May 21, 2013
I couldn’t hear the bomb
but I felt it in my ears.
I felt it from helicopter blades,
from sirens close and far away,
from words of friends who stood
near the blast, and in the voices of
the bomber’s classmates who walk
past me on the way to high school.
I felt the fear that sent 9,000 police
after two boys with fireworks.
Three weeks later, I look down
at the spot of explosion. I find
no stain, no answer, no body.
A victim wheels his chair to
pose for family photos, a smile
for one leg, happy to be alive.
The Boston Library courtyard
meets my bike at the finish line
for gentle chat, tea, and writing,
and provides a brave friend
to provide the sympathy.
A sad thousand of shoe pairs,
tied by laces, hang on fences.
They are the strong. Visitors,
too polite to touch, watch
a race as it rises from dust.
Near the memorial sings
a choir of children, so soft.
Sadness sweetens the song.
May 18, 2013
The girl I love treats me
like a wandering lamb,
feeds me clover when
she wants wool,
starves me when she
wants to rub noses.
Will she kiss or bite
the heart on
I’ll steal her shears,
and grow my beard,
so her hands borrow,
not own, my wool.
I like when the hook
on her staff holds me
firm, then lets me go,
but a ram wants to be
known for his horn,
not for his tail.
But I’m no ram
and I’m no lamb.
I’m a coyote in wool
with blood on my lips.
I poke Little Bo Peeps
out of my teeth
with a toothpick
and a smile.
May 12, 2013
A Mother’s Hand, Memorized
At three years old
I heard my mother’s hands
touch the fingers of Bach
with the strings of her cello.
They played three songs at once
with ten fingers on four strings—
a miracle greater than the mystery
of Heffalump and Winnie-the-Pooh.
She tied those strings to me by
showing me how notes are words
made from the prayers of angels,
and that songs are hugs from God.
At age four I crawled at her feet
below keyboards of a pipe organ,
and sounds like monster lungs growled
through my knees and into my spine.
She called them fugues, but I knew
them as the songs of a god called Mom.
At age eight I paused between pages
of Mysterious Island to hear her cello
elevate a song called The Swan
up the stairs into my patch of ocean
to teach me how graceful birds
could sing songs of life after death.
By age thirty I read Notes from Underground
as I faced the author’s home across the Atlantic,
while she tossed a Beethoven sonata
into the clouds over the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t need a recording to hear that again.
Now, as I scratch
my way into this poem,
something in me remembers
every tone from her fingers.
No distance is too far
if you know it by heart.
May 2, 2013
To Save a Son
named for Plath.
I curse the father, Pablo,
lest my son become Pablito.
I choke my own lyrics in hopes
my son’s music will breathe.
I work a school job
to teach him rock.
I can’t face his father,
or my Mexican stories,
novels of love and death:
Virgin of Tlatelolco 1 & 2.
I accept my own border so
my son can dance over.
I lift his heart to the sun
to show I feel stringless
while I am still in chains.
He needs no father—
I catch baseballs, too.
He needs no script—
I write one for him.
The more he needs me,
the better I like it.
He is my story.
April 26, 2013
It takes soft fingers to know devas.
Rupert doesn’t know whose deva he
touches in a tree at Hindu Camp—
most skin reflects shades of brown
so he eyes black ones, yellow ones.
He wakes to discover he loves
himself in a first rub of hands.
Oils mix colors into color—
harmonize in sleeves of orange,
unite in shades of blue pantlegs,
merge into fingertip rainbows.
He tip-toes, quiet enough to hear
teeth click together in the dark
and struggles to divine the colors
and textures of foreskins.
April 16, 2013
Ten generations before Maria sang,
her Aztec ancestor burned feathers,
watched the smoke float into the sky,
and sent a song to the god of suns.
In my heart a cactus grows. On its
crest sits a snake that eats an eagle
while it waits for my blood to cool.
Warm me, Sun—boil my blood,
the knives of gold-feathered priests
search for our skins in these fields.
We virgins hide our hearts—
there is no sacrifice in stone.
Teotl is the invisible force
in all things here and now—
it warms our sister blood
as we wait for revenge.
Priests invented the sacred
to justify the flint knives
they need to seize gold
from people in fields of corn.
We stun you with song to
turn your knives into plows.
Bow down before our babies,
for they carry your blood.
August 8, 2012
Wild Nights by Emily Dickinson, The Text
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
—”Wild nights! Wild nights!” is a poem of sexual passion. Colonel Higginson, her editor, wrote:
One poem only I dread a little to print–that wonderful ‘Wild Nights,’—lest the malignant read into it more than that virgin recluse ever dreamed of putting there. Has Miss Lavinia [Emily Dickinson's sister] any shrinking about it? You will understand & pardon my solicitude. Yet what a loss to omit it! Indeed it is not to be omitted.
The myth of Emily Dickinson as some kind of virgin recluse?
We poet gots passion!
July 31, 2012
I’ve been reading a collection of the poems of Charles Simic. I like his poems. He is a Serbian American and was named the 15th poet laureate of the United States. I love the way he juxtaposes ordinary images with evocative ones. When questioned about his style, he once said: “I wanted something seemingly artless and pedestrian to surprise the reader by conveying so much more. In other words, I wanted a poem a dog can understand. Still, I love odd words, strange images, startling metaphors, and rich diction, so I’m like a monk in a whorehouse, gnawing on a chunk of dry bread while watching the ladies drink champagne and parade in their lacy undergarments.” At another time he said: “In America, if you want to know where the heart is you listen to the blues and country music.” This juxtaposition is also something Margot Suydam does well in her work (found below). Here are two excerpts of his:
“I like to cloister myself
Watching my thoughts roam
Like a homeless family
Holding on to their children
And their few possessions
Seeking shelter for the night.”
“Friends of the small hours of the night:
Stub of a pencil, small notebook,
Reading lamp on the table,
Making me welcome in your circle of light.”
Here are four of his best poems from “The Future & Other Poems.”
March 28, 2012
I sit in my window in springtime
writing a story about life and death
in World War II. Just past the view
of my notebook is a dogwood tree.
Half its buds are purple, half the blossoms
are pink, half the blossoms are lavender.
There is only one day in a year
the tree shows such color.
Fifteen people walk past it
talking on phones, gazing at feet,
texting friends in far states of mind.
One woman crosses the street to it
and looks around as if surprised
that no one sees a burning bush.
She aims her eyes and camera.
Another in a lavender top
stops and looks into it as if
it’s a mirror:
it is one
and she is one.
March 9, 2012
What Freddie Stole
Dad’s beagle tugs a bone from
under my boot and sprints
around me. I cut him off against
the fence. He drops it and barks.
He slurps it up again and runs
behind the rose bush. I sit down.
He peeks out. Chase me, he says.
I let the walnut tree rub my back.
He lays the bone beside his paws.
Orange from the sun sets in his eyes.
His tongue wags like a tail.
A flight of geese honk over Norm’s farm
and I hear their calls echo off the hill.
Don’t you know he’s never coming back,
that he’ll never rattle your water bowl again?
I’m not going back in there—
that living room is too full of polite.
I didn’t announce it was Dad in the canister
although he would have liked the audience.
He would tell his bullfrog jokes again.
He can learn to listen now.
When Steve held the canister up
they squared their shoulders to him
one last time. I could see in their eyes
what they didn’t want to know.
I let Freddy back inside.
They didn’t wait long.