Sunday, September 10, 2023

Languages I Never Learned to Speak

Languages I Never Learned to Speak,
Cover art for Bacopa Literary Review 2023

When I was small I lived
near woods, but never learned
the plants or birds
or trees: how smooth
and double-toothed
the alder by the stream
the juicy hemlock's tiny cones,
the mystery of seeds.
And acorns, while familiar,
held no hint for me
of red oaks' slender
catkins in the spring.
I knew the owls, of course,
and hummingbirds, but missed
the warblers, the wrens.
I couldn't name the spicebush,
whose soft yellow leaves
would tantalize my dreams,
and blackberries that stained
my finger's loops and whorls
could teach ne only
e's and y's and o's.    


From Time Warp: Poems                                                           

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Deep Dive

Why did I marry Dick? His arms were strong, 
he'd been a swimmer and his hugs made me feel safe,
brought forth a deepened sigh of home

Our Sunday morning lie-ins lasted hours: conversation, laughter,
cuddling, he lying on his back with my head resting on his
shoulder, nose above his armpit where he smelled like sea.

He talked me into learning SCUBA, early lessons 
easy in a swimming pool, then graduating 
to a deeper dive at Ginny Springs in Florida,

and finally Grand Cayman where he was my buddy
to explore an underwater shipwreck, but left me inside
while he swam out to join more seasoned divers, as if

I was happily admiring Damselfish and Slippery Dicks.
Instead, I panicked, reached out, grasping for the doomed
ship's edges, pulled toward the filtered light a hundred feet above

and slowly rose to surface, climbed onto the boat, alone.


Cincinnati, January 1998

Mom visits for my birthdayI’ll be 60, she is 84--both without spouses, we’re becoming girlfriends, giggling at the discount shoe store as we stumble in stiletto heels, then drive to other malls and try on outfits with designer labels we would never wear—she in a beaded slip dress, jiggling her hips, I in a swimsuit with one shoulder bare. The next day I wake coughing with a winter flu—Mom brings me ginger tea and toast with cinnamon, then quietly retreats so I can sleep. Two days later, she’s beside me in the double bed, our wheezes now in concert—tissues, cough drops, orange juice within reach—our throats too sore to speak. Then I remember mysteries on tape I keep for long rides in the car, introduce her to the tough, glib guy from Boston, Spenser (Private Eye), and after several spins with Spenser, Mom sits up in bed and says, through hacking sneezes, “This is so much fun!”

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Extreme Sports

I swore I'd never fall in love with someone
on the far right or without a fashion sense,
a guy who wore his pants too short--
you know, high waters, puddle jumpers, floods.
I can't explain a decade of my life, when all my "musts"
went down the drain, dismantled by tsunami.

Why? He was a charmer who cajoled his way
into my very-ordered-life by flaunting rules,
a former mercenary who turned everything to fun,
and my designer suits cat-walked away,
no place to use them in a SCUBA dive, a glider plane,
white water rafting, or a trek in Cozumel.

When I cooked Kung Pao Chicken, did he savor?
No. He poured on hot sauce without tasting first,
sweat pouring down into his mustache.
"Now that's HOT," he cried. On car trips
he would zoom onto the freeway ramp
(before I'd buckled in), careening.

He tried everything and never finished anything
except when making love, which was about the thrill.
The first night he moved in, we stayed awake till 2:00,
popped popcorn, watched Night of the Living Dead.
He'd never read a poem or heard an opera,
his short, strong, muscled build was far from my ideal.

Why did I marry him? He made me laugh.
He was my bodyguard. I liked the way he smelled.
I should have known disaster loomed--
his favorite song was Willie Nelson's
"On the Road Again" and less than two years
later he was on the road, again.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


Gainesville, November 2022

I sit rocking on my patio beside 
the lake, legs resting on a footstool.

My two drowsy Burmese cats gaze
at the hanging plants: an aging jade,

a faltering spider with one offshoot,
a new pothos, and a Christmas cactus.

Spanish moss swings loose on
looping oaks, the trees still fully leafed.

Soft rain now saturates all surfaces,
releasing deeper hues of green

as if celestial watercolorists are
practicing a wet-on-dry technique.

Remote thunder rumbles quietly
and darkening clouds impend;

the water mirrors their descending gray.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Witch Is Under My Bed

This poem was written during National Poetry Month 2021, as a member of a group of poets who explore a variety of poetic forms. A pantoum:

A witch is under my bed
she hasn't told me her name
I know she's into my head
to clean out all of my shame.

She hasn't told me her name
says now it's time for a crisis
to clean out all of my shame
I'm thinking probably Isis.

Says now it's time for a crisis
my days on earth are imploding
I'm thinking probably Isis
her message clearly foreboding

my days on earth are imploding
no time to waste casting blame
her message clearly foreboding
let go of all of your games

No time to waste casting blame
I'll practice love with each sigh
let go of all of my games
until the day that I die

I'll practice love with each sigh
I know she's into my head
until the day that I die
a witch is under my bed 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Ode to My Stained-Glass Poppy Hanging

Oh, precious bits
of shiny glass and lead,
you brought quick tears
when I first saw you
bending sun in my direction:
prismed shades of red & green
reflecting life ahead--
as if you knew we'd be
together thirty years & more,
your octagon illuminating
poppies' promise: many highs,
though sometimes, too,
bereavement--I, a veteran
of desperate wars fought silently
on well-known soils of motherhood,
divorces, failures, and too many
friends and lovers lost.
The artist who brought you to life
unknowingly created the one jewel
I have treasured over any other,
traveling with me to start
a new life, adding radiance
to brighten shades of gray,
inviting me to look outside & in
with contemplation, asking always
that I see the light.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and it amazes us so, because it serenely disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrible. -- Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

(Gainesville, Florida, mid-June)

Driving west on 222, a sudden, sharp beauty--
streets lined with loblolly and slash pine,
impossibly precise bough and leaf edges
against light, a hundred feet up in lapis sky,
alto and cirrocumulus billows layered
miles high in cream, alabaster, shining white.
My eyes in flight, I do not know who's steering,

like the time I went alone to an amusement park,
divorced, the children with their dad that weekend
while I rode the roller coaster, in the front seat, twice,
heart pounding, fingers tightly curled around the bar
in front, my body flinging side to side around the curves,
eyes focused on the drop defying gravity, and on a future
where I could believe that anything was possible,

or like the seven heightened days eleven years ago
anticipating loss of both my breasts to cancer,
struggling to accept the moment. Dr. Pickens
might as well have been prescribing oxytocin,
calling every night to say, "I'm sending love and prayers,"
and how I floated into surgery, to my astonishment,
with joy and not despair, because you cannot
know you might not be alive another year.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Time Warp

Time Warp: "A hypothetical eccentricity of time moving back and forth between eras." Past and future, present in the poet's life. 
Dinnertime as a child ("When we sat to eat I looked at Daddy first, sniffed the air, alert").
A marriage's Mayday distress call ("Earthquake. Sudden trembling, accumulated energy, quick release along the faults"). 
Questions of aging in Feuilleton ("Do I sit and wait until I'm rickety, particular about my cereal, my Scotch?").

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Eeek Love

My passion for the skewed, the avant-garde, the idiosyncratic – poets, writers, artists, visionaries, whistle blowers, and everyday goddesses – stems from a childhood juggling the act of “good little girl.”Behind the pigtails I was a voyeur of the sensational.This collection of poems is a side show of performers from the circus of my imagination, the nice girl unmasked.

Here's a sample from the book: 
Tinker Toys
I will be a happy infant
by the time we die,
gurgling with bright joy,
unmuzzled, unfettered,
pleasured in our play.

I am your trampoline, your top.
When you come out with me
the rings we circle make us
dizzy with delight -
your cunning lips,
our loose games
lighten me with innocence.

You wheedler, you tempter,
my heart frolics, mesmerized,
aroused perversely so that
I, a gibbering idiot,
am on the leash of your eyes
and you must walk me, slobbering,
pat me on the head,
explaining me to strangers.

Monday, February 7, 2022

My Tired Heart

Rannaigheacht Ghairid (ron-a'yach cha'r-rid) is an Irish syllabic form with four-line stanzas, three syllables in the first line, seven syllables in each of the next three lines, rhyming aaba, the fourth line's third syllable a cross-rhyme with the end of line three. The poem ends with the same syllable, word, or line as the beginning.

My tired heart
to its wild surprise found art:
brush strokes became its strong beat,
a rare, sweet, true Cupid’s dart.
From the start
my felt losses were cut short:
because color is its play
no more gray besets my heart.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Ostinato Cappricio

Ekphrastic poem (ekphrasis is imaginative reflection on a work of art, in this case dance):

same face twice
yet each
supremely one
oh pizzicato
my heart slows
their fingers toes
mark air & linger
so glissando
fluid bodies
could be liquid
atoms magically
their torsos glow
the now of flow
*   *   *
ostinato (repeated phrase/rhythm),
cappricio (lively, free, short),
(pluck strings),
(term invented by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, meaning complete immersion in the present moment, doing something you love, especially something creative).

Friday, April 30, 2021


Virelai is a form of medieval French verse used often in poetry and music.* The prompt: "Include in a title the word 'contradiction,' 'constellation,' or 'cranberry'-- and write a poem that includes 'bamboozled,' 'bloodlust,' or 'bibliography.'"
Aquarius, my
designated sky
suggests I am shy
yet destined to cry
look chiefs in the eye.
But I see that drive’s
Though I do bemoan
downplays of women,
don’t try
efforts to reason:
when bloodlust’s sweetened,
our link to deepen
until they’re weakened
*Nine lines per stanza, lines 1,2,4,5,7,8 have 5 syllables and rhyme with each other, lines 3,6, 9 have two syllables and rhyme with each other; the end rhyme for short lines continues to the following stanza; the final stanza’s short-line end rhyme is the same as the long-line end rhyme in opening stanza.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Cloud Nine

Tyburn: A six-line poem consisting of 2, 2, 2, 2, 9, 9 syllables. The first four lines rhyme and are all descriptive words. The last two lines rhyme and incorporate the first, second, third, and fourth lines as the 5th through 8th syllables.
cloud nine.
I’ve enjoyed a divine recline drift,
a completely supine, cloud nine shift.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Fast Path

The form is Shadorma, a Spanish 6-line syllabic poetry form of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllable lines respectively.

A squirrel
heads to tree from grass
scrambling up
the fast path
along our patio screen,
delighting the cats.

Monday, April 26, 2021


The form is a Tricube (3 stanzas, 3 lines each, 3 syllables each line--rhyming is not required):

Twice this week
my fears have
run amok.
Which is worse:
Fear of heights
at the sight
(though awestruck).

Sunday, April 25, 2021


Welsh poetry form: Awdl Gywydd (owdl gow-widd), syllabic quatrains, 7 syllable lines, rhyming a-b-c-b, end of line 3 cross-rhyming with 3rd 4th, or 5th syllable in line 4.

At root I am centered, safe,
inspired sacral joy is next,
solar plexus’ purpose prays
“I am love” heart’s sacred text.
My throat speaks always with truth,
third eye goes beyond straight sight,
crown chakra hums I am One
as if more than sun gives light.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Will She Kick the Bucket Before the Month Ends?

The form is a Ballad (hum “Barbara Allen”):

I’m just a ghost of my old self,
a coffee pot not perking,
a worn-out car that won’t crank up,
my poet’s voice ain’t working.
I’ve popped my clogs, soon counting worms,
that dang old reaper’s smirking,
I’m close to sleeping with the fish,
my poet’s voice ain’t working.
I’ll take a dirt nap soon I fear,
the carriage ride is lurking,
I’m just about to head on west,
my poet’s voice ain’t working.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

100 Thousands of an Inch

The form is an English Quintain (5 lines, any meter, rhyme scheme a-b-a-b-b) Prompt: "Write a poem that's only 5 lines long about something small":


I have in my possession, though space is short,
a stage where angels might boogie down,
a metaphor for needless points (debate as sport),
when used as insult it's a common noun;
for such a tiny spot atop a pin, nuance abounds.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Form: Mirror Poem (Amy Lowell came to me with her poem "Aliens," its image of being worn down by talk that means nothing.)

Aliens, by Amy Lowell

The chatter of little people
Breaks on my purpose
Like the water-drops which slowly sear the rocks to powder.
And while I laugh
My spirit crumbles at their teasing touch.

Interlopers, by Mary Bast

The babble of small-minded folk
drains my creativity,
small cuts that become deep wounds;
and though my mouth smiles,
my soul faints at their vexing nudge.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Black Wings

Erasure poem (source: Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze, pp. 71 and 87):

Black wings
saw blood,
a long drawn-out thing,
got very tired.

Black wings,
for God's sake,
a little heavy,
can stand anything but men,
after they've tried real things
and flopped at them,
say to themselves,
"What can I be that will
make everyone look at me?"


Monday, April 19, 2021



ducklings, still naive
are not intimidated
by their fate, the hawk

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Marathon as Metaphor

On my mind during National Poetry Month--how to keep my spirits up so writing a poem a day for 30 days, using a variety of forms, continues to be an energizing challenge. The form below is a combination of Decastich (10-line poem) and Tritina (repetition of first three lines' end words in remaining end words, and all three in the last line, in order, as indicated):

It's true of all marathons' nature
that our faith dims when only half-way,
our minds and our souls fully stretched to a goal
whether treasure of mind or a physical goal,
there is always a wall in our nature
where our limits are tested half-way:
where vision can falter, cast doubts when half-way,
and if learning a form makes us question the goal--
then the only relief is to trust talent's nature,
watch nature soar past when half-way to our goal. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Knuckle Down for a Trip

We're all familiar with limericks, which often have a ribald flavor, but the flavor I've been thinking of comes from a divine Italian dish made with pastry and potatoes.

My favorite Italian’s Bocelli,
his singing does things to my belly.
I also love gnocci,
my tastes are not low-key,
but Italy’s too far for my deli.
Gnocci’s name comes from nocca, or knuckles,
when you eat it, you’ll loosen your buckles.
Barcelona’s a place
where you will stuff your face,
and can do so without raising chuckles.
In Milan there is also great gnocci,
not found in Japan's Nagasaki:
Sukiyaki’s their dish,
you can have it with fish.
Go to Greece if you hanker souvlaki.

Thursday, April 15, 2021


I was impressed by poems from two different members of my 2021 NaPoMo group, one the Awdl Gywwwyd form, the other a Lanterne. I carefully studied the first but it felt beyond me, so here offer the Lanterne, counted in syllables per line: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1. The prompt was a combination of two, one to write a poem about my feet, the other to write a poem that includes the word "love" hidden in another word. Not an elegant work, but the poem is true--though I'm actually kind of a shoe freak, I've preferred being barefoot since I was a child:

  might seem
my feet always

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cento for a Rainy Day

Prompt: Think of a nice thing someone said to you recently. Write a poem about a rainy day, ending with what that person said. The form is a cento ... actually, a quarter-cento, one line each from 25 poems in Barbara Kingsolver's "How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons"):

Years from now, when some passion brings new order
I will feel the cold's every angle, the want of rain.
This day in my thoughts,
the view from here reaches backward:
begin if you can at the beginning--
think of rain: the gathering sheer fall,
shallow and deep, stormy but stippled,
and this air, too much like breath--
crawls like a green bottlefly through the ear canals,
impossibly long green squashes--
is promising the drunk liquid bliss of dusk,
dancing, madly fragrant. Who knew
the mindless tasks a body learns when it must,
living mostly just the one life now,
knees to elbows, fists to the earth.
Nothing is what it was
where life had nailed us down to nothing;
the remainder looks impossible,
commands me to empty out everything--
what I will spend these hours becoming,
willing this suddenly scrambled next into something
up here, now that I know the secret:
"An amazing thing to be able to express wisdom
and experience in such a fun and clever way."

I'm going to be quiet now.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Get Past It

Prompt: Turn on the radio to any station, write a poem about the first thing you hear (which was, "You want to get past it"). The form is Fibonacci or "the Fib"--the number of syllables in each line is the sum of syllables in the previous two lines: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8.

to get
past your pain--
this is life-saving,
and it's also liberating.


Sunday, April 11, 2021


Prompt: Write a poem that begins with the last thing you can remember someone saying to you yesterday. The form is Nonet--a 9-line poem with 9 syllables in the first line, 8 syllables in the second line, 7 syllables in the third line, continuing to count down to one syllable in the final (ninth) line.

I never had to put the pins in;
that did not seem necessary
of this imagined hexing
in our year of anguish.
He knew what he'd done,
tortured himself
till the day
he died,

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Blue-Blooded Burmese

Prompt: Write a poem using your favorite letter of the alphabet. The form is a Tautogram (Greek "tauto" means "the same" and "gramma" means "letter"):

Blue-Blooded Burmese

Baby Beau, bighearted bozo,
bonkers, buffoonish brother,
buoyant, bringing bouncing
bodacious blessings by billions,
blossoms best by being badass:
bada bing bada boom, big boy!

Bella, beguiling bystanders,
brainy, becomingly brilliant,
beatific, beckoning beauty,
beloved bedtime buddy,
bedazzling, bebop bambino,
budding ballerina--bellisima!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Upon the Death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Cinquain, a five-line poem (syllables in consecutive lines = 2, 4, 6, 8, 2) invented by Adelaide Crapsey, an American poet inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka.

How Phil
reflects our fate
though sailor, prince, and duke
who always was a would-be now
has been.


Prompt: Write a poem in the style of a recipe about a family secret--yours or someone else's. The form is Acrostic (first letter in each line spells out a word or message):

In line with the family recipe, tie your apron for marriage.

Have no ingredients of your own, except a roast for his career.
Allow a few years for those conditions to simmer,
Turning over your disappointment into fancy meals and
Equal amounts of pain/pleasure folded into taekwando.

Then agree to cook together with your best friends:
Organic ingredients only for those delicious dishes!

Core emotions will begin to rise as kneaded, so
Oven poach the takeaways from that experience,
Open every lid of all things stirred so far,
Kick ass, take off, and look for a new recipe.


Thursday, April 8, 2021


Prompt: Write a 7-line poem about one of the 7 sins, 7 words each line, no word more than 7 letters--the Septastich form.

Enneagram Nine

Sloth is known to shadow my persona,
torpor toward what my own heart desires.
The storm that hides beneath my surface
presses tight against the bounds of rules
induced by culture, family, fortune, and biology:
"Be nice," "Say yes," "Retreat," "Don't push."
My path to recall Self: jump free.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021


Prompt: Write a poem in two sections about two different things; have the title link the sections in a surprising way. (This poem was influenced by reading Children Under Fire.) The form is Triolet.


My children, when still playful tots
responded to my entrained love,
my fears for them tied me in knots,
my children, when still playful tots.
Our luck: we didn't live in Watts,
have guns instead of baseball gloves.
My children, when still playful tots
responded to my entrained love.

Some children have a fearful lot
afraid to look below, above,
their stomachs often tied in knots.
Some children have a fearful lot,
their days disrupted by gunshots,
at best an unforgiving shove.
Some children have a fearful lot,
afraid to look below, above.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021


Time to get out your "eeuuww" voice. Prompt: Write a poem about a weird fact you know. I chose the Senryu form ("Human Haiku" vs. typical Haiku about nature). I know, 5-7-5 is no longer de rigueur in haiku--it just turned out that way:

can cause oral yeast change &
black hairy tongue


Monday, April 5, 2021


Having felt freed from classic forms upon discovering free verse, my challenge to write in a variety of forms is turning me inside out with frustration. The Diamante poetry form expresses my vexation:

     stultifying, aggravating
surrender, comply, acquiesce
 chess, church, poetry, family
    diminish, restrict, curtail
     demanding, expanding


Sunday, April 4, 2021


The form is Italian Octave, slightly modified (didn't follow abbaabba rhyme--instead rhymed all line endings):

Our shame is spun, "The Warmth of Other Suns"
says sun is fun for whites, Blacks run from guns
in Florida where one's undone and runs
if Black and shunned by almost everyone,
the state's past history: can't vote, called dumb,
and run so hard, and murdered one by one.
Though spun as fun, this state, votes won by sons
of KKK, is run by Huns. Not fun.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

To Len: a Lento

The form is a Lento, two quatrains (4-line stanzas), first words in each quatrain rhyme (or in this case, near-rhyme), end words in 2nd and 4th lines rhyme (abcb):

To Len: a Lento

Could I ever forget our stolen weekends:
good morning omelets--artichoke hearts, feta--
would start the day's work on my dissertation,
nude interludes summing ecstasy's data.

Love and psychology gripped us for seven years
of mutual philosophy and passion's desires,
tough pleas from his nuclear family rising
above needs my own yearning required.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Being Born

Heels pushing against it,
the ominous slide from calm dark.
Oh, there I was:
skin, bones & baby breath,
yanked from gestation's featherbed
to the shipwreck of childhood,
those civilized rules
that float a Southern family.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Food for Thought

Any aliens we speak to will probably think of us like we think of bacteria. Stephen Hawking
Why send happy signals into space?
The ones who hear perhaps are
avaricious, merciless.

How foolishly we seek the stars,
eyes clouded by our deep desire,
how blindly wrong, assuming
as we do, a cosmic turn
toward something good.

Oh, look around -- though flowers
may come closest to an easy life,
some sun and rain, a little soil,
and voila, blooming for a day.
But animals? Catastrophe.
A weak design, the urgent search
for sustenance most hours --

Where's food?
Where's food?

The fallacy of seeking
comfort outside earth:
no reason to assume
these other beings grew
from different means --

Here, let me feed 
you, feed...

Will we be food?

Monday, June 1, 2020

Into the Wind: Enneagram Poems, Riverside Books, copyright 1995

Winding Sheets

Humping sleep
is my dream,
smothering passion
in a nightshirt.
There's no way
to join me -
I please myself.
Labyrinthine veil
of emotions,
persona smooth,

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


It's a thirst
like a baby's cry,

a wanting so strong
its force enthralls me.

I could eat the world
and still hunger,

vent my rage at all
beyond my grasp.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


My number's slapped on
like a rainbow, red
paint and orange.

The sea-air stings:

I could dive in
if I were sea-worthy
but too deep, too dark:
    someone down there
    has sea-legs   

didn't dream away sea-weeds,
didn't smooth the lines
    fill the sails
    skim the surface
    sing a sea-chant.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


They hold my country
in a peace treaty.
Like sandbags, fear piles around
(I keep watch even in sleep).

They dole out supplies and I
    a hungry war orphan
    crawl closer
to take, then push away
(it could be poison).

And grass grows around
    so enticing
    keeps me quiet
impotent (in my fear
of being theirs).

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


The tower steep and tall,
my castle affords celestial views.
So ethereal my privacy
I could miss myself for days.
A retreat complex as a mollusk,
spiraling inward to passionate
places many walls deep.

Rolling woods surround me, where
unicorns and maidens never meet.
And far away, all around, the moat:
    if you would cross, a warning -
    I draw the bridge.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


is a keen blade,
but too sharp --
the keening in me
mourns the world.
And my soul
must pass through Hell
or a thousand lives:
Nirvana requires it.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


I can be beautiful.
Chameleon on the runway:
    each side more appealing
    than the last.

Magician, quick-change artist,
    onstage I dazzle,
    win the title:

    Girl in Pink
    Little Boy Blue

You applaud,
I stare blankly at my crown.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


I am drawn to 
your blood source,
heartened by your need,
alive with your pain,
the transfusion
long and sweet.
But which of us is drained?
Why do I sink,
heart quickened,
back into the night?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Avenging Angel

The voice in me

eternally minding,
wings of damnation 
castigate my soul.

I right the wrongs

always reminded
of the Dark Sister,
the growing side.

Are we One,
I, the wounded?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Haiku: Deep Dive

Andros Island, furious fates
awaiting depth, disclosure:
barracuda's long, sharp teeth

Friday, November 1, 2019

Monday Morning

"Blue Heron," by Mary Bast
Coziness of dishabille, early
tea and honey in rainless dawn,
and blue reserve of heron
on canvas burn through
pure indifference of sacrifice--
I dream lavishly against the bleak
invasion of insistent contretemps.
As sedation hushes pain,
sweet honey and blue-gray wings
quiet the winding toward Dresden,
stilled for my awakened arms
to hold dominion of the day.

Why give my bounty to the dying?
What is grace that floats only
in bleak predicaments and dreams?
I will find in morning's clear light,
in Darjeeling leaves and feathered flight,
in all of Earth's alluring treasures
cherished intimations of eternity,
my animate divine now bringing
rhapsody to rain, intensity to hue,
lament to melancholy, unrestrained
acquaintance with both joy and pain,
dimensions of my soul's design.

Mary Bast, Unmuzzled, Unfettered.
(Mirror poem of Parts I and II, Wallace Stevens, "Sunday Morning." 

Friday, October 25, 2019


Somber leaves hiss in the night wind,
dark mounds conspiring.

Gaping spaces in tooth-torn trees
become mouths in silent screams.

Distant light falters, obscured
by clawed hands of weaving limbs.

With fierce-nugget eyes cats
slink by, brush my skin--

it shudders the length of fear,
hairs probing the air for omens.

One foot marks the porch edge--
inches to safety or the last walk.

Terror lies taut, eyeless, inward.
Beast knows where the knives keep.

Mary Bast, Time Warp


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Unmuzzled, Unfettered (a Cento)

Honey, you will lose your beauty,
going to be an old wrinkly lady
while we wait for the worst--
you're dead, nothing can hurt you.

Forever, women immolating themselves,
the prospect full as an old etching,
these tracks I've left
songs of love beneath disguise --
gum-snapping hard-girl dialogue.

I wanted to walk without clothing,
prepare for next year's famine with wine.
Like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and not in the paths of high morality,
throwing myself forward with violence,
people passing without turning their heads.

It was sweet and lonesome:
the solitude of celibacy.

Now to stand still, to be here
not made of stone,
the days nouns: touch them,
hysterical birds rushing up the scale --
I will try those wings myself,
farther, a bit farther each time,
distance an absolute value
that keeps the world afloat.

Sources in order of lines, including title:

Mary Bast, "Tinker Toys"
Maggie Anderson, "Ontological"
Alicia Suskin Ostriker, "Wrinkly Lady Dancer"
Maxine Kumin, "New Hampshire, February 7, 2003"
Louise Gluck, "A Myth of Devotion"
Kate Barnes, "To a Skylark"
Sylvia Plath, "A Winter Ship"
Marge Piercy, "Tracks"
Kate Light, "Reading Someone Else's Love Poems"
Barbara Hamby, "Ode to American English"
Irene McKinney "Atavistic"
Linda Pastan, "The Cossacks"
Anne Sexton: "Rowing"
Emily Bronte, "Stanzas"
Jane Kenyon, "Depression in Winter"
Jane Hirshfield, "This Was Once a Love Poem"
Jill Bialosky, "Fathers in the Snow, 2"
Paula Sergi, "Vocations Club"
May Sarton, "Now I Become Myself"
Rebecca McClanahan, "In The Face Of"
Naomi Shihab Nye, "Daily"
Elizabeth Bishop, "Florida"
Muriel Rukeyser, "Waiting for Icarus"
Julia Kasdorf, "Flying Lesson"
Jessica Goodfellow Ueno, "1. Road Trip, A Pilgrim's Guide to Chaos in the Heartland"
Maurya Simon, "The Fishermen at Guasti Park"

This poem also appears in my collection Unmuzzled, Unfettered                                                                                                           

Thursday, January 31, 2019

As Close As I Can Come

Stuck in a land of metaphor
word constellations constantly
changing what the earth
will not take back:
one barbed heart against another,
against the stone inside.

All those loose threads
patched, repatched,
impossible to match
at the seams.

Inevitably, answers about what to do
wait to detonate at each misstep,
forming me to myself, slack-jawed
with cravings for the cocoon
of games only two can play:

to turn on a single axis
until, bodies still undulating,
the dark snatches us away.

A found poem by Mary Bast, revived from
Janice Moore Fuller's collection, Sex Education

Before the Gulls Take Me Out

I have lost my map,
numb as the moon,
half wondering if April
will bring me to life.

To keep from going mad
I'll be a knife waiting,
a wolf at a live heart,
voice like a boulder,

before earth opens,
a wound,
Death looking on
with a casual eye.

A found poem by Mary Bast, revived from
Anne Sexton's collection, The Awful Rowing Toward God

Sunday, December 16, 2018


My camellia grower brother's certain I will change my vote by listening
with him to Limbaugh's broadcast bombast. Curious, I lend my ears.

My brother doesn't realize the women who are clones of right-wing
populism missed the sweep of what Limbaugh calls the feminazis.

In such a woman's corner, mobs of dust balls gather on the same
high pile of slogans* now echoing in my brother's mind.

One of thirteen percent, Republicans who follow Rush devotedly,
my brother does not see amidst the satire how he falls into

the anti-intellectual trap, the self-professed failings of a high-school
educated lowbrow. My brother is mesmerized, quite certain

he is quoting a reality, that liberals want to rob the rich to feed
the lowest of the lowly: homeless, shiftless, druggies, drunks.

"And when the money's gone, then what?" My brother carries such
certainty into his camellia groves, so why not believe he will

graft Rush onto me, create a new variety of Mary, maybe named Mush,
a brainless, mindless bloom that nods quietly with every rush of hot air?

~     ~     ~

*The word "slogans" in the third stanza is specific to my study of fascism. Trump uses slogans the same way fascists in general have used them, all versions of we/they thinking and not analyzed by followers (to analyze them is to reveal sexism, racism, anti-Semitism).

For example, this quote from The Atlantic, "The Power of the Small Lie" -- "...'Keep America Great' demonstrating how he uses minor untruths to confuse the public and destabilize facts."

See also  Jason Stanley's "How Fascism Works"--"Fascist politics is about identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group... smashing truth and replacing it with power;"

"Wilhelm Reich's "The Mass Psychology of Fascism"--"we have to understand why millions of people have been, and continue to be, drawn to Right-wing movements;"

Jean-Paul Sartre's "Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate" -- [afraid of their own consciousness... cowards who do not want to admit their cowardice, murderers who repress and censure their tendency to murder... who dare to kill only in effigy or protected by the anonymity of the mob...] Re: women, Reich describes the way fascism lauds the authoritarian family where the woman's place is at home, as a mother. He also writes, "a woman who is conscious of her sexuality would never willingly heed the reactionary slogans, which have her enslavement in mind."

Saturday, October 6, 2018


It was his gaze that held me fast
on the sea's edge in Scotland
when the sun crashed.
"American?" he asked, sidling.
He wished me harm.

I'd backed toward just this,
his cable-sweatered arm,
his Scottish brogue, his eyes.
He stroked my vanity
and wished me harm.

We walked, how foolishly for me,
away from all the drowning fires,
the families laughing, in the cooling
hush. Then premonition--
belly first, bile rising.

I taste it as I kill him with this
memory, won't have it be:
my young wrists held back,
his pushing, breaking,
coldly remonstrating, Quiet!

Now I kick, gouge,
hear myself not beg, not
bound in dark union,
have it not true I did not
kill him. A belated dirge.

(An earlier version of this poem is in my collection, Time Warp, 2015; an essay about the rape appears in one of my other blogs.)