Some things girls know

The slow thrashing of the rope against the pavement
spit out a pattern, a rhythm that we counted in our heads, before
pledging ourselves and plunging straight
into the swirling center of the rope.  Wrap her up
in tissue paper, send her down the elevator, first floor-
STOP.  That starts the easy one, the beginner’s game,
where we stood and got our ankles slapped.  From there
the tricks progressed to turning, touching, and finally
slipping away through the worm tunnel of air.  We learned
all the heart stamping tricks in those days spent beating
our feet on concrete driveways –  what to do when robbers
came knocking at your door, how to grit your teeth, take
the blame for all the broken bottles – as you’re pushed
faster and faster, the whip and laughter spreading
like a stain, your feet keeping up, keeping up, keeping up,
until you can’t handle it any more, stumble, miss the beat, stop
it all and there is nothing left to do, but take the end,
turn the handle for some other girl’s jammed feet, watch her in
longing, waiting to trip her up, make her scream, punish her
in that whirlwind that left everyone panting: red hot pepper.

Published in:
The Monkey’s Fist

humming on home

sun gone to clouds
my spine wild as yarrow
rattling down Files Hill

drifting in a black blouse
white flowers on a black blouse
white flowers with comfortable shoes

ring tapping the wheel
song of tomatoes in my ear
sun gone to clouds, but warm

ring singing any old song
Files Hill pattering leaves frame
slanted light still remains

comfortable shoes
a blouse hanging loose
a fork full of trouble
trouble jerked free

white flowers loose stream
ring, ring, ring tapping
shoes blooming, blooming yarrow
sun gone to clouds, but still warm

Published in:
Puckerbrush Review
Spring/Summer 2007

Webb Cemetery: Class Trip – May 2002

a hawk circles the tree tops
the notes of a flute
bright tufts of sound among
lines and young leaves of poplar

Tam sits head down
eyes on paper
looking for words
Jared stretches amid
a splatter of sunlight
Corey on the edge of the path

I wonder at the stillness
dead leaves huddle among
young green ones
that thrust from the earth
like soft arrows
a boy’s sneaker rubs among them
the leaves crumbling and
all around us
the stones

Leah, Lavinia, Elvira, Rosendal
a small white stone carved with the letters MMG
initials that shed their meaning long ago
a secret now
a mystery

sitting among the stones
Jennifer, Robert, James, Joshua
the names go on and on
I’ve lost so many already
can’t even remember the names
of all the students I’ve taught

the boys in blue shirts and
baseball caps lean in and point
scratch their heads, whisper
a bird keeps chirping and I
turn over in the crisp dead leaves
Brendan reaches up
touches the thin slivers of
green needle above his head
and a child calls insistently
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy

my mother died
I have not been back to see the stone
my mother         not in that stone
but in my mind
the steam rises
potatoes roil in the water
small droplets condense
running down the window
outside she balances
a basket of clothes on the rail
hands reaching up

Justin wanders over
asks me a question
I say No my voice getting stern but I think
why do I say No
when I should be saying Yes
why  do I say be still
when I should be saying
Take your restlessness and rise with it
until you  feel the soft
feather of the wind push your hair aside
until you see shadows of willow branches
wavering in the grass

I should say
Yes Yes Yes        move         do it all
before the names fade from your mind
before your mother’s voice slips away
a thin stream of water
among dry stones
before the hawk circles again
above the trees

reach out and touch the names
trace them with fingers
as soft as the earth

Leah, Lavinia, Elvira,

published in:
Wolf Moon Journal
May/June 2007

Lettuce woman

At the farmers’ market this morning
I saw the young woman who sold me lettuce last week-
a head of buttercrunch that she pulled from a bag
as I stared at the limp loose leaved plants
she had on display.

“It’s hard to keep them happy in this weather,”
she told me, smiling, holding the head
cradled in her hand, an offering.  Certainly I accepted.

I imagine her back curved like a slender sunflower stalk
pulled down with the weight of its blossoming, the flower
a confusion of gold, as she tends her garden.

With regret she roots among the feathery shoots of carrot,
playing goddess, plucking small plants to die in the sun
so the others may grow long and plump and tender.

This is the hard part, this weeding out,
not the harvest, the shearing and pulling of maturity,
when sun-spilled hands reach out to fill up the basket.

In my mind I see her life wrapped in the earth,
smiling at her lover across a table, white dishes,
cornflowers, fire weed, asters, and always

smiling, as today at her table, a tableau
with fiddle in background.  I can’t meet
her eyes as I pass by looking for my beets,
wishing I had some need of her lettuce.

Published in:
Off the Coast
September 2007

poet’s apology

I wonder about my neighbors
what they would say
if they knew I was
typing them out
fleshing them on to paper
pinning them there like
butterflies unmoving
their stiff wings fragile
kept away from the light
to avoid fading
their lips are there
the clothes they wear
their hands spread against the backs
of their children
their cars breaking down in gullies
their words splattering
like glass on the ground
the knives they hurl
the smell of them
under the covers at night
the way the light falls
through the window
on their cheeks
the door slamming
the cows moving their haunches
chewing up the fields
black letters strung out
fisted together in bunches
I cannot help it
I gather it in fitfully
afraid it will all
drift away
if I don’t
get it

Published in:
Showcase Press
Issue One  2006

mudluscious friend

smooth mud, packed into cakes
creaking chains on swings
held with wet palms
hair dripping in strands
from a run under the sprinkler
the secret things we did
hidden upstairs in your garage
all the games we played
running bases monkey in the middle
Chinese school hands clenched
tight around pebbles and then
there are the games with
no names with feathers
pursed lips air blown on bare skin
you the only one who I wrestled
who I swore allegiance best best friend
the one who climbed beside me
no matter where I went who let me
put up her hair pose her beside the willow
let me touch her catholic thighs who
slipped her fingers over me blew hot
dreams into all my lips and seams even
when your mother opened the door
and saw us even then Madeline
you were my best friend

Showcase Press
Issue one  2006

hammer & lemon

smells of oil and driftwood
of candle wax and melted solder
chips of things we find in our
bed in our clothes our hair
so far we have come close
to stamping each other out
erasing each other in a series
of ratcheting needs spelled out
in early morning arguments
amazing how little we can say
without listening you would talk
of ants while I am on the theme
of butterflies when I come over
to put my tongue on your neck
you ask if I have turned
the generator on I sit back and
think of planting crops while you
would have us out there cutting
trees gravel spits up when your
car pulls out of my driveway
my dishes clank
together in the sink and I remember
the first time I pushed my face
against your sunwarmed shirt
the smell of seaweed wild roses
and wet leaves

published in:

Showcase Press
Issue one  2006