PROMISE

PROMISE

 

We keep showing you:

 

The little frogs, the birds.

Islands and mountains,

drowned rivers, 

fertile fields.

Brown leaves out of season.

 

Trees move so slowly.

 

Don’t let dread freeze you;

ice is deadly as heat.

Keep moving. 

Stay together.

Stamp your feet.

 

And promise us 

 

you’ll save something:

one sparrow, 

one sapling.

One patch 

of hallowed ground.

 

From 2015.

THE STORYTELLER

THE STORYTELLER

Oh, the wildness of the teller in her cave of bone!

She finds dragons in stumps, faces in every carpet—

 

how will she make it cohere?

Was it once upon a time, or ever after? 

 

Snakes and bears are real enough,

and mirrors trying to reflect what’s fair.

 

She searches her fallible senses

entwined with shadowed remembrances

 

and pieces a pattern, a dream, a tale— something

that might be true, or that someone might believe.

 

The smell of whisky, the texture of satin,

a whisper behind a half-closed door—

NO WEATHER

No weather lasts forever.

Even this craziness, this winter

that doesn’t want to end. 

 

The sun is still up there,

above the heavy clouds.

There are currants driving the winds.

 

The blackbirds have returned

and are searching for seeds

and the robins have found the sumac.

 

It is our grandson’s third birthday.

He talks all the time;

he’s trying to read.

 

Our granddaughter will be one

two days from now. She

is walking, and working on words.

 

Small plants, lettuces and pansies,

are growing in greenhouses

and the farmers are potting up tomatoes.

 

My nephew is feeding his chickens

and gathering the eggs.

There are new black calves in the pasture.

 

Sometimes I can believe

that the world doesn’t matter, 

that what matters is the earth,

 

and the people who do good work

every day, who walk their dogs

and love their friends.

 

LIPSTICK

LIPSTICK

I bought one for the first time in decades.

Pomegranate red.

I’m wearing it.

What possesed me?

It has suddenly become important,

like the high heels Martha wore

the day she got her general’s stars.

Those men, suited or uniformed,

slick-shaved, striding to the podium,

and the unapologetic click of Martha’s heels.

This is the sound of it, I thought.

The shift. The change.

This is what it sounds like.

Did you listen close

while Nancy defended the kids?

A powerful old woman

dancing forwards. And not

just in high heels, but stilettos.

Did you listen to Emma,

the power of her stillness,

unashamed of tears?

 

Not for men’s pleasure,

these symbols of our power:

lipstick, high heels, short skirts.

Maybe it was Eve who woke me up:

This short skirt is mine. 

I am old enought to remember

Bella’s hats, first the necessity,

then the pleasure.

Maybe it was our hats,

those cute pink hats with ears.

We grabbed the derogatory,

transformed it into strength.

What change looks like.

Even tears are power.

It’s what we’re doing now

in our leggings and boots,

and running shoes and fleece,

our torn jeans and t shirts and hoodies

our shawls and scarves,

our nursing bras and aprons.

And yes, in our lipstick and four-inch heels.

PERSEPHONE’S WISH SONG

 

PERSEPHONE’S WISH SONG

 

I will not be forever

maiden—that flimsy dress,

the little bouquet.

I am tired, so tired of helping

Mother with the spring.

Nor do I want to sit, solemn,

beside my ancient lord.

I am too old to be innocent,

too young to be still.

 

I want to be Queen of November,

Queen of March,

of coming snow and melting snow,

of browning leaf and stirring root.

Queen of half-moon, gibbous moon.

Queen of labor room, death bed,

first cry,  last word.

 

I want long bright corridors,

doors and windows open

to the music of water

and changing wind.

A land where every step is new.

 

I want to be Queen

of sketchbook, unrehearsed script,

melody stirring in the throat.

Queen of poems that twitch

just out of reach,

Queen of stories emerging

from the dark.

Winter Prompt #24: Lid off a Jar

LID OFF A JAR

Winter Prompt #24

Rusted on. The bail jar is full

of round black balls. Plums? How long

have they been here in the dust,

on this webby shelf?

She’s been dead how many years—

the woman whose house this was,

whose name I’ll never know.

A plum tree in the garden,

sheep in the pasture long grown up

to houses and lawns. New houses

not like this crazy one, layers

of wallpaper peeling, wide chestnut

floorboards, the space against the wall

where the kitchen stove used to stand.

Winter Prompts #7: Gear I Can’t Live Without

GEAR I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?

Winter Prompt #7

It’s six a.m., an easy time to answer.

This pen—silver, with a gold arrow clip,

a gold nib. My real godmother (not

my official one) gave it to me.

It was her mother’s. I cannot

write in my notebook without it.

 

This coffee mug—the blue one,

made by a local potter whose name

I keep forgetting. Jim somebody?

It’s pear-shaped, textured,

with a pattern around the top,

an underglaze and interior

of honey-color. I can fit all

of my big fingers through the handle,

and either hold the handle itself

or wrap my hand around the cup.

 

A notebook—this one is spiral bound.

And unlined. Always, always unlined.

There’s something about lines on pages—

perhaps it has to do with school,

with blue-books. But lines on pages,

like ball-point pens and cups

with delicate handles, tighten my hands,

pinch my nerve, keep me in.