Elvers

Tonight men walk with flashlights beside the road,
their cars parked at City Point by the bridge, 
and I think they must be elvers. Men seeking elusive 

glass eels. Green ferns pulled down beneath 
mud and rubber boots, these men enter
the river where it ebbs and wallows, lugging 

fyke nets, metal chains rattling like coins in pockets.
Tiny diaphanous offspring struggling in from the ocean,
transparent gold, enough to line the coffers of the most

balky of fishers. Men who scramble along the earth’s 
hard face, kicked by sun, maligned by rain, stuck
in the throat of dirty snow. Determined. The ice melts, 

waters warm and their own sorry bellies pull them 
to the river as surely as the young eels are called upstream. 
Twenty six hundred dollars a pound. What does that equal 

in hours spent wielding a saw in a damp woodlot or stocking 
shelves at Walmart? Asians weep for this food, grow noodle  
thin American eels to adults and sell them at market. 

These Anguilla rostrata will never see the Sargasso Sea, 
never turn yellow and plump in brackish water. Caught
in nets, they turn in star-backed water like letters

that have lost their form, shift in this unnatural space, 
no longer moving with the tidal stream. Instead, lifted 
by calloused hands, they shine in picnic coolers shoved into 

pickup trucks, slosh against each other down pock-marked 
roads on the way to docks and dealers. Their thread-like bodies 
a writhing promise, treasure held in red and white chests.


Worcester Review
Vol. XXXVII No. 1 & 2
Fall 2016

On the Purchase of a House on Mountain Valley Road, 1985

In the year Samantha Smith died, the year
they captured the Night Stalker in LA, 
I bought a house on Route 220, two floors,
six rooms. This house bore me along 
for quite a few years, from rapture
of little boy noise to secret teenagers upstairs
playing games with impenetrable rules.

Before I completed the sale, Joyce, the woman
who owned it, died at home and it fell to her daughters
to come and pick apart her life, tear up rooms,
even dig up the asparagus beds in the yard. 
Yet they abandoned jars of smoked salmon
in the basement, tintypes of unknown people
in the shed, diaries Joyce kept where she talked

of her time at the sardine cannery, how on
gray days she would leave the house at seven,
hope for a run on fish, some time slicing heads,
and not a day when she would be sent home unpaid.
She visited her mother, helped her clean the rumps
of root vegetables torn from the garden. She laid out
the hard cargo of her life—her mother’s gout,

her own arthritic knees, the pain that twisted out
at each step, the unpaid bills at the Apple Squeeze.
I read each page, followed the lines of her pen, 
lines that carved a small cave of meaning, 
whittled down years to kindling, 
small sticks that were once her life.


Miramar
No. 8   2019

Country Girl Thinks of Home

                                     after Girl on Porch by Eudora Welty

She perches, solitary, on that dusty city porch
thinks of foxes, owls, rabbits, coons, hears
their night songs, their rustlings in the deep brush,
feels the pine needles soft beneath her feet,

thinks on that slice of marble-cake she just ate
from the plate with the glued together crack
that ran straight between the two blue dragons
like some tall cloud, skinny, blown jagged in the wind
while she sat on the red seated chair in Aunty Nadine’s kitchen.

No wind now, only the ragged dancing of heat,
thick electric wires hung like strings from poles, 
winking silver in the thickness of sun.

That cake no match for the stream that she saw daily,
swift and burbling, sweeter than any store bought gum,
sweet as the way Uncle Jacob would grab her under the arms
and swing her high, even after haying, with the sweat
like a splash of jug whiskey over his shirt, laughing,

calling her his best girl, even when she wore
her brother’s cast off overalls, her hair caught
in tangles, a burdock bound up behind. He made her 
light as a bobwhite, waiting to lift wing to the sky.


Miramar
No. 8   2019


Succulent

The hot Long Island sun pokes
fingers into sandy ground,
stirs dust in my young throat
as I kick high the swing, hit

bottom on the downward fly.
White jelly bread rolls around
my hungry tongue, washed
with purple kool-aid. I grow

where green grass won’t,
nourished on margarine, wonder
baked in bread, Saturday morning
cartoons, the buzz of test patterns

in my head. Father builds a shed
beneath the staircase, packs
in rakes and brooms, bikes
and wasps and whispered things

that hang from nail hooks shredded
like cardboard Halloween skeletons
that glow in the dark. Honey-
suckle with fuchsia hearts grows on

my best friend’s vines. We pluck
them to suck the sweetness free,
rub the juice into our skin, run
with green feet beneath sprinklers, 

later, sip ice tea, nibble toast
thick with butter, play with candy
beads and lipstick, then practice-
kiss our arms, grape and tangerine.


Miramar
No. 8 2019

While Aunt Irene kneels at the coffin

I stare, clutch a hymnal, revert finally 
to a prayer that the casket will not tip,

spill my mother to the stone floor. Light 
from stained glass marks the backs of pews

and I decide to continue to pray, so right away 
I ask that the Brussel sprouts in my garden curl

their small heads in that tender spot against
the stalk, safe from cutworms, cabbage worms, 

the diamond-backed moth. I pray 
for a pen that doesn’t leak, for a closed tent

in the forest of rain. Someone coughs.
Asking for health would be fruitless, I think. 

Cells die everyday in the millions, sloughing off
in waves, an invisible trembling spray. Instead

I pray now that the radiator leak in the car
won’t get worse, that I can make the drive

north without a quilt of worry over my shoulders.
I pray for a closed tent in the forest of rain. 

For my cats to always lie on sunny paws, 
for the red globes of tomato to survive the fall.


Tinderbox Poetry Journal
Volume 4  Issue 4

In Which a Mother Smokes Marijuana

After the blood appeared, small spots of uncertainty
After the first slice through the fleshy abdomen
After pacing, smoking, waiting
After the wound widened, the womb exposed
After a year of hope, of almost normal
After a visit to Florida, to her husband’s brother
and his wife, palm-treed roads, sun a helmet,
laughter slapped among waves
After the doctor again, the body mapped,
the body exposed, poisoned with hope
After the pills, the vomiting, tiger-clawed, ripped
The uncle gets it, a small bag, rolled with
clumsy fingers, the smoke inhaled
After she coughs, her eyes tear, she bends
double, cannot bear weed, air, anything 

Tinderbox Poetry Journal
Vol. 4 Issue 4

Decision

Birch trees, dragonflies and fishers live
beneath the same night sky as David 
when the glass windshield in his pickup truck 
bursts forth into the grass, shining like black ice, 
like black lace, tumbling with a speed almost equal 
to the bullet that speeds through his brain, his upraised
arm dropping, not as fast, clumsy, his mouth emitting 
an exclamation, not a word, not an apology, not even 
a sob, and it could be that lizards, moles, chipmunks 
moving in thickets freeze for a moment, it could be
that the owl cocks its wing, glides back to the safety 
of a limb, the hulking blanket of night rumpled and shaken, 
small noises pierced by a sharp blast, the constellation 
of broken skull, not unknown beside the black water of the lake 
during that block of days in hunting season when orange-clad men
roam the woods and the sun shudders across the sky, 
when almost all the leaves have fallen or hang askew on twigs— 
hunters in pairs, in groups—not like David sitting alone in his truck
who swallows the quiet like a snake swallowing its prey, 
jaw unhinged, muscles contracting, mouth fully open.


The Sow's Ear Review
May 2018

Emptying the ashes

Each morning they accumulate
in the belly of my stove, grey,

giving off little smoke or heat,
hiding the small, hot coals

that I use to start anew.
Each morning I kneel, peer in,

shovel out their soft bodies,
spill them into the waiting pail.

They are all that remains
of the past, of the hard logs

that I carried in, of the trees
once standing in the stand

before the growl of the chain saw
and the black truck that pulled

them clear.  I think about my children
as I carry the pail to the ditch

to spill out the ashes—their toys,
the way they made castles from clay,

the role playing card games, the nights
up late, while I lay in bed

trying to sleep.  I hardly ever see them
now, though I still have boxes labeled

with their names on the shelves.
The ashes cascade down, black clumps

among them.  Pieces that never
finished burning, that leave dark marks

when you lift them in your hands.


Cafe Review
Spring 2017

Prayer on the edge of the morning

For the slow stretch of highway under slight stars
the frames that hold lost fathers, black and white sisters.

For the chives, weeping in the garden,
yellow and wet with the burrowing season.

For the red squirrel who chatters after nuts
and follows my back with his eye.

For the sprinters, the joggers
the dog walkers, for all the movers of America

going always home, going with no more meaning
than the sounds given from one foot to another,

with no more intent than to move.  
Let the jet stream carry my prayers.

Let the prayer be for the grey
that eases between the limbs of the trees,

that brushes my house in the unspent morning,
for the riotous waves dissolving on the shore.

Let the prayer be for all the shadows that slip
between us, for the words we do not say

for the thoughts that we hold like lit cigarettes,
dangling from our mouths, drop and crush.

Cafe Review
Spring 2017

Ripley

before a wall of Japanese knotweed—tall, entangled—
see from above, a reel of green,

before the bones of the house fall, 
before the shed where I crouch beside the white goat,

hands firm on her teats, falls
before the walls of the pantry fall

before the kitchen, the second floor bedroom
where I curl with a man, the hay shed

the pig pen, all fall
my life is made of light

has it too fallen?
are those my days

sunk deep in what was once the garden
lost among roots of redtop, witchgrass

the wild remnants of hay?
yes—once hayfield, once

thick tomatoes on vines
diapers and overalls hung from a line

peapods snapped, beans canned,
sheep with black noses pushing

to get grain from my hand 
have I fallen into this earth?

the road still runs with its blue rip-tune
spring still comes to take back the fallen

I slide my kayak into a stream finally free of ice
frogs startle, whirligigs spin in 

crazed circles, on the shore arrow arum leaves 
cover earth, my paddle dips, rises

Cafe Review
Spring 2017