Ever since my daughters started to walk
I have had increasing difficulty with my eyes.
I remember the day Wendy took her first steps, when
she said “bamboo” and waddled over to pat the rusty bumper
of a truck, I could barely make out the writing
scrawled in dirt on the trailer and had trouble focusing
as she stepped into its shadow.
The morning in Maine when she raced down the beach
and splashed into the ocean before I could reach her,
I actually mistook her for another little girl in pink
whom—I am sorry to say—I began leading slowly out of the water.
Then there is Jill: when she first walked I remember
looking at her and thinking, “I am a camera fading back, back.”
Years later when she would go rollerskating with Wendy
my eyes were so bad I could no longer tell
where the sidewalks left off and my daughters began.
By now everything has faded into fine print. I
have been to a doctor who says he is also troubled,
but has sons. My only son died one day after
birth, weighing two pounds. His name was
Jeffrey, but I have always preferred to call him “Under-the-Earth”
or, especially on rainy days, “Under-the-Sod.” In fact,
sometimes I catch myself repeating these words: “My only son,
Under-the-Sod, is playing over there by the green tree.”
Anxiety about Airplanes: Sonnet One
Days before heading to Florida, getting on a plane,
I read Ginsberg’s poem written during his flight.
Then tonight I read Tad William’s horror bane,
about a man who hated flying and had great fright.
“Everybody forgets who suffers the physical pain,”
Ginsberg laments in the poem on a plane he writes.
Tad William’s character left San Francisco insane,
Ginsberg headed there from New York shining bright.
“Above these blue atomic waters and scratched terrain.”
I quote Ginsberg, is fear of flying something so trite?
Tad’s character had a good luck charm used in vain;
when he lost it, it was time for him to die that night.
On the plane I hope to compose a poem on board,
and if I have to use a parachute, be sure to pull the cord.
Anxiety about Airplanes: Sonnet Two
The day we flew to Florida we were two minutes late,
they said our suitcase couldn’t be packed.
They said we would have to halt at the gate;
my nephew cried which made my sister react.
She asked for the manager, I suppressed my hate,
I chose to pray before the lady got smacked.
The manager arrived; they got in a debate,
while the ability to board the plane we lacked.
They asked for more money as we sat there to wait,
but my sister got mad and started to talk back.
They let us on without paying extra which was great,
we barely made it, and I was starting to crack.
Punctuality is an obviously admirable asset;
but two minutes difference shouldn’t hold up a jet.
Anxiety about Airplanes: Sonnet Three
On the way home from Florida it was raining at night;
as lightning and thunder decorated the dark sky.
We thought my niece made us late for the flight;
because it was raining she said she refused to fly.
We were able to make it to the airport despite
thinking we’d be late, and to my dad we said bye.
The sky was turbulent, the clouds so white;
we flew through the clouds, shaking so high.
When we were airborne, they turned off the lights,
all I kept hearing was this little baby cry.
Back in Chicago, the city comes into sight,
I was scared to fly, and I’m not sure why.
Fear of flying and having feet off the ground;
is about as silly as being fearful of clowns.
Rhinos like a challenge I believe, having
lived in confinement, they’re always ready
for the loud enthusiastic rumble of huge
feet headed their way, in search of something
or someone upon whom they might stomp.
and she weeps
for the secrets she keeps
Buried far below
even she doesn’t know
if she’ll ever go
So she cries alone
as her heart turns to stone
and a single tear
trickles past her ear
while she covers her head
with a pillow in bed
For he belongs to another
his children’s mother
was but the other
in his life
Now he wants to pretend
that this isn’t the end
that life will go on
and they can be....friends
And so while he sleeps
she silently weeps
as the love she keeps
oh so gradually seeps
Shadows walk through empty space
Serpents writhe with wanton grace
Sound and fury slowly fray
Spirits rise and drift away
Crimson beams of light that burn
Autumn days and nights I yearn
The moon and stars soon will fight
Midnight grips my throat so tight
October rain chills the bone
Summer twilight stands alone
Scrambled mind, I feel no pain
My poems and dreams die in vain
Death and solace intertwine
Wicked Rhyme: my mad design
The stars disappear in blinding light of day.
Still they shine.
Stars seem invisible.
They never really go away.
Moon flees from the harsh sun of noon.
Somewhere, the moon is alive.
Where does the moon hide?
We will see it soon.
Shadow and mist blow to a far land.
Clouds travel far but they return.
Shades of the elm tree shelter us again
like a strange benevolent hand.
We are never totally abandoned.
We are always watched by someone.
We are always under something.
We are never fully parted
from those we love.
(Prairie Light Review, College of DuPage,
Spring 2016, Vol. XXXVIII, no. 2.)
its a thing that happens
when you aren’t watching
this thickening of the underbrush
this flowering of plants
one day the forest is thin
you can see for yards
around leafless bushes
bare stalks of flowers
then when you least expect it
overnight or so it seems
they all burst with blossom
leaf out and spread their branches
and you wonder
when did that happen
why didn’t I see this coming
what was this magic
A weary God, too worn to cope with more
created Adam from the earthly dust
(a man made in his image) to entrust
him as the garden’s chief conservator.
Poor youthful Adam, flummoxed to the core,
his timorous mind perplexed, his state nonplussed,
still bowed to God’s command as mortals must
despite not knowing what had gone before.
So Adam studied Yahweh’s nascent game
and itemized an index to compile
a list of animals, for each a name,
which then became a massive working file
so when he met a dog he could proclaim
with forceful voice, “I dub thee Kyle.”
water and fire
love and hate
soul and flesh
after countless fierce battles
finally become settled
clear and sparkling
floating on the sea
it now waits patiently
for someone to fish it up
Ashes to ashes,
the children's rhyme
no small irony here.
The emerald ash borer
has chewed its way
into the hearts
A parade of death,
orange township trucks
to a dying breed.
Hearing the arrival
of saws and chippers,
there will be
too much sun.
(First published in
There is no yellow or no blue without orange.
Vincent Van Gogh
She is a Hermes’ bag, voluptuous in orange,
a sleuthing tiger on a bottle of merlot,
the sepals of hibiscus. She is mangrove
leaf soaked in the sun, and California poppy
that sashays when she moves.
Gumball-bright and bold Moon over Miami,
a juicy orange HoneyBell, this girl is presence,
a slice of orange surfing in the dark blue Atlantic,
an orange prop plane trailing advertisements.
Occasionally she’s a sharp cheddar or a hot curry,
a prickly pear or a habanero, but often a Monarch,
and always an orange free state of one.
Alone at home, she releases the orange helium
balloon of herself, kicks off the electric orange Zappo’s.
She hangs the Hermes bag,
and becomes instead a lighted lampshade,
watches sunset, snacks on fresh carrots,
sips a fresh-squeezed screwdriver.
The room turns blood orange, bittersweet,
and burnt. She curls up in her chair,
both golden and translucence, sweet release
into the sealed amber of the night.
(Published in Red Cedar Review, 2015)
Proudly wearing the mantle of success
He stoically told his lifelong friend
The only separation
Between profound greatness
And me... is me.
The gall of the status seekers
The incongruity of life.
Nose pressed against a window
He begged for the alms
Garnered from the top.
Tempered by fear
Winding down from a life
Driven with unbridled charisma
And the grit of determination,
He feathered his nest.
Tripping on new era euphoria.
some people cry blue rainbows
into the dead of night,
and their rock hard pillows
substantiate the pain of life
rain and tears not distinguishable
they are all water under a damaged bridge
the heart's trestles beyond repair
some people cry blue rainbows
color blind emotions follow the arc
and love sits atop some mountain of longing
moons after the deluge dries up
some people cry blue rainbows
in a sky that is reluctant to clear
no matter how hard the sun tries
to shine on them.
This is the paint dripping
from my brush
petals of poppy
and lemon zest
from damp woodlands
with piercing eyes
white light enfolding
its full spectrum
Eager bristles soak up exquisite
pigment and fragrance and texture
from eighteen decillion
splash them lavishly
across empty-canvas days
drenching the simplest moment
never a need
to contemplate scarcity
It rained cats and dogs—
Gray Persian, Siamese, Calico,
Great Dane, Collie, Pekinese,
the day the pig escaped
the poke. Three blind mice
had their tails detached and Little Piggy
went to market with Old Gray Hen.
Henny Penny, still paranoid, sounded
the alarm, Red sky in the morning,
sailors take warning. The sky is falling again.
Agitated, the cow jumped over the slip
of moon near the horizon causing her calf
to cry over the milk she spilt.
Big bad Wolf chased Little Piggy
and the hen into the path of the three bears.
Mama Bear and Baby Bear searched for eggs,
but Papa Bear brought home the bacon.
(First published in Twice Upon a Time,
edited by A.J. Huffman and April Salzano,
Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2015)
Your departure came unexpectedly.
For though I knew you would some day go,
I never thought it would affect me so—
like bad weather that spoils plans
or when crystal slips and breaks from careless hands.
I lose and long and with my longing I’m in shock.
Still, I never thought you would leave so soon.
I never thought you would not be in sight.
Yet, I knew some day you would follow God’s light
but never imagined life without you—
like starry summer nights without the moon
or breakfast without your smile, your empty chair,
an empty bed, lyrics without your tune—
Each day I’m sad, lonely, and incomplete.
I pray God grants me strength and comfort
to live my days courageously with memory of you,
and with wisdom to cope with the pain of missing you.
I pray God eases my suffering, my inner hurt,
and helps me stand steadfastly.
I have always loved the sound of thunder
except when it frightened you.
Then, its partnering fiery wonder
I’d eschew, to comfort you.
And what would I tell you, both proud and fine,
if I could make you understand? Lightning feeds
my strength, born as I was in a fire sign.
But I couldn’t stand to see you bleed.
And now the fireworks make me turn
around to look for you,
blink back tears that sting and burn
and think about the friend I knew.
Missiles of brilliant colors streak and die.
Wispy grey puffs float upon the night sky.
Lavender soft, thistle prick
ain’t life a kick in the pants
now that I seem to have it all
fate has intervened
causing a poppy red ooze
to seep into my vitreous china commode
where once I callously contemplated
flushing life away
Alone beneath the silver gate
The young one lies awaiting fate.
A single tear upon his face
Is what he sheds, awaiting grace.
He watches as upon the sky
A blazing star goes shooting by.
He listens not, but still he hears
The sounds of death upon his ears.
The remnants of a different time
Rush through his young but troubled mind.
If only others could have seen
What clearly was no youthful dream.
While lovers laughed and infants slept
Beneath the gate he sat and wept.
The others easily ignore
The young one’s talk of Heaven’s door.
But destiny played out its hand
And turned our world back into sand.
How peaceful does the lone youth lie
Beneath the starless moonlit sky.
Upon him lies the silver gate
Now tarnished with a mindless fate.
A tattooed man hugs a cobra at Disney World.
Jugglers balance on chairs and bottles of wine.
Later, Chloe dances in the sand as waves swirl.
Jacob searches for hermit crabs in the brine.
Their mother leaves footprints along the Tampa beach,
a sister looking for answers after a bitter split.
They stop, turn around, feed seagulls, make believe;
build castles, play freeze tag until the winds quit.
Jack Skellington almost stole Christmas that year.
Despite his ghoulish plot, Minnie collected debris--
feathers, shells, rocks, and silent tears.
All these and more she took from the sea.
Bread crusts slip from young hands as the salt stings.
Just like birds, children love their wings.
(Previously published in Encore)
There is lightning in the high clouds to the north,
but distance cancels the thunder. The
flashes reach me, but the cycle is
The sky turns darker, eclipses the healing
moon and stars.
I am the first emigre, the first immigrant
woman. I leave as a stranger, I arrive the
same. With no husband, no sons, the cycle
The clouds roll closer. The air cools and
My daughters and I speak our only language,
and are damned. We eat the only food we
know, and we are cursed. We would belong
but the cycle is incomplete.
The distance closes. Thunder makes the
children turn in their sleep.
My labor is required, but undervalued. My
wisdom is needed but not sought. Our
bodies are desired, then discarded. The
cycle is incomplete.
Silence drops, is suddenly carried away by a
thousand fingers drumming.
The rain falls, warm and soft, carrying hope
and salvation, but the ground is hard. The
promise is rejected, flows in gutters. The
cycle is incomplete.
The sweet smell of little purple flowers
draws me near the empty lot
where I used to play with other children,
running bases, throwing bats,
skidding into home,
into a soft patch of clover.
After we stopped running,
breathing heavily, we looked -
really looked into that patch
of purple and pink clover,
searching for the stalk with four leaves
the one we were promised to find
if we were lucky.
Diligence brought us grass stains
on our knees and embedded creases
all over our bare legs, for it was summer -
endless green days with blue skies;
real clouds and airplane clouds
We searched, ball and bat tossed aside,
hours passing by unnoticed.
The hot sun poured on our backs
as we breathed in the scent of clover,
lost in a patch of hopefulness.
I don’t have an explanation
But everything irritates me
I advise not to take it personal
But the more you pull
It only frustrates me
I appreciate your concern
It’s just not the right time
It’s just one of them days…
It is like I wake up on the wrong side
And my happiness
Have been compromised
There is not even an ounce of pride…left
Sometimes there is no explanation
Everything is irritating
The simple things are even frustrating
It’s just one of them days…
I am tired of being judged
Living up to another’s expectations
Constantly having to prove
Just to neglect the stereotypical allegations
Of who I am
This is who I am not
Facing the hardships of life everyday
Realizing the pain may never stop
It became one of those days…
Even though tomorrow will be refreshed and new
There will still be trials to go through
But everyone needs a break
All the expensive vacations
I cannot afford to take
So I find my own way
No one has to understand
Grievance is not needed
Because at this point
I don’t even care if they believe it
It’s just one of them days.
From the Emerald Isle
Surface like Prayers
Blessings to recall
Gifts of scent & sounds
Or gems of color afar
Blended by hazy sea air
Or vivid true pure hues
Flowers and greens renewed
Woven into a tapestry fine
All that we can recall sublime
Memories swirl and hurl us back
Into the woven experience time
To be oft recalled at human will
Perhaps we shall all return again
Meanwhile let's mix snips of laces
Buttons, threads and ribbons grand
Into Shingerleen to adorn our wool
For Irish spirits we shall seek to be.
On a summer Sunday morning
I leave my sleeping wife
And drive to get Sunday papers.
The radio says
the governor is fighting the Assembly
and a gunman has killed an assembly.
Did I not write this poem before…
of gunmen at Universities,
work places, theaters…
Of heartbreak, broken
destroyed, and lives lost?
The papers contain
and tomorrow’s schedules.
I come home,
my wife awakes…
to a summer Sunday mourning.
Why are some people compelled to fill every moment?
A professional with a successful practice
loads trivial tasks into unfilled time slots,
like a postal clerk packing bulk-mail
into every mailbox.
Maybe she sees openings
as windows on emptiness within;
or maybe she fears personal demons
escaping out a window to wreak havoc.
Whatever the explanation,
in the frantic search for filler
unnecessary activities vie for status
and are eagerly pressed into service.
The open slots seem crammed with junk
to block exposure of what's inside.
is life, observed or experienced but
keenly felt, modifying thought and
reactions fraught with meaning, and
bought with nouns caught up as verbs,
their sounds blasting visions that flash
about without an adverb to distract,
and nary an adjective to subtract,
possessives or articles, like freckles,
sprinkled judiciously, deliciously
scant, her words magic, drawing
you in, panting for more.
I finger gently the meshy steel diagonals
in our manufactured backyard fence
as lightning bugs dazzle a slow-dance
in the swimmy summer-wet air.
The therapeutic pendulum of a breeze-driven
willow branch entrances me, and merely glancing
at our telephone pole mutely poking into the yellow
setting sky flares a human fragrance in me.
Grasp me by the arm and try to feel
my feelings if you can, as flimsy and confused
as the evening sounds reflecting about our
house and joining the silence of grass.
Praise the Lord of Emptiness as evening's first
star suggests its way through the stratosphere,
retinas all over the city tickling with its improbable
light. Breathe the whole slippery sky with me.
Kings have died failing to acquire a splinter of our
well-being. Look at the grass and the fireflies and the
fence, all swimming in a soup of quaintly offered
love from some source unknown despite knowers.
(From Blue Sky in Buckets)
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