Sunday, June 29, 2008


The fabric stretched at last

& tore, that patterned silk

When I open my hands

no one is hastening

in risk of rain or traffic

to come to me

Instead this expectation

of disappearance only

a list of what we see & lose

in the refugee summer

when the street names

are on my tongue like dark

honey, wine, & peeled almonds

I remember

your body’s comfort

the bones beneath the skin

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I wanted only good news, angels

from a blue sky, gentle

rain on my face: your intelligent fingers

I wanted news from all

directions, silver papers full of stars

confetti & confections & all signs

declaring Yes

pure happiness is possible

clear as a cup of spring

water, inevitable & shining

but my astrologer never visits me

& mail, all purple stamps & promises

takes a wandering course

through the countries of despair

& desire’s canyons. My first love

writes from Paris “Le Volcan is still

here, & the bakeries & gleaming

fruit stands” He sucks the sweet

pulp of blood oranges

in the cool Parisian sunlight, his love

squinting for the camera, juice

running through their fingers. “Yes

hold it!” I call across the oceans

“it is too precious to throw away”

meaning orange juice mornings & wishes

true love, hope, & all the heart’s

brave confidence in this temporary life.

With chemo her long bright hair falls

Across my bed I scatter all the cards

like the blackbirds’ flight through morning

I long to read your face

to learn the transient & lovely

blaze of fully greedy bodies

in this autumn light. More rain.

No news, my life, from you.

So, no, it isn't really autumn. But with the fires burning all around me as I type, it does feel like a smoke filled, hot early autumn day. Rain would be good.

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Friday, June 27, 2008


For H.S.

My beautiful daughter stands

like a painting by Rosetti, red hair

stealing the light by the stars

of the Chinese mallow, blooming

even in the parking lot of death

this sullen century. She is

a generous lantern, here in

the troubled garden, young as we were

in the Asian war when we loved

each other in innocence & lust.

It’s a long time, decades

like told beads, & you watching now

by the body of a dying woman

by the breaking of the bones

by her disconcerted living & her

morphined dreams, by her pain

crying, by her scarred & tender skin

by her lists of doctors & the light

of morning, by her windows of departure

by the sparrows of kindness

by the small leaves falling

by your hungry soul, by the questions

of wires, by the tubes of desire

by the circles of the final flights

& see, here, beyond us all

in this moment

the blue heron still spreads out her wings

like a last breath

never published, not one of my best, though I like some of the lines in it well enough; it was framed as a passing prayer for a first love who was at the time watching his companion die a long and slow death. Oddly, when I sat with another dear love a few years later, helping her make her own passage, I told her when she wondered if she could do it, if she could die, that as the moment came she would have no trouble. "You will just lift away, as the herons do" I said. As she passed I had stepped out with her dog, to allow her daughter to be with her at that last moment. The dog and I walked by the river, where as the sun set and we turned to come back a heron lifted up, stretching its beautiful wings, and I said goodbye to my dear friend.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008


Letters come from you

in the slanted afternoon

when I lie with my small daughter

turning bread to milk

You are chasing dream lions

with your lover

through the fogs of Vancouver, marrying

friends with artifice & fire

You call me again, after the winds slam

all the doors closed & the sun sets

in perfect position for your statues

Constancy, Desire, Loss:

shall I say I loved you

when the stars fell, when we spoke

through museums of innocence

& painted our house sky

Shall I say now I was faithful

standing beside you, playing tricks with knives

& baskets of forced lilies

in the snowlocked winters of that country

where I learned to lie.

This is sleight of hand

I have lately learned to master.

You write of beds, I answer

with roses: snowfire, the last time

& with the ballast names

of my small children. When you reply

love, the oldtime, that scarf of wind

binding all transformation

& I walk through the fire again

wide open we will have nothing left

but this asbestos calm.

Yes, obviously an older poem...the time does go on, doesn't it, and the small girl in the poem is now off on her own. I don't have my records at hand as I post this, but I don't believe it ever met an editor who appreciated it and printed it. The theme of it--reconciling old love and new reality--is one I have pondered all my life. I read Sara Teasdale on the radio last night, because every so often I have the urge to connect the younger generation to the fast fading poetry of the early 20th century, even--or especially--those romantics with their Aprils and their seascapes and the rain beating at the windows.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Careful, indelible, your daughter

draws owls for me

leaning her blonde head

on one inkstained hand

making her white paper a serious garden

The ink runs in groves

& crossed fields. Here in the feathers

she has made a hedge: looking

too closely I see hawthorn

& dog roses: summers

& that fall of owls.

Staring at me now she talks of dances

& the coming rain: here by own eyes

she has made dry roads.

Here is an empty house, & her hair

sweet lantern

& her eyes through the dark

a meticulous clear copy.

this is an old one; came out in kayak one autumn.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Space for Lightning

It’s not the end yet. Yes, I read

all the smudged papers & these

quires of tests. Love was never

a clear chart, square after square

with a space for lightning to tear

the heart. The glow of barium

is safer than this story but you come

straight from the ER

no sleep, trauma, cardiac

arrest, & rest here, a simple act

as I smooth your hair, fingering this & that

No clothes, no grief. You deal in accident

random collisions of cars & these soft

human bodies, cellular tests & touch

Let’s not face facts. Somewhere stars burn

& fall through the thin air, somewhere

a naked night continues & the world

is hinged with bliss. Love, meet me there.


Monday, June 23, 2008


They told me you can walk on water

on the path of white flowers

balanced on the surge, now in the full

moon. They say you will gather

because you are dead & know the way

now, where ashes do not matter.

Before you died the room was full of flowers.

After you died the flowers were still there

leaning this way & that, some touching

some not. Before you were dead the sun

blinded us, & went down. Now you are dead

noon & midnight hold their regular dance.

Do you really know the way home

& the undersides of everything? The old cat

sits at your bed & purrs. Your son

sees strange shapes, rainbows

& people going far away, their backs to us

on the petalled ocean, each step further, no rush.

This poem was written a few summers ago, never published. A friend told me that the local tribes believed that at the full of the moon, when the path of light is on the ocean, the dead follow the path to the land of flowers and the world of spirit. It would be nice to believe this.

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