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Les Jardins de Mérida

 

for Colette and Bob

 

 

Tonight I wear gratitude

like perfume made of jasmine

and violet. Wear it

on my neck, my forearms,

in my hair, on my wrists.

If I could, I would find

the poem’s pulse points

and spritz it here, too,

so that as the poem warms,

it would release its greener

middle notes of basil and rose

so you might enjoy them, too.

 

Gratitude, like perfume,

changes the longer you wear it—

you think it is one thing,

but then it opens in new layers

and eventually, becomes one with the skin.

Only then does it reveal

its lingering base—in this case

vanilla and cedar,

creamy and sensual.

 

To wear gratitude is

like slipping into a long

and silken robe. Like sitting

beside a fire made by people you love.

Like walking alone in the house,

and knowing for certain

you’re not at all alone.

 

 

 

 

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One Before Evening Comes

 

 

in the dry field of hope

the rattling bugle of sandhill cranes—

the sky alive with great wings

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Necessary Respite

 

 

 

Just today I did not fall in love with the long hallway,

or the faithful radiator or the steadfast brick.

I did not fall in love with a calculator or

 

with lavender soap. I certainly

did not fall for a loyal wooden ladder,

not for a mirror, not for the underappreciated spider,

 

not for a door, no matter how open it was.

So many chances, lost. So many invitations unanswered.

There are days when the heart forgets its work—

 

not out of maliciousness, more perhaps, because

it is tired. These are the days when I hope

that I will remember to sit quietly until

 

once again the heart finds the energy to love itself.

Then it is only a matter of time before it loves again

the red thread, the socks, the chipped blue cup.

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Hey buddy, he says, as he opens his trench coat,

you wanna buy an epiphany? And there,

in the satiny lining he reveals a flashy display.

Oooh, I say, those look lovely. I could use

an epiphany or three. What is the meaning of life,

of course. The secret of happiness. And how to not care

what others think. This one, he says, I can give you

half price. It is covered in diamonds and bling.

Something less showy? I suggest. Ah yes,

he says, Good taste. Perhaps this. It’s leather. He sees

I am interested. And I’ll throw in this other for free,

never mind where I got it. I stare at the third epiphany.

Big, I say. Yeah, he agrees, try carrying it around in your coat.

The epiphany looks vaguely familiar. In fact, I’m pretty sure

he stole it from me. And a storm breaks loose

in my mind. Um, no thanks, I say, and walk away.

 

The whole way home, the world offers itself

to me: A spruce tree does nothing but

be a spruce tree. A stone is a stone.

A crow flies above me. I marvel at its wings.

A bluebird sits on the fence and sings.

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Perhaps Next Time

 

 

Vast and powerful,

the invitation

like a sea

with a surf

and unknowable tides—

 

I do not want to stay

on the shores

of my life.

I want to run headlong

into the waves,

to feel myself buoyed

and challenged,

to know myself

as one who risks,

who emerges

shimmering.

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Today I wish I were a potato peeler,

able to remove the outer layers of myself,

able to shave off any toughness I’ve developed

to protect, to safeguard, to shield. I want to give

myself to you, the inner sweetness,

the tenderest parts. I want to unpeel

any husk, any rind, any barrier

that would keep you from the heart

of me. I want to meet you vulnerably.

Today I want to take the long thin blade

and make ribbons of my resistance,

make strips of my defenses and watch

them fall like burlap veils. And if I cannot

find the courage to be the one who peels,

let me put the tool in your hand. I’m afraid,

but I am ready. Be sure, love. Be quick.

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And while I am at it, I should like to send you

a postcard from the shores of my body,

wish you were here, it is warm and there

are so many places for us to explore

together—but even as I write these words

the letters grow ink dark wings and fly

over the sea, a colony of cormorants,

silent as they soar, and I a beach with no footprints,

the waves lapping, everywhere the scent, the sting of salt.

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for Colette

 

 

Beside my bed, she left

a beautiful beaded hummingbird

and a story about how the Mayans

believe that these birds will transport

all of our good wishes and desires

to another. Tonight, there is no one

I wouldn’t send this bird to—

not just to my loved ones,

but to my unloved ones, the ones

I would rather forget, the ones

I would rather ignore. Oh little bird,

with your bright body and shining wings,

let’s get to work. Let’s send out

extraordinary beauty tonight,

extraordinary love.

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Second Chance

 

 

Next time the boy

throws the snow

at my face,

 

please let me see

an invitation

to play,

 

though it’s cold,

surprising,

his eyes bright requests.

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Remedy

 

 

 

Not tea, not pills,

not herbs, not tinctures,

not creams, not salts,

not drops, not injections—

what the heart needs

tonight is a song

so true that its cells rhyme

themselves with the beat.

Tonight, the only medicine

this tired heart needs

is to listen.

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