless planet 
relying on luck and karma for aid,
sometimes our mind and mouth 
yanked open by (or in cheerful ignorance 
of) the killer tendencies all around,
sometimes sitting stilly under squalls 
with feet kicking the waves, 
lavishing our attention on beauty 
or on perils but soon time again to stand up--
the sails must be adjusted
to these ever-changing winds--and
sometimes we are delirious with 
all that physical effort 
(having to make our own wind so often,
so many lightening quick adjustments)
and sometimes lovely birds land on the hull, 
nervous and a bit shriveled, like us, 
singing under the same shower of stars 
because for them too this voyage 
sometimes seems unbearable, this hunger
for consolation their only constant. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Letter to my body

Body, body, my beloved
from the moment, from that very instant one
invisible fish out-swam a hundred million 
others into that beautiful moon in the mother 
sea and in a dazzling burst made you, 
these coveted days of sleep and wakefulness
are being counted precisely in a secret clock 
and from the moment I knew it was I 
in the cradle I tried to crawl away from the clock, 
I have cried and begged for a world without time,
but you dear body are a ticking time bomb, 
because of you I will not sleep for a hundred years, 
I will not be restored by the kiss of a handsome prince.
You are moving me on a conveyor belt back
into that miracle of nothing-something. 
There is nothing because you are made from it,
you are the puppet of time-space-magic
but so are the stars, so is all matter--
time will ooze from all of it and then 
who knows? Another world remade
from your teeth and hair?
Every single atom rekindled?
Into other miracles I commend you, 
my body, myself.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chill

I couldn’t take my eyes off her face
in the bed, that silent pre-death repose.
She looks more floral than human, 
her face white as the chill before the bloom,
the skin folding scion-like around her skull, 
protecting the still living root below.
Beside her in a hard chair I watch for hours, 
day after day, my own self now shrinking 
from my dread, from my shock that this force 
(my mother was a lion) can be so undone--
the same dazed astonishment when I saw the scaffold
of a great doomed whale belly up on the sand
of Santa Cruz--a skyscraper of white bones, 
picked clean by who knows what and yet 
still mighty in grace and history.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Flakes

Look, here shines the leaf
dropped from its mother’s arms
into the soft living muck to dry 
in gorgeous shades of death
--corn and saffron, ochre and brass--
and at my touch the crisp veins flake
into a mist of umber snow 
and I watch her demise with longing, 
seeking a bit of solace in it, 
seeking to make peace with it
before the night erases all trace of it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bright red

The light deep inside flashes red and you
begin to stop.
You want to keep going but the light is bright 
and your body obeys and begins
to wind down and life begins to let go 
of its foothold in you, 
(it was tenuous anyway)
and there you are, ailing and fatigued
but aware of what’s happening to you-- 
(if only you didn’t have to watch) 
the spiral outward into your final ordeal--
out into that stark bloodless desert, 
into that unwanted escape from self, 
from your pleasing intimacy with matter, 
out into that shower of sparkling eyes, 

into that bleakly beautiful blackness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Solitary

A painter would pause this late afternoon 
on Alameda beach, glimpsing paradise, 
would be seized by insight and pull out 
the brushes and palette
and begin to work quickly 
because look how the clouds 
are fattening up, gulping the light 
right out of the sky, 
existing only in tones and lines 
but still there is a kind of diamond dazzle, 
at times unblended in how it falls 
on the buckwheat, the sticky monkey flowers. 
A painter would have to dab short 
quick strokes to show how this quickening 
breeze wraps around 
my shoulders, makes my hair fly up 
with the kites and the water skiers’ parachutes. 
I too sense a big moment, though my mind is blank,
fit only for hushed gazing 
yet I feel a sumptuous intimacy 
with gulls and wind and bay and buckwheat 
that is quite solitary, 

indeed can only be noticed
unattended.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Crowded

This room feels crowded 
even though there are just two of us.
His head on the pillow, mine in my hands.
I stand by his bed 
as if he were learning to lie in it, 
as if I were his teacher, the one
who walks alongside the bike 
the child is learning to ride.
All our feelings mull around us 
like munching cows, 
sometimes touching as they wait 
to be milked 
but the hours pass and nothing is spoken, 
everything abided.

Deep down

Deep down below the stem, 
below the root itself, 
down in the beginnings, in my body’s engine
that transforms my energy into breath, 
into these heart beats, 
that forces these pores to sweat 
and my blood to move through me--there, 
down there,
lies my terror. 
In the zenith of one day to come 
my eyes will not fully close 
and I will be alone 
again in the depths of night
as in that moment before my creation.
I will be tossed up into the cold night, shimmering
with stars, 
like a snow ball melting as I fly, 
splintering into drops 
and the drops into tiny worlds
with suns of their own 
and the atoms, now a fine mist, 
will enter the air, my atoms rushing into 
the half light, 
and my being still shining
with a wavering glow, like an aura, 
like glitter on a lake--bright points of light
that come and then go. 
Deep down, I know no ghost 
will leap
from my lovely wreckage.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stooping down

My face over his face, looking at him carefully, 
inspecting iris to iris, nose to nose, 
sniffing, counting seconds between breaths,
seeing a man’s body return to newborn form, 
legs more like arms, pink, hairless. 
Think how firmly these feet once held him
upright, thick as granite, inflexible.
Despite the tremors, the many naps, 
the many days and nights of murmurings, 
he is still handsome in that smart haircut, 
the ancient Yaqui bones contain the blight
and he really doesn't complain too much. 
He is a man who likes to act like a man. 
I stoop down to blow the heat off his face 
and in the house somewhere I hear Out of Africa 
on the radio, his favorite soundtrack, and my whole 
being feels decades drift away like clouds 
over the sharp edge of ancient white plains, 
the stark flatness of our fate, 
wide and bright to the end.


The journey

In the place where the temperature falls
when I step out of the sun
into the dark cyan
shade of the forrest,
when I listen to my shoes crunch flotsam, 
the panting of my lab, the squeaks of flying beings 
high in the crowns,
where trees old and young 
lay across the stream, 
the young ones dying on the backs of their elders
and stumps mourn in gowns of lime green moss
and all around lay fallen leaves in yellow,
burnt umber and brick, and changing colors still,
where even in that state of doom, beauty 
does not abandon them.
This is where I take my grief, 
which is the price of love,
and where in mercy I rest
and let go of fear 
and love the world.




If only

If only God Almighty were not so
insecure. 
What gruesome death that crucifixtion
of any son, of any blood and body 
and why must every soul be offered up?
If only God did not need hell on earth--
if only that everlasting hell could be enough
to satisfy His revenge.
If only He did not demand redemption
for all of humankind, the innocent beside
the evil, but most especially 
by horrific immolation.
If only God could be content.
Withdraw demands for victimhood,
for our extreme obedience.
If only He truly loved as father, mother, friend,
we would not be so afflicted by pestilence, war and famine,
and countless other terrors
by the Him who wants to be exalted
daily for all this misery.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.

If only.  If only God would come to this.