LABYRINTH

Red boards, white halls.

Posters and paint.

 

The inside of a piano. 

A washer full of light.

 

Two stairways

to one long corridor.

 

You do not have a clue.

You do not need one.

 

If you are lost, cry out,

no doubt someone

 

will hear you.

You will always be found.

 

What you do 

is up to you.

 

At the center—

no minotaur—

 

a glass door. Behind it,

earnest, commanding

 

fairies are waiting.

What did you expect?

 

Their Queen,

at first glance seems

 

innocent, unwinged.

Little do you know. 

 

Her throne a desk.

Her wand a pen.

 

Enter at your peril. 

Are you ready

 

to love the edges?

To practice not-doing?

 

Are you ready

to change your life?

 

 

 

DRAWING LESSON

I wrote this years ago for my friend Maggie, who at age 80 started modeling for art students, because, she said, “They need to know what old people look like.”  She liked the poem, and recorded herself reading it back to me. She died a couple of years ago, in her 90s. I miss her.

 

DRAWING LESSON

—in memory of Maggie Miller

 

Here you are, most with a world ahead,

some with half a world behind,

come to draw the human form.

And here I am naked before you

so comfortable, easy

in my eighty year old skin.

 

I love my folds,

metamorphosed mountains.

You think you can draw 

an old woman, dear babies?

Lean in, look hard.

It will cost you all your life.

 

I have been down deep, 

through muscle, sinew, bone.

Loved long a man long dead,

borne a son and let him go.

I am learning how to pray

and I laugh when you ask me to tell.

 

In my time I have come

to the heart’s solid core–

heat of life and more–

Now over you I pour 

my fire like water.

From where I lie I see

the place the stars will rise.

 

FELL SWOOP

 

 

FELL SWOOP

 

Tired at last of myself, 

the way I’ve been for seventy years—

tight and worried, wanting my perfect way—

in a swoop—and was it fell?—I laughed. 

Laughed at the coiled clay vase that wanted 

to be a fish, laughed at the poems 

that wouldn’t be printed in little magazines 

and at my past earnestness 

about the importance of that, laughed 

at my belief that those pants would

make me leggy like the model in the catalogue, 

that this diet or pill or “spiritual practice” 

would fix my — everything. 

And last night I split a bottle of Switchback

with Jean and we laughed at our husbands’ old jokes 

during what would once have been 

a nervous attempt at “dinner party” 

and we made spontaneous 

ice cream sandwiches for dessert 

from crispy brownies and ice cream 

straight from the carton, and I’m still laughing.

COUNTRY WEDDING

COUNTRY WEDDING

~Berthe Morisot, 2019

Oil on canvas

 

Stacked blocks of whiteness 

narrow to a steeple. 

 

A white tent stretches

over blue shade. Shapes

 

of color clothe the guests. 

All around is green.

 

In the midground, 

five children scamper

 

with two yellow dogs.

Close to the frame, 

 

two women— one

in red boots— and three

 

men are playing bocce.

Their shadows are long.

 

Deep in the trees 

a robin starts a song.

MORNING NOISE

MORNING NOISE

~Jackson Pollock, 2019

Oil on cardboard

 

 

 

You can hear them, can’t you? Bursts of red and 

white and gray—those pickups early on the 

road, and the big silver milk truck, there, clear 

streak across. The woodchip truck that always 

uses jake brakes going down the hill—long 

black jag. And underneath and around—back-

ground and more than background—a kind of fore-

ground really—are the birds. Can you hear them? 

Sure you can. Rose-breasted grosbeak, redstart, 

red-eyed vireo, white-throated sparrow, 

goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, 

and clearest, that woodthrush just out of sight.

IMAGINARY PAINTING

IMAGINARY PAINTING

 

There is no painting here.

No artist prepared

a palette, a canvas.

No ecstasy or agony

of creation.

Nothing was lugged

to a gallery. 

No one returned,

disappointed, to a garret.

It was never displayed

in hallway, drawing room,

library, museum.

It is not real, except

as silence, out 

of the reach of sense,

a whim, a dream.

THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHIING “PINA”

 

THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING PINA

I want to write the way she danced.

 

I want someone to move the chairs

as I move blind 

through a complicated room.

 

Words 

 

cannot suffice:  

space, limbs loose, cardboard ears,

grinning in a line.

 

I want a gown 

the color of my hair, very high heels.

I want to fall and fall and someone to catch me every single time.

 

I want water 

 

on everything:

rocks, light.  I want

my skirts thick

with the weight of water.

 

I’ve been avoiding poems.  

Look:  how small my writing has become.

 

I’m held

 

on the end

of a line.  

No matter how

I scribble, I’m held, I’m held.

I will not wear a short red dress again.

Never again that passion and that pain. 

 

Oh, let me

 

close my eyes and fall.  

Feel:

the dirt shoveled on my back.

I will bury myself:  eyes, mouth:

 

I promise

 

I won’t stand up or turn away.  

All around the rim

the seasons pass and on my back 

 

I will carry

 

a tall green tree.  

I will learn

to gesture as the seasons change.

 

No matter what I do, I can’t format this the right way. Alas. There are lots of indentations in the original. Use your imagination.