Saturday, December 19, 2015

I wish

Suddenly his eyes open with glee
therein--amused as if interrupted 
from a story an old friend is telling--
which makes his face young and handsome again,
the sight of which takes my breath. 
I lean over the rail of the hospital bed, my face above his, 
a strange joy surging in me
to see him again so unencumbered. 
I take his hand in mine, shyly, because I have not
taken his hand enough, 
I realize that now, I have been too stingy with this aspect 
and a spark of self hate flares but I ignore it and hold 
his boyish gaze in mine, gulping it down because he has been sick 
so long and so much has been tried to heal him but now 
there is nothing left to try yet he seems not to know 
that time is closing in, he seems amused, 
he seems pleased to see me, pleased to hold my hand. 
I love you, I say, and his pupils shine clear as bubbles 
and glisten with amusement when he says, I love you too, 
and for a long time our eyes can not move and then his close again.
I do not know this is the last time but I do know he closes them 
without fear or regret, without worry and woe, without memory, 
anger, pain. That's how it seems to me. 
I could say I wish I knew for sure but what I know 
is enough.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's not working

Some say reach out.
They say beat a path to another door, seek 
the gloss of some society.

Such unreason, as if we mourners could
like eels travel so far from our lagoons. 

We can only toy with fact and fiction. 
Multiple reflections come so easy 
to the grieving mind whose grid of tumbling
images oscillate at crazy angles and circle
back to one thing only: crying spells.  

As when his shadow steps into the hall.
I see it slip from room to room and out 
the iron gate but I, immobile in this 
melancholy trance, can't get up to verify.

So I let myself wonder, was it him, is it true?
And that thought--every thought--ferries me 
back to raucous pain.

Monday, November 30, 2015


Thank you, husband, for loving me 
even when I was not loveable,
for calling me by my true name 
and no other, for being my home
and always close by, 
for the lovely sounds but also
the quietude, the coolness and calm,
your courage and goodness.
Thank you for enabling me to sleep soundly 
through 13,000 nights.
Thank you for all this and for all 
the other vital things. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I say to me, 
move away from the shore,
move deep, 
move beyond the swells, below the waves and roar 
down into seabed, 
move along the reefs, along the vents, crawl with crabs, 
join your grief down there. 
Do not faint,
by that I mean let it move 
and let it be moved in you
which is to say 
accept your being, 
let grief have its way, 
which is to say, 
yes he is gone now and you 
will always, always know it. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

A special offer

Gone boy, what can I say 
about you to my friends 
over drinks? 
That I walk this house making sounds
that become your name? 
That I pull on my own hair?
That I'm startled awake,
my mouth chewed by ants, my throat 
sore from their scratching? 
What can I say? 
What can they say?
Silenced in pity as I think of you 
rusting barefoot on our bed 
so I talk of Macy's special offer, 
this new cologne I'm wearing, 
its bright scent bursts from my handbag 
like confetti. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

For example

I wonder how to live now 
that I'm not a wife.

For example, I needn't say,
Art, I'll be back at four. 

Nor need I return at four.
I needn't return by five
or six or really ever now
that I'm not a wife.

I won't be talking anymore.
For example, when I wake,
I make coffee, watch the news, 
dress and check the mail, 
all this and more
without a single word. 

And all the chores 
are mine now. 
That hammer on his desk?
It's mine though I could 
easily miss the nail.
And if I scream 
not a soul would hear 
now that I'm not a wife. 

Monday, September 28, 2015


Not a chance

he ever will stand straight

again, my leaning tower,

my listing, sinking ship,

my stuck in the rut stage coach,

my train wreck.

Those perfectly vertical

days are history.

Oh they were sweet! 

Remember how we stood 

before that judge straight 

as two cypress trees, vowing 

fidelity for better and worse

(through unimaginable 


standing still, unbendable, 

reaching as if our strength would last 

for centuries, as if we were more 

than what we are--bodies that list 

to one side before they fall 

to the ground and blow away 

like flour dust.

After midnight

After midnight, I think of him 

thrashing on the ground

and I long for him to go

without farewell 

without a plan.

I wish him to step into the plane 

and sit his tall self into a wide chair

by the window and watch

the bay disappear 

under the clouds 

and watch the clouds 

form a bed 

just for him.  

I wish him to drink a cold beer 

on his way to that other realm

where there is only one 

season and it is spring, 

where there are only arrivals 

no departures, 

where he will be whole again.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

At the seashore

I burst open there. 

I am only air. 

But I don't forget him my

curled caterpillar on our bed 

in heavy sleep since Monday, 

barely a twitch, his body so slowed.

The radiant blues splash and feed me. 

I'm a hatchling with beak open snapping 

at the sea, it drops into my throat--

that foam and the songs about foam. 

But he, he is motionless on the bed.

I wonder what images flash 

under those lids while  I gorge 

on miles and miles of wet and living blue 

with two narrow clouds hovering 

like eyebrows and the sea all around 

splashing me damp and the moon 

silver and quiet rising over my brows, 

its bright light pouring into my veins 

like crack.  

But I can't forget him 

who lays curled on our bed. 

Friday, September 18, 2015


Maybe his kidneys will spout roots 

and grow anew.

Succulents do.

Maybe my weak parts

can refresh too.

I like to think souls wander

all day but float back at night

when we need them most, here

in the dark one needs a hand, 

even one made of air, 

to guide the way

to silence

without tears.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blood everywhere

Suddenly the beast leaps out of my man. 
I see molars, I see deep down inside 
his mouth. I see his tongue. 
His jaws hang loose. 
He curses me. 
His eyes double in size,
they have no lids.  
I don't know the wolf in the bed. 
No, I will not argue with it.
I will not engage with madness. 
My darling is buried alive inside 
this howling thing. 
My gentle music lover cannot get out, 
cannot give me his hand. 
So I will bite down on my tongue 
before it can spit, 
my teeth will drop down
to form a cage around my tongue,
I will bite down hard until
my blood is everywhere. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What I just found out

I've known it from day one:

jazz is his guiding light and tonight,

after weeks of bang and blare

in that rehab center,

he’s home playing big band CDs. 

The trumpets, all those horns

return to him his past, spread 

it out on the table,  each tune 

a mound of delicious memory.

The skin around his eyes folds 

with pleasure, a flare in the left eye 

and then the right.

A man can think he wants to die

and no melody will change his mind

but a certain swing, a few favorite notes

can overshadow his resolve,

can make him want to stall his

demise by at least one more hour.

I just found that out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


One day you, I--all things--must 
merge into one tiny thing 
and then .....poof ..... 
all things become no thing
but only for an instant,
only until the advent of a new
tiny thing from which a spark 

spreads color deeply, widely--a new deluge
of things--water, diamonds, acorns, 
someone's happiest moments--
and who knows what else in our eternal 

drama of passing time and death approaching.
I don't know what else to say when he tells me 

he is crushed and wants to die 
so I ramble on and on to fend off, 
to dissolve, my pity, his fear, my fear, 
by sublimating this dead end he /we face. 
It's cruel that life contains the seed 
of its own destruction
but somehow it is a thought that lulls 

us both into a contemplative stupor 
and we can finally close our eyes 
and sleep.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

You can see right though that dress.
A filmy peach like candle wax, but 
loose, but shiny, like a glazed donut. 
And everything behind the dress 
appears just as pale also with a gleam. 
I have had the dress a very long time 
but have only worn it once. The occasion
now forgotten because in that dress I am 
absorbed with me and with the dress. Distracted 
completely by the feeling of being hidden but also 
being visible--but softly visible. Pencilled in.
If I crossed my leg, you might have thought 
something under the dress was winged 
and had just fluttered. 
Everyday movements all seemed grander,
evoked a desert wind. 
In the dress, I became a phantom, a past self
climbing steps to a platform to accept 
a crown or an award or something else 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Memorial day

Crumpled. Their young bodies

so taken by force.

Damp like at birth. 

Soft flesh gleams from womb water then,
from melted metal now where

here they lie in a field of grass 
         on the backs of wild celery.

Here no questions.

But say it, they were murdered 

though we who murder them call it other things.

We call it "fallen".

No matter, they are our very own fallen dead

and we who sent them to Iraq want them back.

We want them back and in the center 

of each caved chest we place a rose, 

one stem in each

of our fallen boys and girls.

And then look.  The whole field glows 
a pious red.

As if there were only one rose,

only one dead.

Only one dead.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What I was made to do

It began with the great cross, the canvas 
of the suffering soft-eyed Jesus hanging
Every morning I walk past His flayed body 
in Saint Joseph school, so naked, so beautiful.
I want to save Him. 
Others ignore the rolled-back eyes, the red ooze 
on His palms, His terrifying agony, but every 
morning my eyes lift to His heart, to where the bullies 
harpooned him. 
In my dreams I am His Madonna across whose lap, 
in whose arms that beautiful coiled creature drapes, 
that gorgeous bleeding tree, unswaddled, prismatic, 
that defeated God. 
And I am His refuge. I offer myself up for 
that purpose. 

It is what I was made to do. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


I watch us all now--all of us, but mostly
my own strange face in the mirror--
as if we are bleeding.
We are in the bleeding stage of living. 
The pouring out phase. 
Life is pouring from us in red, thin, swirls 
like the red juice of boiled beets 
down the kitchen drain. 
Our bodies now as warm, as soft, as sleepy, 
as pungent as those easy to slice, 
those tender beets.
After the bleeding only a stain remains
only a red blemish is left of all our red
hot desire now gone. 
I turn all night with that thought. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


There it is, finally, the square black box 
with a faint birr, a voltage, on my front doorstep.  
This is what is left of you, dear brother
your skull, your ribs and femurs, 
your sick liver and blistered lungs, 
your bad teeth, your voice
all drained into this box.
I’m afraid to hold you long so I sit you down 
quickly so not to drop you, trying not to tip you 
so that your fragments do not collide
and so here you sit on the window sill
which your presence makes into an altar 
so I step back with tingling and shudders, 
unable to open the box, to touch it again. 
I can only stand, still as you, stiller even
as if alone and frozen on a glacier, eyeing the
box as if there were still a ticking 
coming from your heart, as if I could smell smoke, as if 
a force pushes me away from you. 
I can’t imagine what you look like in there. 
I have read about cremation
it’s the trend now--the dead choose burning. 
They want their fillings and metal valves, plastic 
replacements melted down, smoked, 
their loose particles coming to a cool standstill, 
living only in mortal minds
that worry how to scatter them. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

On a roll

When he tells me about the tumors, he crie
and hangs up the phone 
and I call back immediately 
and lie in his ear and with encouragement 
he lies in my ear.

We do this every day, a frantic duet 
of lies flying back and forth
like homing pigeons but 
growing bigger and faster.

It does not matter to us 
if they are plausible. 
We are on a roll.
We cannot stop, we welcome 
any lies, especially miracles, 
also lies about volition 
and automatic forces, 
lies that keep us blind 
and the terror down, lies

that take us out of this world,
lies that make us go limp
from head to heart, that
help us bend far away from
what is beaming down. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Even in the early pictures, my brother 
sitting in the stroller, you can tell
our father isn't satisfied.

Already there's an inward drooping 
in the baby’s eyes 
that mirrors the slump in father’s face 
looking past the child toward something 
deep and awful that left its marks on him.  

There's nothing wrong about this baby 
boy but his father’s dis-esteem ages 
that child, runs his life.....
poor health hunts him down
like a lion in the weeds
and then devours him.

But my brother cleaves to my love, 
at times thin as an exclamation mark 
but not loving him is just too hard 
for me to swallow. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The highlight of my day

As soon as I wake up, I think 
of his body 
ice cold and brittle, 
stoney, plastic-wrapped,
naked and raw in a freezer 
drawer until tomorrow 
when they push him in an oven 
and broil my brother 
as if he were corned brisket. 
It will take four hours, after all 
he’s still a hulk.
But tomorrow he’ll be warm again, 
heat will rise from him again, 
a flash in him again,
he will glow--and that moment 
when he gives off the light 
of a saint at the stake, 
that moment of glory, 
will be the highlight
of my day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Down the basement stairs my megalomania 

pushes my cheerful family dog. 

Among father's beer barrels and brother’s bikes, 

with pleasure I listen to her bleating and desperate 

scratching, her lunges against the door behind 

which I sit and smile. 

Not until her anguish reaches a piteous pitch
do I open the door to receive her exuberant love,

those wet, whimpering kisses, that earnest scrambling

to crawl inside of me. 

This is the love I crave as a child but find nowhere else 

and so I stage it over and over and over again--

and not only then, but long after with boys 

who try to love me.

I make their love clearlvisible to me. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

My brother enters hospice