Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Her Things

An unread book--
An unlit candle--
An unopened tube of hand cream--
An unworn necklace--
They were all gifts I'd given through the year
To my mother-in-law
Who printed my name neatly
On a piece of masking tape,
Then stuck that tape on the gifts
So I would get them back
In the event of her death.

Her daughter returned them all
To me last week.
I knew that not using my gifts
Was her way of honoring them.
A child of the Great Depression,
She was frugal, careful with resources,
Turning out lights when she left a room,
Running only as much water as needed,
Eating leftovers until they were gone.

She saved those things for me
Because they were precious.
Only I wish she had worn the necklace
Until the silver turned dark against her skin,
Opened the tube of hand cream and
Rubbed it all on her sun brown arms,
Lit the candle and watched its
Flames flicker until the wax
Melted into memory,
Opened the book and devoured
Each word as through it were chocolate.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Some say there's rosemary, that's for remembrance,
But I say please fill my arms with Russian sage
Growing wide and unwieldy along the gutters of
Second Avenue, planted by earnest and well-intentioned
Xeriscapers wanting to save the world,
But who did not, perhaps, fully understand
The true nature of this aggressive
And sharp-scented beast.

Saturday she pushed her own stroller
All the way home from 7-11,
My two year-old granddaughter, Buster Boots,
Who cannot be contained by a mere strap in a seat.
She meandered beneath an arch of blue stalks
On the street corner that left tiny blossoms,
thick as honey bees, in her unwieldy hair
So when I turned her over to her father that night
She smelled of Slurpee and sun on skin
And sweet, sweet wild sage.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


"Understory: A layer of vegetation beneath the main canopy of forest."

I learned about understory in Alaska
As my friends and I waded through the 
Green grasses beneath the alder trees on
A tiny island in a river as silver as Coho
Salmon while dragonflies flitted 
 Past us in a sheen of blue.
I marveled at the thought of each quiet
Thing--seed and leaf and moss and shrub--
Whispering their stories there 
Beneath the noise of our unhearing feet.

Friday, August 2, 2019


I once asked a friend which
Emotions he feels most strongly.
Love and fear, he said. And you?
Love and loss, I said. Love and loss.
This morning in a melancholy mood
I felt the urge to count those losses
Just as the moon, solemn and silent,
Counts her stars like coins each night.
I began listing the things I miss--
Oh, the sound of certain voices
And the feel of those voices
All around me.
But then I saw a daylily,
Its dawn-pink petals, curved and fluted,
Arching above a spray of green leaf,
And it must be said in the moment
I was distracted by delight.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


This morning on our walk,
Sally said the smell of sawdust
Takes her back and
Almost makes her cry,
Which made me think of
My grandpa's garage
Where he worked as
The town mechanic,
Tinkering with trucks and cars,
While telling tales to the
Old men who wandered
Inside and bought
glass bottle sodas, then
Sat on chairs and window sills
Like elders of a gas station church.
I saw them again this morning--
My grandfather and his friends--
When Sally remembered sawdust,
And I missed them all,
Along with the scent of oil on concrete.

Friday, July 19, 2019

To the Moon (and Back)

I make it a point to check in with You each night
Usually through my bedroom window
But sometimes from my front porch where
I can see shining You, riding high in an inky sky.

Fifty years later we're all watching You tonight
After men landed like gnomes in your lunar gardens.
We were in California that day, our parents and
My brothers and I, on one of Dad's recruiting trips.

It was their anniversary, a small step for mankind,
An enormous step for them,
So Dad announced, "Yessir, your mother sent me 
To the moon and back."

Mom, who was knitting, punched him in the arm.
Not in front of the children.
Dad laughed while 13 year-old me felt
Mortified for them both.

Turn up the radio, I said
Or maybe I only wanted to say it.
But when I see You tonight, the laughter
Will unspool from me now like my mother's yarn.

Friday, June 28, 2019

In the Heart of the City

On our walk through the grassy cemetery this morning
The brown dog stopped and stood at attention,
Quivering like a new recruit on his first day at boot camp.
I followed her yellow gaze and saw
The thing following us--
Another dog, I thought at first,
But less brown than mine,
Its dull coat shot through with gray and gold,
Prick-eared, lean-legged and steady-eyed,
Its yellow gaze unafraid.
Not a dog, I realized, but a coyote,
The desert trickster surprising
Me and the brown dog this morning
On our walk in the heart of the city.