Words: By Way of Contrast

coffeepot

filigree

chase

novel

 

BY WAY OF CONTRAST

Grandmother’s silver coffeepot—

fine filigree around the handle,

chasing and repoussé patterning the lid.

The matching creamer, 

sugarbowl with tongs.

Her white linen napkins,

bone china cups.

 

My Mr. Coffee maker.

My red ceramic sugar bowl

patterned with spirals and stars. 

My white creamer—novel souvenier

from Columbus, Ohio.

My red-checked tablecloth.

My heavy blue pottery mug.

EXILE

This is the result of a writing exercise I’m doing with a couple of friends. Each of us offers a word, and then each of us makes a piece of writing using those words.  

WORDS:

latitude    embroidery     coil

EXILE

How, you ask me, do I live?

I have come so far, so very far

 

from the earths that shaped my bones,

the people who gave me blood and breath.

 

I make my choices, hold my connections.

I wash my long gray hair in rainwater

 

I catch in a bowl in my garden.

I dry my hair in the sunshine,

 

brushing it in the warmth

and light, the way Matka taught,

 

the way my sisters do

in my home place, in my latitude

 

of memory. I plait a four-strand braid,

coil it around my head. One by one,

 

in ritual, I lift the bone hairpins 

from the linen pouch Babcia gave me

 

as she gave to each granddaughter. 

I think of her, remember her

 

working the red embroidery,

the five-petaled flowers,the long-tailed birds.

MOTHERS, DESCENDING

MOTHERS, DESCENDING

~for my friends who have been here

Everyone has at least

one. As we get old, 

they vanish like dreams 

in the morning. They fall

back into the place of arising,

that holy or unholy womb

of world that held us all.

As they go, they show us.

They echo their beginnings.

Like the three-year old 

who awakens murmuring 

the sharkopuss is going down, down,

they fall asleep explaining how

we resemble their daughters.

Because, of course, perhaps

that’s who we are.

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

Awoke this morning 

with the National Anthem

playing in my head.

I despised it in my youth

for its warlike passion, and 

I have changed my mind.

O say, can you see? 

 

I thought about my father,

battle-fatigued farmboy

who drank to forget how 

his B24 was shot down,

how his buddy blew up

beside him. How he 

always stood for the flag.

Does the Banner yet wave?

 

I thought of my Oma,

fifteen years old and alone,

wearing a red flannel petticoat 

her mama made to keep her warm,

how she saw Lady Liberty

standing in the harbor

in the dawn’s early light,

how she watched the Lady 

grow larger and larger, 

lifting her torch in welcome

to the home of the brave.

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

Books. Markers and tape.

Blocks go together or not. 

From this height, piles of leaves

look too small for jumping

but they are fine.

The trail by the river is inviting

but too long for feet and too

embarrassing for the stroller. 

Were we ever so busy?

We don’t remember.

The house is filled 

with scampers, changes, babble. 

Firefighter hats and a monster cape. 

Harmonicas and a little tin drum. 

What’s in the closet

and who knows the words?

What we want and don’t:

peanut butter, another story,

a good night’s sleep. 

To be the first one found, or

the last one lost.  

 

 

JOSEPH TALKS ABOUT HIS OLDEST SON

JOSEPH TALKS ABOUT HIS OLDEST SON

 

After what we went through with him—

all the business with angels, and Egypt—

I was hoping things would settle down.

 

It seemed they might. I thought

maybe he could save the world

by being a good man, right here

 

in Nazareth. As time went by,

I even began to think he’d be 

a cabinet maker. He had such 

 

promise. He was careful, deliberate.

He had an instinct for how things

fit together. And he was good with

 

customers. What they wanted, what

they could afford. But then, I had

other sons to carry on, for Mary’s sake.

 

And Jesus? Well. 

It seems he made something

of himself after all.

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

Let there be no routine.

Let the white cat disturb

your meditation,

the black cat interfere

with your tai chi.

May the dog demand

to go out while you’re trying

to pray. 

May your husband knock

on your study door 

because he cannot find 

his glasses. 

Your old friend will call

while you are chopping onions

in a mindful way.

Answer the phone.