There are cliffs inside me.

Every day I run to  the edge

and hurl myself into the sea.

I love the fall, the salt.


“You shame us,” they said.

“Poems are nonsense,” they said.

“How badly,” they said,

“you’ve been brought up.”


But I am the one who makes baskets

of nettles. And I am the one

found by the lyre. I am the one

who walks rooftops in moonlight.


Let others wear a corset,

a bodice, two skirts and a cap to the beach

where they do nothing more than tiptoe on the shore,

I am the one who runs naked


beneath my thin dress to swim

in the Black Sea for hours.

And I am the blood of Ghengis Khan.

I am Russian to the core.


I am birch and green parks and pines,

and Russia’s endless steppes,

and I am the Russian people themselves

who ask questions of life and death.


They call me a decadent Madonna.

They call me half nun, half whore.

Yes. I was born to be an unmasker.

I was born not to be servant, but master.


But this is the hour before the dawn.

Can you smell it? Blood in the street.

The shadow of the future is thrown

long before it arrives. And in all of Russia,


there is nowhere to hide.







Why I Move Slowly




Today the weight of love

is a basket of river rocks

I’ve chosen to carry.


Though it’s difficult

to walk with this weight,

there’s not one rock


I would throw aside,

each unique, treasured.

There are some who walk


with an empty basket.

Their burden is light.

They move quickly


along the path.

Me, I choose to carry

the weight of love.






my daughter and I

recite all our favorite lines—

snapdragons no less beautiful

for blooming in the same place

every year

Going In


“Not past the tip of the nose.”

            —Joi Sharp



Looking out the window at night

all you will see is yourself

and, perhaps, your longing

to look outside yourself.

Isn’t that the way it always is—

looking anywhere but in

for meaning, for purpose,

for entertainment, for love—

but here in the window,

the darkness there delivers you

to yourself. But don’t let

the inquiry end with the eyes.

Close them. And now, now,

what do you see?


Catkins in March



But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—”Thou mayest”— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open.

            —John Steinbeck, East of Eden



Today it was the aspen buds

that ruined my heart.


One glimpse of them

through the window, and


for that moment,

the inner winter I’d constructed


out of should and shalt

fell down like bricks. Perhaps I could have


returned to work, but instead

stared at the soft gray


tufts of spring. How they defy

the stubborn chill. And almost


against my will, in me I felt

an opening I didn’t quite want,


and perhaps I didn’t want to hear

a small voice saying, you


have a choice, you

have a choice.



One Compromise




walking barefoot on fishhooks

so as to not hurt anyone else—

the mind says

it’s a metaphor

but the soles know better

One Stuck




unable to find

a door to escape, I close

my eyes and find

I am the door



within an hour

I watch the boy transform

from seed to leaf to flower









And it’s scrub the floors

and wash and wring,

run to the store,

fix everything,


and wash and wring,

and straighten drawers

remember to bring


bags to the store,

clean anything,

then clean some more


fix everything—

it’s in our chores

that love finds wings.


One Preparation




months before the match,

piling sticks onto the bonfire—

already the face glows with the heat

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