Thursday, November 28, 2019

Why You Need Friends

For Nancy

Last year I said I was going to make
Cornbread muffins for Thanksgiving Day.
You stopped in the middle of the sidewalk,
Sharp and sudden as a pony ready to throw its rider.

"Muffins?" you asked, the disdain and disbelief
Dripping from your usually calm voice
Like water before it turns to ice.
"Instead of rolls?"

"Well, yes," I said, "because corn.
Corn is a Thanksgiving thing."
I was bluffing, though.
I admit that freely.

Muffins are easier to make than rolls,
Which require a lover's commitment--
The mixing and the kneading,
The rolling and the rising and the time.

But you. You fixed me with a chilly stare.
"You need rolls for Thanksgiving Day
And for the days that follow
Because sandwiches."

So I made yeasty rolls--not cornbread--
And feasted on them Thanksgiving Day and
On the snow-filled days that followed.
Thank you, Nancy, for setting me straight.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Meteor Shower

To see the sky spit out a mouthful of stars
You have to go someplace dark--
A cemetery, perhaps, where you and your husband
Stand on a wet, grassy knoll
(With a buck who is as surprised
By your appearance at 4:30
In the morning as you are by his)--
All to watch stars tumble through the clouds.

Do you see anything? Your husband asks.
Do you? You're not sure.
Maybe that really was a
Flash of light you just saw,
A star skittering across the night,
The thing you had hoped to see
As you stand out here with a deer
In the dark on a knoll in the cemetery.

As any rate, the experience is
Different than you'd wanted it to be.
You wanted to be bathed in light and sparks
And feel the dust of the stars themselves
Settle on your hair like sunlight
On a January day--cold heat.
Still, you'll take that flash of light
You thought you saw and own it--
Your souvenir of the meteor shower.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


You should have seen it,
My crabapple tree--
Amber leaves all gone but
Filled still with small red fruits,
Dangling like garnets
From dark-armed branches.
Believe me when I tell you
It was beautiful. Truly.
You'll have to take
My word for it, though.
The berries are gone now,
Thanks to a mob
Of cedar waxwings--
Those masked bandits--
That descended on the tree
And picked it clean,
Leaving it--surprise!--
More beautiful still,
Its limbs, slim and bare,
Locked in an elegant embrace
With the new winter sky.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Places You Might Find a Poem

Where can a poem reside?

Behind the moon that
Rises each night outside
Your bedroom window.

Around the conversations
Of strangers you half-hear
While waiting in line.

Above the Ferris wheel
Where you took your boys
When they were babies.

Beneath a river's surface
filled with salmon,
Shimmering in the sun.

Through the thick
Of your suffering,
Silent and loud.

By the side of your big dog
Who still inches toward your lap
When she thinks you're not looking.

In the air over your head,
Waiting for you to catch them
With your open-hearted hands.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

What I Didn't See At First

I thought it was an eagle at first--
White-headed, brown-bodied,
Imperial and large--
As it dropped from the sky
And landed on my neighbor's driveway.

But then it flapped and flopped,
hopped like a too-tall boy
In a too-small suit, nervous,
At his first junior high school dance.
Awkward. Inelegant. Ridiculous.

Disappointed, I walked away
Until it occurred to me--
When was the last time I saw
A duck on my neighbor's driveway?
But when I turned back, ready to marvel,
It was already gone.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


A vanilla creamsicle boy--
That's what Hannah calls
Her new baby, Sam,
Who is as blond and fair
As a sandy beach beneath
A sweet summer sky.

I think about Hannah's mother,
Becky, who loved everything
About a baby--
The soft skin, the soft hair,
The soft breath, the soft noises.
I think about how I wish
Becky were here right now
With Hannah and Sam and me,
Holding all that softness
In the welcoming yield
Of her curving arms.

Becky would have fallen
Complete and whole
As the moon is full
Into this very moment
Because that's how Becky lived.

I honor the memory of my dearest
Friend by letting her go
And letting myself be only here--
Here in this moment,
Here in this room,
Here with Hannah and Sam,
Her creamsicle boy.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Lullaby for the Garden Being Put to Bed for the Winter

To the anemones gone with last week's frost,
But until that a sea of wings
Delicate and pink . . .
The leaves fall and the leaves sing,
Sleep sweet, sleep sweet,
We'll see you come spring.

To the asters lolling across the sidewalk,
Still frilly enough to
Cut for a vase . . .
The leaves fall and the leaves sing,
Sleep sweet, sleep sweet,
We'll see you come spring.

To the rosebuds still closed
as tight as tiny fists
On a fistful of thorns . . .
The leaves fall and the leaves sing,
Sleep sweet, sleep sweet,
We'll see you come spring.

Friday, November 1, 2019


My grandmother used to stand in our kitchen,
Smoothing her hand over a hip
Curved like a crescent moon,
Saying, "Sweets aren't a problem for me,
But don't make me give up my bread."
Then she'd butter a slice of sourdough
My father brought home from San Francisco
And eat it like a queen nibbling on crumpets.
I'm grateful she still visits me in a poem.