with gratitude for all who have gone before

Now I know there is a circle of love—
a circle formed not only by the great remaking of self
when a child is born
but also by the great remaking of self
when a child dies.  
It doesn’t matter how old the child
or how they died. It doesn’t matter
if the loss happens today or seventy years ago.
It doesn’t matter if they live next door
or Peru or Israel or South Africa.
Now I know there is a circle
of women who have died themselves
and found a way to keep living.
They are among us at the grocery store,
in restaurants, on the street.   
They look like our sister, our boss,
our lover, our student, our friend.
They find us. They say, “I am here.”
They offer to climb into bed with us
on the days we can’t get out.
They know to say the name of our child.
They speak in the present tense.
Perhaps they light candles.
Perhaps they make meals.
Perhaps they pray for us without telling us so.
Now I know there’s a circle of love
that surrounds this circle—
a circle of others who carry us
whether we ask them to or not,
who hold us as if we are treasure,
who remind us we are deeply connected,
who weave us back into the greater cloth.
Now I know the broken heart
can be a heart that expands, a heart that widens,
a heart that meets suffering and stays open.
Now I know the broken heart will do whatever it does.
And grief is a bond
not only to the one who is gone,
but to those who remain.
I know love grows in the deepest wounds.
We go on. I meet your heart with mine.

inspired by Leigh Gage

I try to make it beautiful—a spacious place
with room enough for blue birds to migrate,
where whole herds of elk can bed down,
and with fields so vast they hold
every memory of you—
not just the warmhearted memories,
but the hardest ones, too.
Those I hold up to the soft light of morning,
grateful for room enough to walk around them
and give them the space they need.
Those I hold up to the sharp light of noon
and say, yes, yes, it was like that.
I fill my heart with the scent of apple pie and cinnamon,
lemon zest and the river in spring.
Sometimes, when I am most vulnerable,
there’s a floral fragrance of forgiving.
I try to keep my heart soft. I try not to clench,
not to harden, not to set. I try to create
a place where you can rest, where you can stay.
It is full of blank books, each one waiting to be filled
with stories of how it is with you living here in my heart,
this place where you have always lived,
this place even death cannot take away—
this place death has made more holy, more real.

One Transposition

feeling it inside me
tender and tired
your heart

May 4, 2022

It wasn’t that anything special happened today.
No holiday. No giant rainbow. No astonishment
of bloom. Though in years past we would have said,
May the Fourth be with you.
It wasn’t that I made an extraordinary meal,
though you did love the thin-sliced roasted potatoes
I made tonight, and they did turn out good,
slightly bubbled and browned.
It wasn’t that there was a bobcat on the porch.
And the morels aren’t out just yet.
And Mother’s Day is not until this weekend.
But I missed you. I missed you not because it was
the first May 4 since you were gone, I missed you
simply because you are gone. Sometimes,
getting through any ordinary day
is like trying to play Scrabble alone.
It’s like singing a lullaby to an empty bed.
It’s like not making your lunch.
It’s like not worrying how you’re doing.
It’s like lighting a candle and letting it burn to the end.

The Bailiff of the Heart wears comfortable shoes—
she knows she’ll be standing
outside the heart’s door
for a long, long time,
while inside the many voices of love deliberate.
It’s never so simple as innocent or guilty.
The heart is full of what ifs and if onlys
and the jury’s aware of what’s at stake—
nothing less than everything.
The bailiff doesn’t mind.
She can hear them in there bellowing,
pleading, reasoning, stonewalling.
She gets them water. She tells the court to wait.
It’s her job to protect their conversation.
She long ago gave up believing in justice.
Still, she believes in love.

Goodbye to holding you, goodbye
to family trips and snuggling before bed,
goodbye to plans and to laughter,
your clothes and your car. Goodbye
to the awe I felt as I watched you
become more yourself, goodbye
to the dizzying map of promise I saw
as you plotted your days. Goodbye to all I knew.

But now, it’s hello. Hello, love that still grows.
Hello as I rise, when I walk outside.
Hello, with my hands in the dirt, when I drive
the winding alpine divide, hello when I light a candle,
hello when the hot tears come. Hello, I say,
hello, aware now I am never alone.

Meet me in the moment
after the song,
a moment silent and sweeping
as the second hand
on a wrist watch,
a moment that gathers everything,
an evanescent moment
in which anything is possible,
anything at all—
the kind of moment
that feels rare
but is always here—
when we see our lives
as more shimmer than solid,
the kind of moment
that decides who we are,
then lets us choose for ourselves.


There comes a time when
the life you have
meets the life you once had
and you stare at that old life
as if it’s a beautiful bird
with a haunting song so familiar
you can’t stop yourself
from singing along.
Isn’t it strange
how quickly things change,
how already you’ve forgotten
some of the words.
How already, your wings
have changed color.

knowing now
how fragile our hearts—
still choosing love

I remind myself I have chosen this—
this lethargy, these aches, these chills,
I remind myself I paid
for this sore arm,
I paid for this chance to shiver.
I wanted the broken down parts
of the virus to enter my body,
wanted special molecules to make
my immune system stronger.
Oh Shingrix, you have done
what my husband, my mother
and my doctors cannot—
you have put me in bed before nine o’clock.
You are like a school marm
with gray hair pulled back tight
and a ruler in your hand
to smack my antibodies to attention.
When I do not get a painful, red blistered rash,
I will likely forget to thank you,
just as I forget to be grateful
when there is not a plague
of grasshoppers in the field,
forget to be grateful when I make dinner
without slicing off my fingertip,
forget to be grateful for the tire
that didn’t fall off of my car.
So I’m thanking you now,
now while I feel it, now when I’m aware
that a half milliliter of prevention
is worth seven pounds of rash free skin.
Thank you for stimulating my T cells.
Thank you for days when I will smooth
my hands across my thighs, my hips,
when I will trail my fingers across my ribs,
for nights when I will slip into soft cotton sheets
and never once think of you.


hey friends, I will be camping in the desert the next couple of nights, so no poems for a few days, then I will return with a small desert bouquet

%d bloggers like this: