The same woman

My daughter & me
When I am 91
Waking up in my bed on wide white sheets
Vanishing into the open question
At the end of my life
I am still a young woman

No baby suckles my breasts
Anymore
No tiny hand in mine
Brings me to the window
To hear the birds

Yet I am the same woman
Who wrote this poem
Long ago
From the foundering depths of
New motherhood

I am also the baby girl
At the beginning of my life
Held by my mother
To her breast
Giving me her milk

Yearning from the same depths to be
Somewhere else
Doing important things
Her real life

This I absorbed this into my cells
Keeping me
For a long time
From the things I loved
Especially myself

As I nursed my baby this morning
On the wide white sheets
I prayed
For love to guide me

Thanking God for the grace
To leave aside my work
For a while
For the important things
My real life

Even as she sings the alphabet
In the next room
And stammers along the floor
To find me

My baby is the grown woman
Who will bring to me
Her motherhood, her children and her children's children
And I will remember myself

The Choice

Image taken from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317555.php
There is only one answer 
I want to hear
When I ask each day
To myself
Can I drink ever again?

Part of me believes
I have a choice
Can you believe
That I can't believe
"I'm an alcoholic"

I know
Wine is my drug
I must remember
It is the great lie that
Addiction comes looking the way I think

Not what you've read
Drunk, poor luck, addict, abuser
Not you and definitely not me
We are quiet drinkers
The fun never stops

Yes I am one of the secret collection
Built this way
Having the same glass of wine again and again
Who in the mirror
Cannot meet my own eye

I have this image in my head
Of a future scene
That didn’t happen
It is my daughter

My age now and I am much older
She sees me
At dinner
Not drinking

As she always has
Nothing different
Nothing remarkable
But what she does not know is

There is another reality
A different future
That never happened
But was once inevitable

In which she sees me at dinner
Enjoying wine
As I always have
Nothing remarkable, nothing different

Except this time, she wonders if I 
Have a problem
This sucking question 
Will possess her every drink at her own dinner table:
Will my daughter inherit this from me?

It will be her choice
Just as it is mine
Beginning today
As it always does
And always will

My daughter will lack this question
Free from the parasite that didn't take
Seeing herself as she is
Looking herself in the eye
Never knowing another way

God Washes Away the Devil


I used to I used to 
I used to know
Who I am
Chaos
(Turn)

Doesn't the devil do his work?
Under disguise
Pain is dependence

(Turn)
Listen 
Go In
In in in, friend
Down down down
Light call it 

Relax soft
In call in the light 
Down down down
Let it fill tendency
Pain is the opening
Tenderness
Of God

You are right 
This is who you are
Remember
God washes away the devil

Arizona

How different we are 
If different is the word 
For your dirty feet 
Nestled sweetly together 
Two tired pigeons
The sun bakes the heat into the pavement like a griddle
Searing any skin it touches
Not fit for a human 
To walk here

Under this overpass
By the park
You are grey dust shirt grey mess hair on concrete 
In a haze of busy avenue shadows 

If it's the great eternal sleep you seek
No one knows when it will come

My baby and I
Unnoticed in our walk's chirping and song 
Toward the bright books of the library
        Where the AC’s on
        Where babies babble and play
        With blocks on rugs with puppets and toys

You’re asleep 
I hope not dead 
Face buried and unmoving
        Phoenix is 110 these days
        Especially at noon
        Like right now

Has no one has looked you in the eye 
To tell you about the chatter of birds and the green of trees 
Against the blazing sky?
Have you seen the purple sunset?



Perhaps there is a place in the city 
To walk
Where you feet can hug the shadows 
As the sun dips

All day
The desert cooks the colors
Lifting 
From the traffic and cactus 
Bruised light into the sky

A watercolor of grey-purple grey-pink:
      You wouldn't think such moist life would survive this heat

You just have to look up to see color
Did you know
That’s what we’re famous for?

	

Compassion doesn’t make appointments

Why did I cry during the teleconference?
I opened my mouth and
Knew
The tears would come

As you spoke about the death of your father
I see myself on the screen in
What listening looks like:
Shiny desperation mixed with refusal

I have a primordial itch
The deep "next"
Reaching out and away from myself
To anything else

This is not suffering

"It's good, basically good. That's my life: the simple things"
The waves of pain wash you
As you tread gracefully
Accepting the world as it is

On my turn to talk
Having been touched
I can feel myself again
Your pain is all pain

My heart, speaking for me, is
Red-faced and her voice wobbly with emotion
I am a contortion of grace
That will not be silenced

Remembering to return to
The bed of fear
(Free-falling as it does)
I do not hold on

This is surrender

Under the Black Moon

I.
Mercury / black moon
Breathe

Little cat gripping the walls of the tub
Start over and trust that I can

II.
I wasn't old enough to even buy
cigarettes
Sought out trouble
The black sickness

Crouched over the hypnotic whirr of the ceramic wheel
My hands lost
in the curative water of clay slip
The clay demands perfect balance
or else warps off center

I allow perfection to emerge
from me
Until the darkness leaves once and for all

Welcome I and II

“Rose Cottage” by Helen Allingham
I.

Three crows greeted me this morning
Hopping in place on a fence as I parked my car
Strange friends I'd never seen here before

Allowing me to pass
To see me more clearly
They remained as I
Stopped to gaze back into a winking black eye

When a fourth lighted on a far wall
And with a fifth
Flew to join the others, I wondered

What had they been they waiting for? 

What is it me?

II.

If you have to quit something  
Quit the thing that
Separates you from yourself 
That feeds the gnawing doubt and casts a darkness in the center of you 

If you decide to quit 
Your path becomes renunciation 
Admitting you have lived but half your life
Not over a timeline but
in only part of each moment 

You cannot go back into this cage of your own doing
For once you brave the wilderness of
Unknown quiet fullness
You may find you lose access to the old familiar question
“can I?”

What you have gained is your wholeness
That needs no assurance 
And has cast away the map
To find yourself home


The Vulnerability of Birds

Image result for feather
I. 

Feathers follow me where I go
And show me the way
A confirmation from the other side of the veil that I’m on the right track

Wine is a thief
And steals from me moments
Yes of my life but more importantly from yours

Today on our walk 
- My first day having given up wine
We saw so many feathers on the ground
II.

I know it’s time to quit 
When my days look forward to the serum of anti-presence
And I wonder for hours whether I will
Pour the glass

Even when I knew your tiny eyes will watch 
Learning from me the lie
That there's someplace else, just a click away from here
Better than having a drink of water
Or nothing at all
A bird's nature is gentle 
And it does not wish for another moment 
It will fly, build its nest, feed its young thinking of nothing else

Even an animal who would ravish it into oblivion 
Rending it wing from wing 
Cannot take from the bird its grace because it will forever be
innocent of sin
As you can plainly see
In the forgiveness heaving in its tiny bosom struggling for a wisp of
breath
Each threatening to be its last, mercifully  

There is something heavenly in the way it lays
Surrounded by shredded plumage in a scattering of its own life
Not clinging or afraid but
Surrendering to death

In your deep way that babies have
Of not just looking but seeing 
Softly lacking the ability to assess the meaning of it all 

Not wondering about the mess feathers 
You simply inhale the world as it is
Like a flower or your mama’s smile

Wiser than I to the age-old deception that
One can escape the present moment
You teach me about the birds
Suddenly there's nowhere else to go
III. 

You don’t yet know that
These feathers are little omens to me from the ancestors 
Who, in their wisdom,
Alternately heal and warn
Drawing them to me
And me to you

Would it be too much to tell you 
That you are my reason?
To be clearly and 
Catch these moments as they pass 
Your hand swirling the air as you dance
Your silhouette hesitating akimbo in the doorframe
as you devour the landscape

If I am your ancestor 
Let my life be pure
Protecting your wholeness 
We can spend the evenings on the swing drinking in 
the air and the sunset  

We look for the crow who calls us 
From the top of the swaying pine
And caw in answer

Ghazal for Johnny

Excerpt from “A Trail of Crumbs” poetry collection, due in late 2019.

A Ghazal is a Persian poetry form using couplets that share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. The writer must also reference the author’s own name and express longing in the last couplet. Written as the boy became a teen. Baton Rouge, 2008.

For my brother.

My brother, not a small one anymore not a shy boy, 
Little dude hangs loose while days grow into years on the sly, boy

There’s the mean one and the teasing one, with three big sisters
You say “Jo's the fun one” and we’ve had some good times, boy

Do you remember when you were a baby and we’d dance to
“Ob la di Ob la da” - dip low when they’d sing high, boy?

Fresh from high school now you got not much to say
That’s when we drive and play music to describe what’s inside, boy

Not to be seen as young, not to be seen as young, this strong scent
Of Ax masks childhood deeper by the night, boy

Your frame the same since you were a babe now gains mass and size
Big tough guy hugs hard to come by now, boy