knots

Ask Me How I Know

 

 

                        The Mass in Latin.

The alphabet backwards

What the Beaufort Scale measures

Whether a baby’s cry is hunger or loneliness

The perfect recipe for chocolate fudge.

 

How to get ink out of silk

When a goodbye is final

How to French braid hair

Assemble a topknot in under three seconds. No bobby pins. None.

 

The real names of Lady Gaga and Cary Grant and Gopher on Love Boat

The chemical symbol for strontium

How to make a Brandy Alexander

Stop the bleeding

Paint a 50-foot high aluminum billboard.

 

How to draw a person’s profile using the numbers 1, 2, 3.

Make a slipknot, a bowline, an overhand knot. A lariat loop.

Say “Your lifejacket is under your seat” in Arabic.

“Come this way” in Vietnamese.

 

Ask me how I could possibly know

How to let you go

And survive to write another word.

rotary phone

Missed Calls

I remember even now how it would feel

when you wouldn’t call.

Cursing the ugly faded pink rotary phone

sitting mute at the desk on the landing.

I grew to hate that phone. Its insolence.

Its deadness.

 

I left the light off on the desk to lessen expectation,

tried not to listen for it

not ringing,

lifting the receiver every ten minutes.

Maybe a power outage, a felled tree limb,

slamming it down again.

 

I hated you for all of it,

for this stranger I had become,

saddling me with a rejection so deep

I can still hear the deafening sound of that phone

not ringing.

 

lanterns

Bread Crumbs

Writers are natural allies.

We patrol the same landscape.

We know the three AM grope for the right word.

 

We try not to wake anyone.

We stare at a comma. Just stare.

We wrestle with line breaks.

Semi-colons mystify us all.

 

There is fascination in miniscule detail.

There is a perfect title. A perfect modifier.

If only we can find it.

 

Our thesauruses are well thumbed.

We concern ourselves with cadence, clauses.

Care deeply about the present perfect tense

versus the past perfect.

 

We are entranced by detail, minutia.

We know the weight it must carry.

The girl’s hair down, or should it be a braid?

Her shoes – navy blue. Or better, yes -

Royal blue.

Was it raining or threatening rain.

Did she say the word goodbye or whisper it after.

Was the door left ajar on purpose.

 

Out of all this steely-eyed focus

Nothing is assured.

Recognition, hard won.

What do writers, poets, actually do?

Rebuke in the tone.

 

We creep into bed in the wee hours

Still grappling with the last line.

Wondering if we came even close.

 

But on those solitary singular nights

When we may get it right

We dare to join the pantheon before us

Who persisted in the dim light

For what so often seems out of reach,

Leaving bread crumbs behind for others

Should they find themselves

Suddenly

Astonishingly

Lost.

fb_img_1459910359174

The Best New Year’s News!

 

Picture me smiling.  I awoke this morning, the first of the New Year, to discover I had won the Goodreads.com January 2017 Poetry Contest with my poem The Things I Learned as a Bartender.

My success here encourages me to dive even deeper in my writing and strive to uncover, to examine, the seemingly insignificant details in our lives so often overlooked that help us understand ourselves –  and one another.

My fellow finalists are all gifted artists: I am proud to be among them.

Thank you to the Goodreads judges and to everyone who took the time to participate.

Let’s make 2017 amazing.  Are you in?

typewriter-1156829__340

I am a Goodreads finalist!

I am over the moon to learn that I’m a finalist in the Goodreads.com January 2016 Poetry Contest with my recent poem The Things I Learned as a Bartender. Proud to be in such supremely gifted company.

Read all the contenders here: https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/147616-goodreads-january-2017-newsletter-top-finalists-poems—-please-sele?utm_medium=email&utm_source=copypastepoll

 

SW06

The Cost

Yes, painful, so very often
to have fewer filters than most.
To be wide awake to the hurt in the world.
I look across at the driver next to me at the stop light
and wonder if he is loved.
It is involuntary. Born in some. Inescapable.
Manifest.
This breathing in the pain of others. Then carrying it.
Never failing to notice the one lonely person in the room,
the resigned among us.
Drawn to what is broken, all that needs tending.
Powerless to look away.
And always more to see.

But I pay the cost.
Would pay it twice in this life of mine
for what it gives in return,
this unseen affliction.

See me here.
Still standing,
bearing scars under my clothes,
yet laughter rises easily in me.
Still able to take a child’s delight
in an unexpected gift,
a fresh snowfall,
a baby returning my smile.

See me here.
I am still standing.
And so terribly vulnerable to joy.

beach

Sea Change

The sea is my book today;
I read it wave by wave.
Light changes, wind shifts, the story unfolds,
the afternoon drifts on.
The mood is a placid one:
the water more green than blue.
Its movement is rhythmic, predictable,
like metered verse:
neat stanzas piling up on the shore,
politely making room for more.
Not like yesterday with its heavy drama,
all driving wind and heaving surf,
a real old-fashioned page-turner.
True to form,
it took no prisoners.
Tomorrow
from this same perch,
a brand new yarn awaits:
different book jacket,
different author,
title yet to come.

Canadian singer and poet Leonard Cohen i

Goodbye, Leonard Cohen.

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

I thank you, Leonard Cohen, for sharing your gift with us, shining light in life’s darkest corners, so we could see. He labored with severe depression through various periods of his life, the price he paid for his gift, a price he paid on behalf of all of us.

church-cross

Reverence

I can’t step into a church without being reminded of Leo.
I see him, leaning heavily on his cane, waiting in the vestibule
to usher the parishioners to their seats,
his labored gait up the aisle, one leg stiff,
the shoulder of his Canadian Legion jacket strewn
with medals and ribbons.
In the stillness the rubber tip of his cane
squeaks loudly against the polished floor.

The star resident at her mother’s boarding-house,
my friend Linda said we should visit him.
He’d insisted,
and there had been toffees promised.
Restless and bored one spring day I relented,
followed Linda home and climbed the stairs lazily to Leo’s room.
Unlike the others his door was open.
There was Leo, lying on his bed, his cane alongside,
rest the only respite from his affliction.

Come in, close the door.
Feed my bird Charlie.
I worried then about telling my mother this.
But Leo wasn’t a stranger.
Everyone knew Leo.
Father Blackwell told us in catechism class
it was men like Leo who had kept us free.
The shabby room smelled of wet wool
from clothes drying on the radiator
and of Old Sail, his pipe tobacco.
A bowl of sweets beckoned by the bed.
Charlie was bustling about in his cage.
Sit beside Leo, honey.
A good Catholic girl, I did as the hero said.
The bristles of his beard stung my face,
his breath turned to a rasp.
I smelled something fetid on his breath.
When he released me
Charlie was singing,
still.