Thursday, March 27, 2014

Whenever we say goodbye

When I fly away to Europe and then to California, 
and when she comes to visit and then goes home
and any time we part and know 
it will be long till we meet again,
my mother puckers up her lips in the shape 
of a fresh spring tulip and takes my face in her hands 
to crunch my cheeks, then kisses me--
a peck really--and then, in case we never meet again, 
she tells me--to be sure I know that once 
it had been good between us-- 
You have no idea how much I loved you
when you were my little blond girl. 
She would say this, I think, because, 
since that time, so much anger had blown
between us--its slag sticking on us.
But whenever we say goodbye, it all unsticks, 
rolls down the deep well of forgotten things. 
With each farewell, there's always that sweet moment 
of two awkward souls fumbling.

I really like

I really like
when the glassy mask slips off
my mother's face,
when the snug fit around her eyes and cheeks
comes undone,
when some electrical charge snaps
and she pops from the trance
when her extended laugh flips
her head around to some inner song
and she laughs like a diva 
when her words erupt all honey lava
and her mood spumes like champagne, 
when I can hear and smell her fizz.
I really like 
when she can be happy like that.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Another little soul
saved in the church
of St. Theresa.

The old priest's hands wave,
call forth the saving spirit
bless this child, bless that one too.

One hears the click, click, click
of cameras, moms and Godmoms
in fluffy prom dresses, dads and
god dads in clean jeans and new shirts.

The freshly christened
crawl and wail
in their escape.

No Mass. Really?
No one
understands its
moral gravity

It's time to party.
Tequila, hot sauce,
sheet cakes.
On every table
bowls of baby angels.

The DJ's crowd-pleasing music
Too loud. But the throng dances
til closing, demands
and gets one final song.

Some sit ill on the steps
over puddles of vomit,
others scold or weep or trip.

Such is the rhymn
and the mystery
of the faith.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Another list

Ha ha ha       and HA!
That's my response. 

and a sarcastic laugh! 

Come! Lets write a poem 
the New Yorker might run. 

Something indistinct. 
A string of 
non sequitors 
and blurry

and opaque.

musket                 balls
carbolic       soap
and a     good 
old               Wych 


No narrative EVER kicks in. 

And another thing:
Blah blah blah. 

Really, blank stares.
That's is what these poems do
arouse in me.  

Am I to blame? 

n o. N   O.

I'm just the 
reflecting pool. 

The leap

I am not in the photo with the kids 
on that colossal rock we call a dinosaur egg,
in that flat grassy infinity behind our house. 
Yet the photo is still in me 
even though not much happens on that egg 
while we wait for my father
to come back from Korea. 
Only endless summer picnics 
of red Kool-aid and boloney sandwiches. 
The State Fair blows to kingdom come out there 
and my idea of a great time is born.
My brother calls every man he sees daddy
and then one day a stranger stands in our door.
Slips off the brown Army garrison cap, scans 
four kids sitting on the sofa for inspection.
I hope you've been behaving yourselves
that's all the stranger says before he holds 
out his arms to his wife, rests uncertain lips 
on her more uncertain ones. 
My mother is the only person in the room
who recognizes his face.
But not even she knows yet 
the leap from the window has begun.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lime Green

It is a bleak winter night, moonless, starless, fog engulfed, 
an all embracing darkness
except the building my mother has just died in
holds fast to its lime green stain and every window 
clasps a yoke of yellow light. 
The bag they bring is black, a bleak gray scar 
runs down it. My mother, packed up like a suit.
It lifts my feet from the ground, the hair off my skin.
And then the zipper hums up the track, up, up
to her half-open eyes, her slack jaw already 
packed, then a click and a buzz and the suit’s ready
to go, to go where? 
Onto a gurney clattering to the back of a van  
waiting on the asphalt where I watch like a tree 
with its bark burned off. 
Beyond the door, a chamber of a deeper black 
than the one outside. 
This is my most unforgettable night, 
the most howling of all nights. 
Not knowing what comes next, 
no God to turn to.
My mother hurtles through the blackness
of infinity. 


Every day sees more evidence against immortality. 
That we are no different from elephants, returning again
and again, like they, to the bodies of our dead friends, 
to a dead baby's bones. 
Love and devotion do not stand us apart.
The same engines drive our hairy legs to water and meadows, 
over boundaries, for food, for drink, for arousal, 
for battles between strong and stronger. 
But what elephant would leave this message I saw today 
inscribed on a wooden bench over San Leandro Bay?
See you in paradise, Martin. 
And what elephant would return home to write about it?
and then think all night of great glimmering galaxies? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In the last hour

In that last hour before our ship docks in New York, 
I wait for that boy to say goodbye.
Surely he will search every deck for me.
Will draw me out of this reverie about last night
in the ballroom where his famous mother 
sang in her gleaming gown
and the boy held my hand and stared at me as if 
I'd just risen from the dead, and not only then 
but the day before too, he gazed open mouthed
Wasn't that the sign of love so clear, so true as a fog horn?
What a muffin of a thought, larded with hope,
grand with illusions, with what zest
but all of it in danger here in the last hour 
when he should be pressing his address into my hand.
Yet there's not a sign of him.
Only 16 and already exhausted by love.

Monday, March 10, 2014

They meant well

In my bedroom, we face each other, 
me slumped on my twin, my father  
upright on my sister’s bed. 
He has closed the door behind him. 
We are alone. For once he is not glaring.
He is staring--how queer to be so eyeballed 
by him, to be so carefully surveyed,
to be waiting for me to speak, to be all ears. 
I am sobbing, my scalp throbs where my mother 
tore away hair; she, discomposed, fulminating, fears 
I might have copulated. 
My father, in uniform, in the soft voice of a man 
handing me flowers, says:
Give me the soldier’s name.
He is leaning toward me, he is clasping his hands, 
he is staring, his eyes narrow, he takes me in.
I only know his first name, I say.
My father tips one ear up as if he has just heard 
an odd bird call, and then he clears his throat 
and he goes. 
My father was such an amateur.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cleaning up

I step into the house my mother was carried out of 
but expected to return to in a day or so
(after all, it was only a fall in this hallway 
that made mosaic of her leg).
I can't explain how I sense what I know can't be true
that there are others here moving around me 
gently as jelly fish,
but not confined to any space, 
being supernal.

Though it's already noon, all the rooms 
have the feel of first morning light, 
when dawn lines the edges of the visible, 
stepping hushed out of the invisible
a parallel world ready to appear, 
the realm I once knew at St Joseph's, 
the realm of blood miracles and incorruptible bodies.

Walking through her house, I feel her eyes 
on my back. She is curious: what of hers 
will I take home, which belongings will be let go,
her motive being to understand what I love about her. 
I command my eyes to take their sweet time, 
to dwell on her dolls and her florentine hat 
with equal ardor 
so as not to insult my mother any further 
by rejecting her possessions. 

If all goes well….

They will not be wearing corsages, nor waving
with excitement when I arrive, 
nor will they lift me high above their heads.
They will have no hands, no throats, 
there will be no talking, 
no need for any of that--
they know everything, want nothing, 
not even music, not even sonnets--there will be nothing
to forget, to sublimate, nothing to forgive.
They will not think about the past or what's to come.
There will only be Now,
and crowns of light rejoicing--for what, I've no idea.
But if all goes well, there will be rapture 
and if not that, there will at least be peace,
there will be no cessation.