Archive for the poetry Category

Where We Meet

Two weeks before his daughter died

they went to the movies. She wanted

to see a love story; he, a thriller. They

slouched in different theaters alone. It’s

been the one regret holding all his grief.

And just when he couldn’t imagine crying

anymore, when the night was feeling like a

clear wall he couldn’t move through, she

held his face in a dream and there they

were: sitting in the dark watching the

same movie, only this time it was their

story and he put his arm around her

and woke holding his pillow.


Twenty years after her aunt died—the

one who saw her before she saw herself,

the one she could confide in and only be

loved more—after all those years, it was a

hug from a friend. He held her gently then

squeezed her for that extra second, in that

familiar way. It was that hug that called her

aunt from so far away. That night, Aunt Kate

sat in the corner of her dream. Her mother

was there too. She brought the old sisters to-

gether and all three hugged gently, tightly,

holding for that extra second. A measure

of completeness relaxed their hearts.

When they paused to breathe, Aunt

Kate was gone.


And just one month after Nur died,

she appeared to me, her broken body

held together by light. She took my

hands and wanted me to come with

her. My heart began to rip. It wasn’t

my time. As she let me go, her hands

turned to pools in which I washed

my face and I was returned.


And there’s your Uncle Billy who died

in ’86. He kisses your forehead while

you sleep and in the seconds of that

kiss, the tangle of life loosens and the

web of life strengthens and you wake

assuming your full stature.


What is going on here? Is it now or

then? Are we remembering? Are they

visiting? Are they dead or still alive? We

make too much of putting things in this

basket or that. It’s enough to know

that love arcs its lightning through

any rim we put on the world.


I don’t know why I was born

with this belief in something

deeper and larger than we can

see. But it’s always called. Even as

a boy, I knew that trees and light

and sky all point to some timeless

center out of view. I have spent my

life listening to that center and filter-

ing it through my heart. This listening

and filtering is the music of my soul,

of all souls. After sixty years, I’ve run

out of ways to name this. Even now,

my heart won’t stand still. In a mo-

ment of seeing, it takes the shape of

my eye. In a moment of speaking, the

shape of my tongue. In a moment of

silence, it slips back into the lake of

center. When you kiss me, it takes

the shape of your lip. When our dog

sleeps with us, it takes the shape of

her curl. When the hummingbird

feeds her baby, it takes the shape

of her beak carefully dropping

food into our throats.

The Ocean of Being

If I don’t try to behold the Universe,

to see how the Universe holds me,

I will be a pinball in the game of life:

ever-reacting, trying to ring bells

and not fall into holes.


What if I’m a bird in an ever-growing

forest? Or a wave in a bottomless ocean?

Or a root in a soil that I can’t see?


If the soul is a window—

How to keep the window clean?

How to open the window?

How to go outside and

still be inside?

After Danse Russe*

A hundred years ago, a composer

wrote music about a puppet who

comes alive when his strings are

cut. Then a poet who delivered

babies wrote a poem stirred by

the same thing; confessing to his

grotesque loneliness, to his tangle

of strings in the middle of the day.

And I confess to my own blunt

meanderings like a bear without

food in a glass forest. Forget being

original. If cut free, we are drawn

to the Origins where the arrhythmia

of being awake and alive at the same

time forces the heart to stop ever so

briefly when we realize we are all

alone and yet never alone. All of

us puppets dreaming of no strings.


*William Carlos Williams wrote his poem Danse Russe (French for Russian Dance) in 1917. The poem centers on a puppet who comes alive once his strings are cut and Williams’ poem speaks to his own coming alive in a moment of solitude. It is interesting that the ballet Petrushka was debuted in 1911 by The Ballets Russes (French for The Russian Ballets); the legendary, itinerant ballet company directed by Sergei Diaghilev between 1909 and 1929. The original music for Petrushka was composed by Igor Stravinsky. Petrushka is a traditional Russian story of a puppet who comes to life.

My Favorite Glass

You broke my favorite glass.
Now you feel bad. It was my
favorite because I touched it
so many times. I looked at its
pieces you so carefully gathered.
I think it was tired and wanted
to go. I held the largest shard
and it glittered. I held it to my
ear and it said, “I am now free.”
What makes things special is
who brings them and what
they carry. You are special.
Our dog is special. The wind
through the tops of the trees
before dawn which you were
amazed by before you broke
the glass is special. So don’t
feel bad. Just feel.

Mother at 85

We haven’t spoken in years.
My father says her memory is
shrinking. After five minutes
she’s unsure what conversation
she’s parachuted into. She can’t
remember what she went down
the mayonnaise aisle for. It softens
me and I wonder: what crumbles
first, the hard times or the soft?
Has she lost her version of why
I left? Of when she slapped me
in the eye? Of her darkly whis-
pering, “I wish I could hurt
you more.”

Tonight I visit her in dream,
watching without her knowing.
This time I see through
my version of things.

As she’s going, I want to
see her more clearly. The only
time I might get close to her
is when she no longer
remembers who I am.

Listening to Others

Still enough and we break surface
like small fish wanting to eat light.
In that moment, we’re up in the air,
eyes wide, our mouths open, our
bodies shining from the deep.
Sometimes we even touch before
going back down. When in the
deep, we long for the breach,
when in the air, we dread the
fall. But this is life: the leap for
light, startled to find each other,
the plunge back down, the leap
for light, startled to find each
other… Listen… We are coming.

The Empty Necklace

We each have one, made over a lifetime
of the empty moments in between, when
everything is still and complete, each a
clear bead strung on the invisible chain
of our experience.

I’m thinking of the long silence after
we talked for months about what it’s
like to be alive.

Or the time in winter when the snowy
pines were creaking and swaying a
hundred feet up like the eye of the
earth opening slightly.

Or the time in early fall when you
were pinching a pot in the sun
and our dog was chewing on a stick
and I started to cry.

And the moment I woke from surgery
too soon and my soul had to decide
which way to swim.

And sometimes, when the wind sweeps
the next task from my mind, I am
returned to the moment before I
was born: floating with a brief sense
of all there is, just as I was ushered
into the world with our need to
find that feeling between us.

Thinking Like a Butterfly

Monday I was told I was good.
I felt relieved.
Tuesday I was ignored.
I felt invisible.
Wednesday I was snapped at.
I began to doubt myself.
On Thursday I was rejected.
Now I was afraid.
On Saturday I was thanked
for being me. My soul relaxed.
On Sunday I was left alone
till the part of me that can’t
be influenced grew tired of
submitting and resisting.
Monday I was told I was good.
By Tuesday I got off the wheel.

The Oldest Conversation

I wonder, will anyone recognize us
without our anger or our fear?

And if we stand here,
softly in the open,
will we be watered
or just mowed down?

Wait. Now that you’re here,
tell me about the moon and how
deer dream of running water
and how dogs are simply dogs.

Teach me—before we’re tossed back
in—the Sanskrit of your eyes.