Wednesday, April 25, 2012


barnburner [BAHRN-bur-ner], noun:
Something that is highly exciting or impressive

Barnburner, you brought down 
our house. No, rather, you 
rearranged it, changed it 
from the inside out. The younger
me would barely be able to recognize
itself anymore. The rooms 
have changed, the floor, the ceiling.
The floor is now the ceiling. It's skin 
stripped and varnished. You put the kitchen
where I used to make my papers work,
replaced the window I used 
to let my mind wander out of
to where the fish in the pond you dug,
placed stones around, now swim
and pander amorously for my mother 
and the empty bench that falls 
apart slowly with time waits
under the apple tree you haven't 
yet uprooted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


fard[fahrd] noun
to apply cosmetics

Funny how farding sounds so much like 
farting. But isn't it inappropriate
the way some women do it?
You watch them in the mornings
on the subway or bus
making those wide-open faces:
ridiculous mouths yawning,
eyes agape. These women
attack themselves with wands
like miniature, bristled trees
and pointed pencils like javelins.
If you want to be seen, I see you.
I cannot help but look at you.
Your queer expressions mesmerize
like actors in black and white movies. 
When the subway car jolts, will you
juggle your eyeball before it lands
on the floor? Or will your hands fly
to your mouth, painted with surprise
and shaped with a harlot's O?

Monday, April 23, 2012


germinal JUR-muh-nl \, adjective:
being in the earliest stage of development

Being in the earliest stage of development,
I do not judge you a veteran of my heart.
You do not know the way it chimes 
When the wind blows and the sky is turning gray.
How its pipes are like brass cylinders that hang
Around the wooden center upon which they bang.

But being in the earliest stage of development
They do not bang yet. No.
The wind from the mountains has not yet sunk
Into this valley where my heart waits to be moved
Hovering above the un-mowed ground
Only the grasses sway minutely in the calmness.

In this earliest stage of us, I will not warn you
Of the gales that can not merely be called wind,
Nor of the storms, or the wailing in the night of the coyotes
That circle the foundations where I live.
For now, just listen to the hesitant hoot of the owls,
Tucked into their branches in the star-studded evening.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


obtuse \uhb-TOOS\ (adjective):
1. not quick or alert in perception, feeling, or intellect.
2. not sharp, acute, or pointed; blunt in form.
3. (of a leaf, petal, etc.) rounded at the extremity.

Being only a few, tall trees in the yard
There wasn't much for us to hide under.
Only one tall evergreen, one bristly mother
With her skirt that dragged the ground.
Being too much a cold, unwelcoming thing,
We never ventured into her folds
More than once before learning our lesson -
The kind only nature can teach so well.

No, we mostly stayed in the shadows
Of the fencerow, tree-lined, swampy, lush,
Where birds fluttered inside the nestles
Of briar bushes, and hairy bogs protruded
Like stepping stools. They led  to small clearings, 
Areas of sudden openness, as if the woods
Had created a room for us to exist in alone,
Where we could not hear our mothers.

We were never supervised, you and I.
Hard to believe now, a girl and a boy, so left
To their own devices. How like animals,
We were, digging in the mud. What little
Explorers, building forts out of pillows
And blankets. Places we could hide a whole
Afternoon. How curious we were then. How
Much nature had given us to discover.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We've Lost That Squeaky Feeling (another filler)

These clean, neat wooden slats
That make up the floor remind me
Of Mohonk's main dining room, how
Expansive it felt when empty, how
Small when filled with people
And the talk and the clatter
They brought with them, how
I cleaned, swept those floors, how
The sound my shoes made
Echoed across the boards,
How different the old, lazy linoleum
Of a diner can be without sound.
How empty our booth
Just inside and to the right of the door.
How I waited with a glass of water, cold,
Ice floating at the top, like I could never do
As a child, how I dove, though, how I
Positioned my knobby body on the long,
White board, how I arched my arms to slice
Through air, through water, through
To the vinyl floor. How I rubbed
The dents and the dips in its skin
With my fingertips, how I imagined
I heard squeaking. Like how a poet can keep
Caressing a difficult word, trying to eek
Something out of it - and fail.

Monday, April 16, 2012

(a filler poem)

From streetcar to streetcar in my flowered dress, I go.
On a Monday with other like-wise women, and their six,
seven bags of assorted sizes and ten, colored bracelets
At their jingling wrists; one lady holds a kitten in a paper
Bag. It mews, high-pitched, sad it is not yet a lion. One
Woman in pants-like-a-skirt, shows off her slim, angular
Waist; her long, thin legs, a clown’s ridiculous stilts upon
Which she is proudly poised. Again, I tell you, it is Monday,
Which every awe-woken body knows. All the people in their
Headphones, drowning out the quiet morning; all the silent,
Sleepy people, whose tired eyes read from translucent
Screens or from paper, bound together with string and glue,
Handled, finger-flipped, pressed close to the chest only when
Words make the heart flutter like a bird caught in a tiger’s
Bony throat. The mouth opens and it flies out, singing. The doors
Close behind me with a ding-dong, the sound clowns make
From their big, red noses, as they crowd into the tiny car,
Echoing a wistful loneliness that isn’t quite melancholy.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


ir·rig·u·ous [ih-rig-yoo-uhs] adjective
Archaic . well-watered, as land.

Growing up, my mother had no green
Thumb, although we had a garden, a 3-
Acre yard, everything we touched, wilted,
Turned yellow, no matter how well-watered.
Sometimes, even the well went dry
Filling the pool, forgetting the hose was still
Running - a stream, a clear tongue forever
Lapping into the surface, losing itself
In the deeper water. Wet into wet, one body
Into another. I dove into it, but mine
Stayed the same. My water, trapped
Inside my tight, child's skin, hitting
The bottom, bouncing off with my feet,
Resilient. Bobbing. My own little island.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


mac·a·ron·ic   [mak-uh-ron-ik], adjective
1. composed of a mixture of languages.
2. mixed; jumbled.

The Tower of Babel falls
With everyone in it. There seems to be
One loud, discernible scream
Meaning fear, meaning death,
Meaning empty-headed jealousy.
Who can die more enviably?
Most delicately? Who will dive?
Whose body, whose bones
Will land expressively
So that all of Man and not only 
God will understand?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


tony TOH-nee \adjective;
High-toned; stylish.

The dresses in my closet wait,
Strung, suspended on the pole
Like pearls on a string that sags
In the middle like my body
Is beginning to - like women always
Warn, always warned. I've become
Someone that says, "Almost 30,"
Sad and dull-ly, as redundant
As the woodpecker that digs its
Beak into the tree - something
Like my head against the table
Of those words. I once had a dress
With a watermelon on its chest
That grew with me every year
Seemed a wondrous trick to a child
Now I look at these resting
Silent on hangers and hope
My body squeezes into them.
If they don't, I'll blame the dryer,
The cheap fabric until I have to
Face the truth - how much my rump
Now mimics the waxing moon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


caparison \ kuh-PAR-uh-suhn \, verb;
To dress richly; deck.

I didn't know it was supposed
To rain today. First the air dims.
Then clouds appear. It happens
That way. I watch the people
On the streets in trenchcoats.
Me, in cotton. A pink dress
That will turn red, first, in
Blossoms, one or two, then an
Orchard. Where I punched you
Out of a cardboard box. You
Stood for a moment, then fell.
I watched you, float down the river
Without shoes, without a boat.
You didn't even yell. Maybe
I will see you at the rainbow
Where it ends. I'll be the one
With my feet stuck in the ground.

Monday, April 9, 2012


cumshawKUHM-shaw noun;
A present; gratuity; tip.

Cumshaw, rickshaw, buzz saw,
Clapped jaw, hem and haw.
"Aw, aw" does the bird call.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


apotropaic \ap-uh-truh-PEY-ik\, adjective:
Intended to ward off evil.

Didn't really think the night
Hid so many monsters or that light
Could ward off evil but still
I ran up the stairs from the pool
In the basement without bottom
And I flicked on all the switches
In each room I passed through.
Even now, sitting alone in the car
With no headlights, no locks on,
I fumble with the ignition and imagine
A cold wind coming in before the hord
Hits, ripping and tearing at my skin.
Listen. Did you hear the crickets
And the bullfrogs go silent?

Saturday, April 7, 2012


pleach pleech \verb;
1. To interweave branches or vines for a hedge or arbor.
2. To braid (hair).

The afternoon you tried to tame my curly hair,
It was sunny, a Saturday. You sat me down
In the kitchen, on a wooden stool, between
Your blue-jeaned legs. You took a comb, then,
A round brush, pulled at my roots, my head arched
Back, my chin pointed up. You asked me to please
Sit still, so I gripped the seat, bit my lips together
As your un-tender fingers and the beaded bristles
Tore through my hair with each stroke. Half an hour,
An hour, again and again you tried, but my hair
Would not weave, would not work into the french
Braid you scraped for so diligently, my scalp ached.

Friday, April 6, 2012


agleyuh-GLEE  , adjective;Off the right line; awry; wrong.

A family of clothes aligned on the line
From smallest to biggest article, pinned
Dresses billow like jellyfish, no spines,
While pant legs bend at the knees, kicked in

By the wind, which is brittle, sour-smelling
Like rain. The air, pregnant, like a woman
Heavy with child, the drying clothes hang
Between hips, old wooden poles that bow in

Tempered by fifty years' weight of this.
The old woman feels the rain in her own bones
Sits at the window, massaging her wrists,
She will go, take down the clothes, alone

As always, as is constant, as is right,
Cry the clothes, flapping on the line like kites.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


ephebe\ ih-FEEB \ , noun; A young man. 

How is a young man like a girl? He isn't 
Awkward like she is awkward, softly turning.
He is hard, wiry, stiff. Perhaps he is 
The stem and she, the petal, one yearning 

For the other, but also, sometimes, stems 
Want to curl 'round each other and petals 
Prefer to fall and lay with their hems 
Overlapping. Soft with soft; metal with metal. 

Can you tell them this is wrong? Or if 
The girl is hard like wood and the boy 
Succulent as a fall pear, would you sift 
Them? Or force them, as if they were toys?

His soft skin thin? Hers like a rock? 
Pear juice is blood on a chopping block.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To O'Hara

Sitting near a Grand Central
Station stairway on the floor I stare 
At all the passing people dressed
In hurry Rushing from this place
To that place of worry while those
Next to me snap pictures trying
To catch process in static
A souvenir of the city's constancy
Always people moving, a weave
A right, a left, all a tapestry A picture
Of the stars mapped over time It all blurs
One person, one long trajectory
Sitting still I feel still as a boulder
In a river I will corrode, erode over time
I would But my legs prevent this My job
My life I am a wife to it Married, joined,
A shadow. Only against this wall
Do we rest together and it is poetry
Just an idea I have And then it is there 
Coincidence, who believes in it?
I think about you and you are there I don't
Think about you and there you are 
Answering a question I had only 
Just thought of An answer you had
Only just found As you weaved
Through the hurried crowd.


sylph silf  , noun;

1. A slender, graceful woman or girl.
2. (In folklore) one of a race of supernatural beings supposed to inhabit the air.

How is she supposed to inhabit the air? This sylph
This slender girl that knows not yet how
To be a woman, graceful, capable in her slenderest
Arms, her smallest ankles, her bones that only
Years ago could break so easily, falling from a tree.
More a baby bird than the dove that takes flight,
That calls to the wind, to a lover, a future
Mate, who calls back, who waits, who knows
He will not have to wait much longer. And this girl
Stands at the roots and looks up at the limbs
     And is suddenly afraid to climb. She forgets
     The footholds. She only sees where she slipped before.
     She remembers the sound of the snap and her scream
     That rustled the leaves as the birds burst into flight.